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Hills and the Sea by H. Belloc

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But there has always hung round the idea of a pilgrimage, with all
people and at all times--I except those very rare and highly decadent
generations of history in which no pilgrimages are made, nor any
journeys, save for curiosity or greed--there has always hung round it, I
say, something more than the mere objective. Just as in general worship
you will have noble gowns, vivid colour, and majestic music (symbols,
but necessary symbols of the great business you are at); so, in this
particular case of worship, clothes, as it were, and accoutrements,
gather round one's principal action. I will visit the grave of a saint
or of a man whom I venerate privately for his virtues and deeds, but on
my way I wish to do something a little difficult to show at what a price
I hold communion with his resting-place, and also on toy way I will see
all I can of men and things; for anything great and worthy is but an
ordinary thing transfigured, and if I am about to venerate a humanity
absorbed into the divine, so it behoves me on my journey to it to enter
into and delight in the divine that is hidden in everything. Thus I may
go upon a pilgrimage with no pack and nothing but a stick and my
clothes, but I must get myself into the frame of mind that carries an
invisible burden, an eye for happiness and suffering, humour, gladness
at the beauty of the world, a readiness for raising the heart at the
vastness of a wide view, and especially a readiness to give
multitudinous praise to God; for a man that goes on a pilgrimage does
best of all if he starts out (I say it of his temporal object only) with
the heart of a wanderer, eager for the world as it is, forgetful of maps
or descriptions, but hungry for real colours and men and the seeming of
things. This desire for reality and contact is a kind of humility, this
pleasure in it a kind of charity.

It is surely in the essence of a pilgrimage that all vain imaginations
are controlled by the greatness of our object. Thus, if a man should go
to see the place where (as they say) St. Peter met our Lord on the
Appian Way at dawn, he will not care very much for the niggling of
pedants about this or that building, or for the rhetoric of posers about
this or that beautiful picture. If a thing in his way seem to him
frankly ugly he will easily treat it as a neutral, forget it and pass it
by. If, on the contrary, he find a beautiful thing, whether done by God
or by man, he will remember and love it. This is what children do, and
to get the heart of a child is the end surely of any act of religion. In
such a temper he will observe rather than read, and though on his way he
cannot do other than remember the names of places, saying, "Why, these
are the Alps of which I have read! Here is Florence, of which I have
heard so many rich women talk!" yet he will never let himself argue and
decide or put himself, so to speak, before an audience in his own
mind--for that is pride which all of us moderns always fall into. He
will, on the contrary, go into everything with curiosity and pleasure,
and be a brother to the streets and trees and to all the new world he
finds. The Alps that he sees with his eyes will be as much more than the
names he reads about, the Florence of his desires as much more than the
Florence of sickly-drawing-rooms; as beauty loved is more than beauty
heard of, or as our own taste, smell, hearing, touch and sight are more
than the vague relations of others. Nor does religion exercise in our
common life any function more temporarily valuable than this, that it
makes us be sure at least of realities, and look very much askance at
philosophies and imaginaries and academic whimsies.

Look, then, how a pilgrimage ought to be nothing but a nobler kind of
travel, in which, according to our age and inclination, we tell our
tales, or draw our pictures, or compose our songs. It is a very great
error, and one unknown before our most recent corruptions, that the
religious spirit should be so superficial and so self-conscious as to
dominate our method of action at special times and to be absent at
others. It is better occasionally to travel in one way or another to
some beloved place (or to some place wonderful and desired for its
associations), haunted by our mission, yet falling into every ordinary
levity, than to go about a common voyage in a chastened and devout
spirit. I fear this is bad theology, and I propound it subject to
authority. But, surely, if a man should say, "I will go to Redditch to
buy needles cheap," and all the way take care to speak no evil of his
neighbour, to keep very sober, to be punctual in his accounts, and to
say his regular prayers with exactitude, though that would be a good
work, yet if he is to be a _pilgrim_ (and the Church has a hundred
gates), I would rather for the moment that he went off in a gay,
tramping spirit, not oversure of his expenses, not very careful of all
he said or did, but illuminated and increasingly informed by the great
object of his voyage, which is here not to buy or sell needles, or what
not, but to loose the mind and purge it in the ultimate contemplation of
something divine.

There is, indeed, that kind of pilgrimage which some few sad men
undertake because their minds are overburdened by a sin or tortured with
some great care that is not of their own fault. These are excepted from
the general rule, though even to these a very human spirit comes by the
way, and the adventures of inns and foreign conversations broaden the
world for them and lighten their burden. But this kind of pilgrimage is
rare and special, having its peculiar virtues. The common sort (which
how many men undertake under another name!) is a separate and human
satisfaction of a need, the fulfilling of an instinct in us, the
realisation of imagined horizons, the reaching of a goal. For whoever
yet that was alive reached an end and could say he was satisfied? Yet
who has not desired so to reach an end and to be satisfied? Well,
pilgrimage is for the most a sort of prefiguring or rehearsal. A man
says: "I will play in show (but a show stiffened with a real and just
object) at that great part which is all we can ever play. Here I start
from home, and there I reach a goal, and on the way I laugh and watch,
sing and work. Now I am at ease and again hampered; now poor, now rich,
weary towards the end and at last arrived at that end. So my great life
is, and so this little chapter shall be." Thus he packs up the meaning
of life into a little space to be able to look at it closely, as men
carry with them small locket portraits of their birthplace or of those
they love.

If a pilgrimage is all this, it is evident that however careless, it
must not be untroublesome. It would be a contradiction of pilgrimage to
seek to make the journey short and rapid, merely consuming the mind for
nothing, as is our modern habit; for they seem to think nowadays that to
remain as near as possible to what one was at starting, and to one's
usual rut, is the great good of travel (as though a man should run
through the _Iliad_ only to note the barbarous absurdity of the Greek
characters, or through Catullus for the sake of discovering such words
as were like enough to English). That is not the spirit of a pilgrimage
at all. The pilgrim is humble and devout, and human and charitable, and
ready to smile and admire; therefore he should comprehend the whole of
his way, the people in it, and the hills and the clouds, and the habits
of the various cities. And as to the method of doing this, we may go
bicycling (though that is a little flurried) or driving (though that is
luxurious and dangerous, because it brings us constantly against
servants and flattery); but the best way of all is on foot, where one
is a man like any other man, with the sky above one, and the road
beneath, and the world on every side, and time to see all.

