Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Miscellaneous Studies: A Series of Essays by Walter Horatio Pater

Part 2 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

avoir un point fixe pour en juger. Le port juge ceux qui sont dans
un vaisseau, mais où prendrons-nous un port dans la morale? At times
he seems to forget that he himself and Montaigne are after all not of
the same flock, as his mind grazes in those pleasant places. Qu'il
(man) se regarde comme égaré dans ce canton détourné de la nature, et
de ce petit cachot où il se trouve logé, qu'il apprenne the earth, et
soi-même à son juste prix. Il ffre, mais elle est ployable à tous
sens; et ainsi il n'y en a point. Un même sens change selon les
paroles qui l'expriment. He has touches even of what he calls the
malignity, the malign irony of Montaigne. Rien que la médiocrité
n'est bon, he says,--épris des hauteurs, as he so conspicuously was--
C'est sortir de l'humanité que de sortir du milieu; la grandeur de
l'âme humaine consiste à savoir s'y tenir. Rien ne fortifie plus le
pyrrhonisme--that is ever his word for scepticism--que ce qu'il y en
a qui ne sont pas pyrrhoniens: si tous étaient ils auraient tort.
You may even credit him, like Montaigne, with a somewhat Satanic
intimacy with the ways, the cruel ways, the weakness, lâcheté, of the
human heart, so that, as he says of Montaigne, himself too might be a
pernicious study for those who have a native tendency to corruption.

The paradoxical condition of the world, the natural inconsistency of
man, his strange [86] blending of meanness with ancient greatness,
the caprices of his status here, of his power and attainments, in the
issue of his existence--that is what the study of Montaigne had
enforced on Pascal as the sincere compte rendu of experience. But
then he passes at a tangent from the circle of the great sceptic's
apprehension. That prospect of man and the world, undulant,
capricious, inconsistent, contemptible, lâche, full of contradiction,
with a soul of evil in things good, irreducible to law, upon which,
after all, Montaigne looks out with a complacency so entire, fills
Pascal with terror. It is the world on the