So also I designed to walk, and did, when I visited the tombs of the


It was in Paris, in his room on the hill of the University, that a
traveller woke and wondered what he should do with his day. In some
way--I cannot tell how--ephemeral things had captured his mind in the
few hours he had already spent in the city. There is no civilisation
where the various parts stand so separate as they do with the French.
You may live in Paris all your life and never suspect that there is a
garrison of eighty thousand men within call. You may spend a year in a
provincial town and never hear that the large building you see daily is
a bishop's palace. Or you may be the guest of the bishop for a month,
and remain under the impression that somewhere, hidden away in the
place, there is a powerful clique of governing atheists whom, somehow,
you never run across. And so this traveller, who knew Paris like his
pocket, and had known it since he could speak plain, had managed to
gather up in this particular visit all the impressions which are least
characteristic of the town. He had dined with a friend at Pousset's; he
had passed the evening at the Exhibition, and he had had a bare touch of
the real thing in the Rue de Tournon; but even there it was in the
company of foreigners. Therefore, I repeat, he woke up next morning
wondering what he should do, for the veneer of Paris is the thinnest in
the world, and he had exhausted it in one feverish day.

Luckily for him, the room in which he lay was French, and had been
French for a hundred years. You looked out of the window into a sky cut
by the tall Mansard roofs of the eighteenth century; and over the stones
of what had been the Scotch College you could see below you at the foot
of the hill all the higher points of the island--especially the Sainte
Chapelle and the vast towers of the Cathedral. Then it suddenly struck
him that the air was full of bells. Now, it is a curious thing, and one
that every traveller will bear me out in, that you associate a country
place with the sound of bells, but a capital never. Caen is noisy enough
and Rouen big enough, one would think, to drown the memory of music; yet
any one who has lived in his Normandy remembers their perpetual bells;
and as for the admirable town of Chinon, where no one ever goes, I
believe it is Ringing Island itself. But Paris one never thinks of as a
place of bells. And yet there are bells enough there to take a man right
into the past, and from there through fairyland to hell and out and back

If I were writing of the bells, I could make you a list of all the
famous bells, living and dead, that haunt the city, and the tale of what
they have done would be a history of France. The bell of the St.
Bartholomew over against the Louvre, the tocsin of the Hotel de Ville
that rang the knell of the Monarchy, the bell of St. Julien that is as
old as the University, the old Bourdon of Notre Dame that first rang
when St. Louis brought in the crown of thorns, and the peal that saluted
Napoleon, and the new Bourdon that is made of the guns of Sebastopol,
and the Savoyarde up on Montmartre, a new bell much larger than the
rest. This morning the air was full of them. They came up to the height
on which the traveller lay listening; they came clear and innumerable
over the distant surge of the streets; he spent an hour wondering at
such an unusual Parliament and General Council of Bells. Then he said to
himself: "It must be some great feast of the Church." He was in a world
he had never known before. He was like a man who gets into a strange
country in a dream and follows his own imagination instead of suffering
the pressure of outer things; or like a boy who wanders by a known river
till he comes to unknown gardens.

So anxious was he to take possession at once of this discovery of his
that he went off hurriedly without eating or drinking, thinking only of
what he might find. He desired to embrace at one sight all that Paris
was doing on a day which was full of St. Louis and of resurrection. The
thoughts upon thoughts that flow into the mind from its impression, as
water creams up out of a stone fountain at a river head, disturbed him,
swelling beyond the possibility of fulfilment. He wished to see at once
the fashionables in St. Clotilde and the Greek Uniates at St. Julien,
and the empty Sorbonne and the great crowd of boys at Stanislas; but
what he was going to see never occurred to him, for he thought he knew
Paris too well to approach the cathedral.

Notre Dame is jealously set apart for special and well-advertised
official things. If you know the official world you know the great
church, and unless some great man had died, or some victory had been
won, you would never go there to see how Paris took its religion. No
midnight Mass is said in it; for the lovely carols of the Middle Ages
you must go to St. Gervais, and for the pomp of the Counter-Reformation
to the Madeleine, for soldiers to St. Augustin, for pilgrims to St.
Etienne. Therefore no one would, ever have thought of going to the
cathedral on this day, when an instinct and revelation of Paris at
prayer filled the mind. Nevertheless, the traveller's feet went, of
their own accord, towards the seven bridges, because the Island draws
all Paris to it, and was drawing him along with the rest. He had meant
perhaps to go the way that all the world has gone since men began to
live on this river, and to follow up the Roman way across the Seine--a
vague intention of getting a Mass at St. Merry or St. Laurent. But he
was going as a dream sent him, without purpose or direction.

The sun was already very hot and the Parvis was blinding with light when
he crossed the little bridge. Then he noticed that the open place had
dotted about it little groups of people making eastward. The Parvis is
so large that you could have a multitude scattered in it and only notice
that the square was not deserted. There were no more than a thousand,
perhaps, going separately to Notre Dame, and a thousand made no show in
such a square. But when he went in through the doors he saw there
something he had never seen before, and that he thought did not exist.
It was as though the vague interior visions of which the morning had
been so full had taken on reality.

You may sometimes see in modern picture galleries an attempt to combine
the story from which proceeds the nourishing flame of Christianity with
the crudities and the shameful ugliness of our decline. Thus, with
others, a picture of our Lord and Mary Magdalen; all the figures except
that of our Lord were dressed in the modern way. I remember another of
our Lord and the little children, where the scene is put into a village
school. Now, if you can imagine (which it is not easy to do) such an
attempt to be successful, untouched by the love of display and
eccentricity, and informing--as it commonly pretends to inform--our time
with an idea, then you will understand what the traveller saw that
morning in Notre Dame. The church seemed the vastest cavern that had
ever been built for worship. Coming in from the high morning, the
half-light alone, with which we always connect a certain majesty and
presence, seemed to have taken on amplitude as well. The incense veiled
what appeared to be an infinite lift of roof, and the third great
measurement--the length of nave that leads like a forest ride to the
lights of the choir--were drawn out into an immeasurable perspective by
reason of a countless crowd of men and women divided by the narrow path
of the procession. So full was this great place that a man moved slowly
and with difficulty, edging through such a mass of folk as you may find
at holiday time in a railway station, or outside a theatre--never surely
before was a church like this, unless, indeed, some very rich or very
famous man happened to be gracing it. But here to-day, for nothing but
the function proper to the feast, the cathedral was paved and floored
with human beings. In the galilee there was a kind of movement so that a
man could get up further, and at last the traveller found a place to
stand in just on the edge of the open gangway, at the very end of the
nave. He peered up this, and saw from the further end, near the altar,
the head of the procession approaching, which was (in his fancy of that
morning) like the line of the Faith, still living and returning in a
perpetual circle to revivify the world. Moreover, there was in the
advent of the procession a kind of climax. As it came nearer, the great
crowd moved more quickly towards it; children were lifted up, and by one
of Sully's wide pillars a group of three young soldiers climbed on a
rail to see the great sight better. The Cardinal-Archbishop, very old
and supported by his priests, half walked and half tottered down the
length of the people; his head, grown weary with age, barely supported
the mitre, from which great jewels, false or true, were flashing. In his
hand he had a crozier that was studded in the same way with gems, and
that seemed to be made of gold; the same hands had twisted the metal of
it as had hammered the hinges of the cathedral doors. Certainly there
here appeared one of the resurrections of Europe. The matter of life
seemed to take on a fuller stuff and to lift into a dimension above that
in which it ordinarily moves. The thin, narrow, and unfruitful
experience of to-day and yesterday was amplified by all the lives that
had made our life, and the blood of which we are only a last expression,
the race that is older even than Rome seemed in this revelation of
continuity to be gathered up into one intense and passionate moment. The
pagan altar of Tiberius, the legend of Dionysius, the whole circle of
the wars came into this one pageant, and the old man in his office and
his blessing was understood by all the crowd before him to transmit the
centuries. A rich woman thrust a young child forward, and he stopped and
stooped with difficulty to touch its hair. As he approached the
traveller it was as though there had come great and sudden news to him,
or the sound of unexpected and absorbing music.

The procession went on and closed; the High Mass followed; it lasted a
very long time, and the traveller went out before the crowd had moved
and found himself again in the glare of the sun on the Parvis.

He went over the bridge to find his eating-shop near the archives, and
eat the first food of that day, thinking as he went that certainly there
are an infinity of lives side by side in our cities, and each ignores
the rest; and yet, that to pass from what we know of these to what we do
not--though it is the most wonderful journey in the world--is one that
no one undertakes unless accident or a good fortune pushes him on. He
desired to make another such journey.

He came back to find me in London, and spoke to me of Paris as of a city
newly discovered: as I listened I thought I saw an arena.

In a plain of the north, undistinguished by great hills, open to the
torment of the sky, the gods had traced an arena wherein were to be
fought out the principal battles of a later age.

* * * * *

Spirits lower than the divine, spirits intermediate, have been imagined
by men wiser than ourselves to have some power over the world--a power
which we might vanquish in a special manner, but still a power. To such
conceptions the best races of Europe cling; upon such a soil are grown
the legends that tell us most about our dark, and yet enormous, human
fate. These intermediate spirits have been called in all the older
creeds "the gods." It is in the nature of the Church to frown upon these
dreams; but I, as I listened to him, saw clearly that plain wherein the
gods had marked out an arena for mankind.

It was oval, as should be a theatre for any show, with heights around it
insignificant, but offering a vantage ground whence could be watched the
struggle in the midst. There was a sacred centre--an island and a
mount--and, within the lines, so great a concourse of gladiatorial souls
as befits the greatest of spectacles. I say, I do not know how far such
visions are permitted, nor how far the right reason of the Church
condemns them; but the dream returned to me very powerfully, recalling
my boyhood, when the traveller told me his story. I also therefore went
and caught the fresh gale of the stream of the Seine in flood, and saw
the many roofs of Paris quite clear after the rain, and read the
writings of the men I mixed with and heard the noise of the city.

* * * * *

It is not upon the paltry level of negations or of decent philosophies,
it is in the action and hot mood of creative certitudes that the French
battle is engaged. The little sophists are dumb and terrified, their
books are quite forgotten. I myself forgot (in those few days by that
water and in that city) the thin and ineffectual bodies of ignorant men
who live quite beyond any knowledge of such fires. The printed things
which tired and poor writers put down for pay no longer even disturbed
me; the reflections, the mere phantasms of reality, with which in a
secluded measure we please our intellect, faded. I was like a man who
was in the centre of two lines that meet in war; to such a man this
fellow's prose on fighting and that one's verse, this theory of
strategy, or that essay upon arms, are not for one moment remembered.
Here (in the narrow street which I knew and was now following) St.
Bernard had upheld the sacrament in the shock of the first awakening--in
that twelfth century, when Julian stirred in his sleep. Beyond the
bridge, in Roman walls that still stand carefully preserved, the Church
of Gaul had sustained Athanasius, and determined the course of the
Christian centuries. I had passed upon my way the vast and empty room
where had been established the Terror; where had been forced by an angry
and compelling force the full return of equal laws upon Europe. Who
could remember in such an air the follies and the pottering of men who
analyse and put in categories and explain the follies of wealth and of
old age?

Good Lord, how little the academies became! I remembered the phrases
upon one side and upon the other which still live in the stones of the
city, carved and deep, but more lasting than are even the letters of
their inscription. I remembered the defiant sentence of Mad Dolet on his
statue there in the Quarter, the deliberate perversion of Plato, "And
when you are dead you shall no more be anything at all." I remembered
the "Ave Crux spes Unica"; and St. Just's "The words that we have spoken
will never be lost on earth"; and Danton's "Continual Daring," and the
scribbled Greek on the walls of the cathedral towers. For not only are
the air and the voice, but the very material of this town is filled with
words that remain. Certainly the philosophies and the negations dwindled
to be so small as at last to disappear, and to leave only the two
antagonists. Passion brooded over the silence of the morning; there was
great energy in the cool of the spring air, and up above, the forms the
clouds were taking were forms of gigantic powers.

I came, as the traveller had come, into the cathedral. It was not yet
within half an hour of the feast. There was still room to be found,
though with every moment the nave and the aisles grew fuller, until one
doubted how at the end so great a throng could be dismissed. They were
of all kinds. Some few were strangers holding in their hands books about
the building. Some few were devout men on travel, and praying at this
great office on the way: men from the islands, men from the places that
Spain has redeemed for the future in the new world. I saw an Irishman
near me, and two West Indians also, half negro, like the third of the
kings that came to worship at the manger where Our Lord was born. For
two hours and nearly three I saw and wondered at that immense concourse.
The tribunes were full, the whole choir was black, moving with the
celebrants, and all the church floor beyond and around me was covered
and dark with expectant men.

The Bourdon that had summoned the traveller and driven mad so many
despairs, sounded above me upon this day with amplitude and yet with
menace. The silence was a solace when it ceased to boom. The Creed, the
oldest of our chaunts, filled and completed those walls; it was as
though at last a battle had been joined, and in that issue a great
relief ran through the crowd.

* * * * *

From such a temple I came out at last. They had thrown the western doors
wide open, the doors whose hinges man scarcely could have hammered and
to whose miracle legend has lent its aid; the midday, now captured by
the sun, came right into the hollow simplicity of the nave, and caught
the river of people as they flowed outwards; but even that and the cry
of the Benediction from the altar gave no greater peace than an appeal
to combat. In the air outside that other power stood waiting to conquer
or to fail.

I came out, as from a camp, into the civilian debate, the atmosphere of
the spectators. The permanent and toppling influence against which this
bulwark of ours, the Faith, was reared (as we say) by God Himself,
shouted in half the prints, in half the houses. I sat down to read and
compare (as it should be one's custom when one is among real and
determining things) the writings of the extreme, that is of the leading
men. I chose the two pamphleteers who are of equal weight in this war,
but of whom one only is known as yet to us in England, and that the

I read their battle-cries. Their style was excellent; their good faith
shone even in their style.

Since I had been upon phrases all these hours I separated and remembered
the principal words of each. One said: "They will break their teeth
against it. The Catholic Church is not to perish, for she has allies
from outside Time." The other said: "How long will the death of this
crucified god linger? How long will his agony crush men with its

But I read these two writers for my entertainment only, and in order to
be acquainted with men around me; for on the quarrel between them I had
long ago made up my mind.


It was late, and the day was already falling when I came, sitting my
horse Monster, to a rise of land. We were at a walk, for we had gone
very far since early morning, and were now off the turf upon the hard
road; moreover, the hill, though gentle, had been prolonged. From its
summit I saw before me, as I had seen it a hundred times, the whole of
the weald.

But now that landscape was transfigured, because many influences had met
to make it, for the moment, an enchanted land. The autumn, coming late,
had crowded it with colours; a slight mist drew out the distances, and
along the horizon stood out, quite even and grey like mountains, the
solemn presence of the Downs. Over all this the sky was full of storm.

In some manner which language cannot express, and hardly music, the
vision was unearthly. All the lesser heights of the plain ministered to
one effect, a picture which was to other pictures what the marvellous is
to the experience of common things. The distant mills, the edges of
heath and the pine trees, were as though they had not before been caught
by the eyes of travellers, and would not, after the brief space of their
apparition, be seen again. Here was a countryside whose every outline
was familiar; and yet it was pervaded by a general quality of the
uplifted and the strange. And for that one hour under the sunset the
county did not seem to me a thing well known, but rather adored.

The glow of evening, which had seemed to put this horizon into another
place and time than ours, warned me of darkness; and I made off the road
to the right for an inn I knew of, that stands close to the upper Arun
and is very good. Here an old man and his wife live easily, and have so
lived for at least thirty years, proving how accessible is content.
Their children are in service beyond the boundaries of the county, and
are thus provided with sufficiency; and they themselves, the old people,
enjoy a small possession which at least does not diminish, for, thank
God, their land is free. It is a square of pasture bordered by great
elms upon three sides of it, but on the fourth, towards the water, a
line of pollard willows; and off a little way before the house runs
Arun, sliding as smooth as Mincius, and still so young that he can
remember the lake in the forest where he rose.

On such ancestral land these two people await without anxiety what they
believe will be a kindly death. Nor is their piety of that violent and
tortured kind which is associated with fear and with distress of earlier
life; but they remain peasants, drawing from the earth they have always
known as much sustenance for the soul as even their religion can afford
them, and mixing that religion so intimately with their experience of
the soil that, were they not isolated in an evil time, they would have
set up some shrine about the place to sanctify it.

The passion and the strain which must accompany (even in the happiest
and most secluded) the working years of life, have so far disappeared
from them, that now they can no longer recall any circumstances other
than those which they enjoy; so that their presence in a room about one,
as they set rood before one or meet one at the door, is in itself an
influence of peace.

In such a place, and with such hosts to serve him, be wears of the world
retire for a little time, from an evening to a morning; and a man can
enjoy a great refreshment. In such a place he will eat strongly and
drink largely, and sleep well and deeply, and, when he saddles again for
his journey, he will take the whole world new; nor are those intervals
without their future value, for the memory of a complete repose is a
sort of sacrament, and a viaticum for the weary lengths of the way.

The stable of this place is made of oak entirely, and, after more than
a hundred years, the woodwork is still sound, save that the roof now
falls in waves where the great beams have sagged a little under the
pressure of the tiles. And these tiles are of that old hand-made kind
which, whenever you find them, you will do well to buy; for they have a
slight downward curve to them, and so they fit closer and shed the rain
better than if they were flat. Also they do not slip, and thus they put
less strain upon the timber. This excellent stable has no flooring but a
packed layer of chalk laid on the ground; and the wooden manger is all
polished and shining, where it has been rubbed by the noses of ten
thousand horses since the great war. That polishing was helped, perhaps,
by the nose of Percy's horse, and perhaps by the nose of some wheeler
who in his time had dragged the guns back aboard, retreating through the
night after Corunna. It is in every way a stable that a small peasant
should put up for himself, without seeking money from other men. It is,
therefore, a stable which your gaping scientists would condemn; and
though as yet they have not got their ugly hands upon the dwellings of
beasts as they have upon those of men, yet I often fear for this stable,
and am always glad when I come back and find it there. For the men who
make our laws are the same as those that sell us our bricks and our land
and our metals; and they make the laws so that rebuilding shall go on:
and vile rebuilding too.

Anyhow, this stable yet stands; and in none does the horse, Monster,
take a greater delight, for he also is open to the influence of
holiness. So I led him in, and tied him by the ancient headstall, and I
rubbed him down, and I washed his feet and covered him with the rough
rug that lay there. And when I had done all that, I got him oats from
the neighbouring bin; for the place knew me well, and I could always
tend to my own beast when I came there. And as he ate his oats, I said
to him: "Monster, my horse, is there any place on earth where a man,
even for a little time, can be as happy as the brutes? If there is, it
is here at the Sign of The Lion." And Monster answered: "There is a
tradition among us that, of all creatures that creep upon the earth, man
is the fullest of sorrow."

I left him then, and went towards the house. It was quite dark, and the
windows, with their square, large panes and true proportions, shone out
and made it home. The room within received me like a friend. The open
chimney at its end, round which the house is built, was filled with
beech logs burning; and the candles, which were set in brass, mixed
their yellow light with that of the fire. The long ceiling was low, as
are the ceilings of Heaven. And oak was here everywhere also: in the
beams and the shelves and the mighty table. For oak was, and will be
again, the chief wood of the weald.

When they put food and ale before me, it was of the kind which has been
English ever since England began, and which perhaps good fortune will
preserve over the breakdown of our generation, until we have England
back again. One could see the hops in the tankard, and one could taste
the barley, until, more and more sunk into the plenitude of this good
house, one could dare to contemplate, as though from a distant
standpoint, the corruption and the imminent danger of the time through
which we must lead our lives. And, as I so considered the ruin of the
great cities and their slime, I felt as though I were in a fortress of
virtue and of health, which could hold out through the pressure of the
war. And I thought to myself: "Perhaps even before our children are men,
these parts which survive from a better order will be accepted as
models, and England will be built again."

This fantasy had not time, tenuous as it was, to disappear, before there
came into that room a man whose gesture and bearing promised him to be
an excellent companion, but in whose eyes I also perceived some light
not ordinary. He was of middle age, fifty or more; his hair was crisp
and grey, his face brown, as though he had been much upon the sea. He
was tall in stature, and of some strength. He saluted me, and, when he
had eaten, asked me if I also were familiar with this inn.

"Very familiar," I said; "and since I can enter it at any hour freely,
it is now more familiar to me even than the houses that were once my
homes. For nowadays we, who work in the State and are not idle, must be
driven from one place to another; and only the very rich have certitude
and continuity. But to them it is of no service; for they are too idle
to take root in the soil."

"Yet I was of their blood," he said; "and there is in this county a home
which should be mine. But nothing to-day is capable of endurance. I have
not seen my home (though it is but ten miles from here) since I left it
in my thirtieth year; and I too would rather come to this inn, which I
know as you know it, than to any house in England; because I am certain
of entry, and because I know what I shall find, and because what I find
is what any man of this county should find, if the soul of it is not to

"You, then," I answered (we were now seated side by side before the fire
with but one flickering candle behind us, and on the floor between us a
port just younger than the host), "you, then, come here for much the
same reason as do I?"

"And what is that?" said he.

"Why," said I, "to enjoy the illusion that Change can somewhere be
arrested, and that, in some shape, a part at least of the things we love
remains. For, since I was a boy and almost since I can remember,
everything in this house has been the same; and here I escape from the
threats of the society we know."

When I had said this, he was grave and silent for a little while; and
then he answered:

"It is impossible, I think, after many years to recover any such
illusion. Just as a young man can no longer think himself (as children
do) the actor in any drama of his own choosing, so a man growing old (as
am I) can no longer expect of any society--and least of all of his
own--the gladness that comes from an illusion of permanence."

"For my part," I answered in turn, "I know very well, though I can
conjure up this feeling of security, that it is very flimsy stuff; and
I take it rather as men take symbols. For though these good people will
at last perish, and some brewer--a Colonel of Volunteers as like as
not--will buy this little field, and though for the port we are drinking
there will be imperial port, and for the beer we have just drunk
something as noisome as that port, and though thistles will grow up in
the good pasture ground, and though, in a word, this inn will become a
hotel and will perish, nevertheless I cannot but believe that England
remains, and I do not think it the taking of a drug or a deliberate
cheating of oneself to come and steep one's soul in what has already
endured so long because it was proper to our country."

"All that you say," he answered, "is but part of the attempt to escape
Necessity. Your very frame is of that substance for which permanence
means death; and every one of all the emotions that you know is of its
nature momentary, and must be so if it is to be alive."

"Yet there is a divine thirst," I said, "for something that will not so
perish. If there were no such thirst, why should you and I debate such
things, or come here to The Lion either of us, to taste antiquity? And
if that thirst is there, it is a proof that there is for us some End and
some such satisfaction. For my part, as I know of nothing else, I cannot
but seek it in this visible good world. I seek it in Sussex, in the
nature of my home, and in the tradition of my blood."

But he answered: "No; it is not thus to be attained, the end of which
you speak. And that thirst, which surely is divine, is to be quenched in
no stream that we can find by journeying, not even in the little rivers
that run here under the combes of home."

MYSELF: "Well, then, what is the End?"

HE: "I have sometimes seen it clearly, that when the disappointed quest
was over, all this journeying would turn out to be but the beginning of
a much greater adventure, and that I should set out towards another
place where every sense should be fulfilled, and where the fear of
mutation should be set at rest."

MYSELF: "No one denies that such a picture in the mind haunts men their
whole lives through, though, after they have once experienced loss and
incompletion, and especially when they have caught sight a long way off
of the Barrier which ends all our experience, they recognise that
picture for a cheat; and surely nothing can save it? That which reasons
in us may be absolute and undying; for it is outside Time. It escapes
the gropings of the learned, and it has nothing to do with material
things. But as for all those functions which we but half fulfil in life,
surely elsewhere they cannot be fulfilled at all? Colour is for the eyes
and music is for the ears; and all that we love so much comes in by
channels that do not remain."

He: "Yet the Desire can only be for things that we have known; and the
Desire, as you have said, is a proof of the thing desired, and, but for
these things which we know, the words 'joy' and 'contentment' and
'fulfilment' would have no meaning."

MYSELF: "Why yes; but, though desires are the strongest evidence of
truth, yet there is also desire for illusions, as there is a waking
demand for things attainable, and a demand in dreams for things
fantastic and unreal. Every analogy increasingly persuades us, and so
does the whole scheme of things as we learn it, that, with our passing,
there shall also pass speech and comfortable fires and fields and the
voices of our children, and that, when they pass, we lose them for

He: "Yet these things would not be, but for the mind which receives
them; and how can we make sure what channels are necessary for the mind?
and may not the mind stretch on? And you, since you reject my guess at
what may be reserved for us, tell me, what is the End which we shall

MYSELF: "_Salva fide_, I cannot tell."

Then he continued and said: "I have too long considered these matters
for any opposition between one experience and another to affect my
spirit, and I know that a long and careful inquiry into any matter must
lead the same man to opposing conclusions; but, for my part, I shall
confidently expect throughout that old age, which is not far from me,
that, when it ceases, I shall find beyond it things similar to those
which I have known. For all I here enjoy is of one nature; and if the
life of a man be bereft of them at last, then it is falsehood or
metaphor to use the word 'eternal.'"

"You think, then," said I, "that some immortal part in us is concerned
not only with our knowledge, but with our every feeling, and that our
final satisfaction will include a sensual pleasure: fragrance, and
landscape, and a visible home that shall be dearer even than these dear

"Something of the sort," he said, and slightly shrugged his shoulders.
They were broad, as he sat beside me staring at the fire. They conveyed
in their attitude that effect of mingled strength and weariness which is
common to all who have travelled far and with great purpose, perpetually
seeking some worthy thing which they could never find.

The fire had fallen. Flames no longer leapt from the beech logs; but on
their under side, where a glow still lingered, embers fell.


It is not true that the close of a life which ends in a natural
fashion--life which is permitted to put on the pomp of death and to go
out in glory--inclines the mind to repose. It is not true of a day
ending nor the passing of the year, nor of the fall of leaves. Whatever
permanent, uneasy question is native to men, comes forward most
insistent and most loud at such times.

There is a house in my own county which is built of stone, whose gardens
are fitted to the autumn. It has level alleys standing high and banked
with stone. Their ornaments were carved under the influence of that
restraint which marked the Stuarts. They stand above old ponds, and are
strewn at this moment with the leaves of elms. These walks are like the
Mailles of the Flemish cities, the walls of the French towns or the
terraces of the Loire. They are enjoyed to-day by whoever has seen all
our time go racing by; they are the proper resting-places of the aged,
and their spirit is felt especially in the fall of leaves.

At this season a sky which is of so delicate and faint a blue as to
contain something of gentle mockery, and certainly more of tenderness,
presides at the fall of leaves. There is no air, no breath at all. The
leaves are so light that they sidle on their going downward, hesitating
in that which is not void to them, and touching at last so imperceptibly
the earth with which they are to mingle, that the gesture is much
gentler than a salutation, and even more discreet than a discreet

They make a little sound, less than the least of sounds. No bird at
night in the marshes rustles so slightly; no man, though men are the
subtlest of living beings, put so evanescent a stress upon their sacred
whispers or their prayers. The leaves are hardly heard, but they are
heard just so much that men also, who are destined at the end to grow
glorious and to die, look up and hear them falling.

* * * * *

With what a pageantry of every sort is not that troubling symbol
surrounded! The scent of life is never fuller in the woods than now, for
the ground is yielding up its memories. The spring when it comes will
not restore this fullness, nor these deep and ample recollections of the
earth. For the earth seems now to remember the drive of the ploughshare
and its harrying; the seed, and the full bursting of it, the swelling
and the completion of the harvest. Up to the edge of the woods
throughout the weald the earth has borne fruit; the barns are full, and
the wheat is standing stacked in the fields, and there are orchards all
around. It is upon such a mood of parentage and of fruition that the
dead leaves fall.

The colour is not a mere splendour: it is intricate. The same unbounded
power, never at fault and never in calculation, which comprehends all
the landscape, and which has made the woods, has worked in each one
separate leaf as well; they are inconceivably varied. Take up one leaf
and see. How many kinds of boundary are there here between the stain
which ends in a sharp edge against the gold, and the sweep in which the
purple and red mingle more evenly than they do in shot-silk or in
flames? Nor are the boundaries to be measured only by degrees of
definition. They have also their characters of line. Here in this leaf
are boundaries intermittent, boundaries rugged, boundaries curved, and
boundaries broken. Nor do shape and definition ever begin to exhaust the
list. For there are softness and hardness too: the agreement and
disagreement with the scheme of veins; the grotesque and the simple in
line; the sharp and the broad, the smooth, and raised in boundaries. So
in this one matter of boundaries might you discover for ever new things;
there is no end to them. Their qualities are infinite. And beside
boundaries you have hues and tints, shades also, varying thicknesses of
stuff, and endless choice of surface; that list also is infinite, and
the divisions of each item in it are infinite; nor is it of any use to
analyse the thing, for everywhere the depth and the meaning of so much
creation are beyond our powers. And all this is true of but one dead
leaf; and yet every dead leaf will differ from its fellow.

That which has delighted to excel in boundlessness within the bounds of
this one leaf, has also transformed the whole forest. There is no number
to the particular colour of the one leaf. The forest is like a thing so
changeful of its nature that change clings to it as a quality, apparent
even during the glance of a moment. This forest makes a picture which is
designed, but not seizable. It is a scheme, but a scheme you cannot set
down. It is of those things which can best be retained by mere copying
with a pencil or a brush. It is of those things which a man cannot fully
receive, and which he cannot fully re-express to other men.

It is no wonder, then, that at this peculiar time, this week (or moment)
of the year, the desires which if they do not prove at least
demand--perhaps remember--our destiny, come strongest. They are proper
to the time of autumn, and all men feel them. The air is at once new and
old; the morning (if one rises early enough to welcome its leisurely
advance) contains something in it of profound reminiscence. The evenings
hardly yet suggest (as they soon will) friends and security, and the
fires of home. The thoughts awakened in us by their bands of light
fading along the downs are thoughts which go with loneliness and prepare
me for the isolation of the soul.

It is on this account that tradition has set, at the entering of autumn,
for a watch at the gate of the season, the Archangel; and at its close
the day and the night of All-Hallows on which the dead return.


Upon a hill that overlooks a western plain and is conspicuous at the
approach of evening, there still stands a house of faded brick faced
with cornerings of stone. It is quite empty, but yet not deserted. In
each room some little furniture remains; all the pictures are upon the
walls; the deep red damask of the panels is not faded, or if faded,
shows no contrast of brighter patches, for nothing has been removed from
the walls. Here it is possible to linger for many hours alone, and to
watch the slope of the hill under the level light as the sun descends.
Here passes a woman of such nobility that, though she is dead, the
landscape and the vines are hers.

It was in September, during a silence of the air, that I first saw her
as she moved among her possessions; she was smiling to herself as though
at a memory, but her smile was so slight and so dignified, so genial,
and yet so restrained, that you would have thought it part of everything
around and married (as she was) to the land which was now her own. She
wandered down the garden paths ruling the flowers upon either side, and
receiving as she went autumn and the fruition of her fields; plenitude
and completion surrounded her; the benediction of Almighty God must have
been upon her, for she was the fulfilment of her world.

Three fountains played in that garden--two, next to the northern and the
southern walls, were small and low; they rather flowed than rose. Two
cones of marble received their fall, and over these they spread in an
even sheet with little noise, making (as it were) a sheath of water
which covered all the stone; but the third sprang into the air with
delicate triumph, fine and high, satisfied, tenuous and exultant. This
one tossed its summit into the light, and, alone of the things in the
garden, the plash of its waters recalled and suggested activity--though
that in so discreet a way that it was to be heard rather than regarded.
The birds flew off in circles over the roofs of the town below us. Very
soon they went to their rest.

The slow transfiguration of the light by which the air became full of
colours and every outline merged into the evening, made of all I saw, as
I came up towards her, a soft and united vision wherein her advancing
figure stood up central and gave a meaning to the whole. I will not
swear that she did not as she came bestow as well as receive an
influence of the sunset. It was said by the ancients that virtue is
active, an agent, and has power to control created things; for, they
said, it is in a direct relation with whatever orders and has ordained
the general scheme. Such power, perhaps, resided in her hands. It would
have awed me but hardly astonished if, as the twilight deepened, the
inclination of the stems had obeyed her gesture and she had put the
place to sleep.

As I came near I saw her plainly. Her face was young although she was so
wise, but its youth had the aspect of a divine survival. Time adorned

Music survives. Whatever is eternal in the grace of simple airs or in
the Christian innocence of Mozart was apparent, nay, had increased, in
her features as the days in passing had added to them not only
experience but also revelation and security. She was serene. The posture
of her head was high, and her body, which was visibly informed by an
immortal spirit, had in its carriage a large, a regal, an uplifted
bearing which even now as I write of it, after so many years, turns
common every other sight that has encountered me. This was the way in
which I first saw her upon her own hillside at evening.

With every season I returned. And with every season she greeted my
coming with a more generous and a more vivacious air. I think the years
slipped off and did not add themselves upon her mind: the common doom
of mortality escaped her until, perhaps, its sign was imposed upon her
hair--for this at last was touched all through with that appearance or
gleam which might be morning or which might be snow.

She was able to conjure all evil. Those desperate enemies of mankind
which lie in siege of us all around grew feeble and were silent when she
came. Nor has any other force than hers dared to enter the rooms where
she had lived: it is her influence alone which inhabits them to-day.
There is a vessel of copper, enamelled in green and gilded, which she
gave with her own hands to a friend overseas. I have twice touched it in
an evil hour.

Strength, sustenance, and a sacramental justice are permanent in such
lives, and such lives also attain before their close to so general a
survey of the world that their appreciations are at once accurate and

On this account she did not fail in any human conversation, nor was she
ever for a moment less than herself; but always and throughout her moods
her laughter was unexpected and full, her fear natural, her indignation

Above all, her charity extended like a breeze: it enveloped everything
she knew. The sense of destiny faded from me as the warmth of that
charity fell upon my soul; the foreknowledge of death retreated, as did
every other unworthy panic.

She drew the objects of her friendship into something new; they breathed
an air from another country, so that those whom she deigned to regard
were, compared with other men, like the living compared with the dead;
or, better still, they were like men awake while the rest were tortured
by dreams and haunted of the unreal. Indeed, she had a word given to her
which saved all the souls of her acquaintance.

It is not true that influence of this sort decays or passes into vaguer
and vaguer depths of memory. It does not dissipate. It is not dissolved.
It does not only spread and broaden: it also increases with the passage
of time. The musicians bequeath their spirit, notably those who have
loved delightful themes and easy melodies. The poets are read for ever;
but those who resemble her do more, for they grow out upon the
centuries--they themselves and not their arts continue. There is stuff
in their legend. They are a tangible inheritance for the hurrying
generations of men.

She was of this kind. She was certainly of this kind. She died upon this
day[1] in the year 1892. In these lines I perpetuate her memory.

[Footnote 1: The 22nd of December.]


Upon that shore of Europe which looks out towards no further shore, I
came once by accident upon a certain man.

The day had been warm and almost calm, but a little breeze from the
south-east had all day long given life to the sea. The seas had run very
small and brilliant, yet without violence, before the wind, and had
broken upon the granite cliffs to leeward, not in spouts of foam, but in
a white even line that was thin, and from which one heard no sound of
surge. Moreover, as I was running dead north along the coast, the noise
about the bows was very slight and pleasant. The regular and gentle wind
came upon the quarter without change, and the heel of the boat was
steady. No calm came with the late sunset; the breeze still held, and so
till nearly midnight I could hold a course and hardly feel the pulling
of the helm. Meanwhile the arch of the sunset endured, for I was far to
the northward, and all those colours which belong to June above the
Arctic Sea shone and changed in the slow progress of that arch as it
advanced before me and mingled at last with the dawn. Throughout the
hours of that journey I could see clearly the seams of the deck forward,
the texture of the canvas and the natural hues of the woodwork and the
rigging, the glint of the brasswork, and even the letters painted round
the little capstain-head, so continually did the light endure. The
silence which properly belongs to darkness, and which accompanies the
sleep of birds upon the sea, appeared to be the more intense because of
such a continuance of the light, and what with a long vigil and new
water, it was as though I had passed the edge of all known maps and had
crossed the boundary of new land.

In such a mood I saw before me the dark band of a stone jetty running
some miles off from the shore into the sea, and at the end of it a fixed
beacon whose gleam showed against the translucent sky (and its broken
reflection in the pale sea) as a candle shows when one pulls the
curtains of one's room and lets in the beginnings of the day.

For this point I ran, and as I turned it I discovered a little harbour
quite silent under the growing light; there was not a man upon its
wharves, and there was no smoke rising from its slate roofs. It was
absolutely still. The boat swung easily round in the calm water, the
pier-head slipped by, the screen of the pier-head beacon suddenly cut
off its glare, and she went slowly with no air in her canvas towards the
patch of darkness under the quay. There, as I did not know the place, I
would not pick up moorings which another man might own and need, but as
my boat still crept along with what was left of her way I let go the
little anchor, for it was within an hour of low tide, and I was sure of

When I had done this she soon tugged at the chain and I slackened all
the halyards. I put the cover on the mainsail, and as I did so, looking
aft, I noted the high mountain-side behind the town standing clear in
the dawn. I turned eastward to receive it. The light still lifted, and
though I had not slept I could not but stay up and watch the glory
growing over heaven. It was just then, when I had stowed everything
away, that I heard to the right of me the crooning of a man.

A few moments before I should not have seen him under the darkness of
the sea-wall, but the light was so largely advanced (it was nearly two
o'clock) that I now clearly made out both his craft and him.

She was sturdy and high, and I should think of slight draught. She was
of great beam. She carried but one sail, and that was brown. He had it
loose, with the peak dipped ready for hoisting, and he himself was busy
at some work upon the floor, stowing and fitting his bundles, and as he
worked he crooned gently to himself. It was then that I hailed him, but
in a low voice, so much did the silence of that place impress itself
upon all living beings who were strange to it. He looked up and told me
that he had not seen me come in nor heard the rattling of the chain. I
asked him what he would do so early, whether he was off fishing at that
hour or whether he was taking parcels down the coast for hire or goods
to sell at some other port. He answered me that he was doing none of
those things.

"What cruise, then, are you about to take?" I said.

"I am off," he answered in a low and happy voice, "to find what is
beyond the sea."

"And to what shore," said I, "do you mean to sail?"

He answered: "I am out upon this sea northward to where they say there
is no further shore."

As he spoke he looked towards that horizon which now stood quite clean
and clear between the pier-heads: his eyes were full of the broad
daylight, and he breathed the rising wind as though it were a promise of
new life and of unexpected things. I asked him then what his security
was and had he formed a plan, and why he was setting out from this small
place, unless, perhaps, it was his home, of which he might be tired.

"No," he answered, and smiled; "this is not my home; and I have come to
it as you may have come to it, for the first time; and, like you, I came
in after the whole place slept; but as I neared I noticed certain shore
marks and signs which had been given me, and then I knew that I had come
to the starting-place of a long voyage."

"Of what voyage?" I asked.

He answered:

"This is that harbour in the North of which a Breton priest once told me
that I should reach it, and when I had moored in it and laid my stores
on board in order, I should set sail before morning and reach at last a
complete repose." Then he went on with eagerness, though still talking
low: "The voyage which I was born to make in the end, and to which my
desire has driven me, is towards a place in which everything we have
known is forgotten, except those things which, as we knew them,
reminded us of an original joy. In that place I shall discover again
such full moments of content as I have known, and I shall preserve them
without failing. It is in some country beyond this sea, and it has a
harbour like this harbour, only set towards the South, as this is
towards the North; but like this harbour it looks out over an unknown
sea, and like this harbour it enjoys a perpetual light. Of what the
happy people in this country are, or of how they speak, no one has told
me, but they will receive me well, for I am of one kind with themselves.
But as to how I shall know this harbour, I can tell you: there is a
range of hills, broken by a valley through which one sees a further and
a higher range, and steering for this hollow in the hills one sees a
tower out to sea upon a rock, and high up inland a white quarry on a
hill-top; and these two in line are the leading marks by which one gets
clear into the mouth of the river, and so to the wharves of the town.
And there," he ended, "I shall come off the sea for ever, and every one
will call me by my name."

The sun was now near the horizon, but not yet risen, and for a little
time he said nothing to me nor I to him, for he was at work sweating up
the halyard and setting the peak. He let go the mooring knot also, but
he held the end of the rope in his hand and paid it out, standing and
looking upward, as the sail slowly filled and his craft drifted towards
me. He pressed the tiller with his knee to keep her full.

I now knew by his eyes and voice that he was from the West, and I could
not see him leave me without asking him from what place he came that he
should set out for such another place. So I asked him: "Are you from
Ireland, or from Brittany, or from the Islands?" He answered me: "I am
from none of these, but from Cornwall." And as he answered me thus
shortly he still watched the sail and still pressed the tiller with his
knee, and still paid out the mooring rope without turning round.

"You cannot make the harbour," I said to him. "It is not of this world."

Just at that moment the breeze caught the peak of his jolly brown sail;
he dropped the tail of the rope: it slipped and splashed into the
harbour slime. His large boat heeled, shot up, just missed my cable; and
then he let her go free, and she ran clear away. As she ran he looked
over his shoulder and laughed most cheerily; he greeted me with his
eyes, and he waved his hand to me in the morning light.

He held her well. A clean wake ran behind her. He put her straight for
the harbour-mouth and passed the pier-heads and took the sea outside.

Whether in honest truth he was a fisherman out for fishes who chose to
fence with me, or whether in that cruise of his he landed up in a
Norwegian bay, or thought better of it in Orkney, or went through the
sea and through death to the place he desired, I have never known.

I watched him holding on, and certainly he kept a course. The sun rose,
the town awoke, but I would not cease from watching him. His sail still
showed a smaller and a smaller point upon the sea; he did not waver. For
an hour I caught it and lost it, and caught it again, as it dwindled;
for half another hour I could not swear to it in the blaze. Before I had
wearied it was gone.

* * * * *

Oh! my companions, both you to whom I dedicate this book and you who
have accompanied me over other hills and across other waters or before
the guns in Burgundy, or you others who were with me when I seemed
alone--that ulterior shore was the place we were seeking in every cruise
and march and the place we thought at last to see. We, too, had in mind
that Town of which this man spoke to me in the Scottish harbour before
he sailed out northward to find what he could find. But I did not follow
him, for even if I had followed him I should not have found the Town.

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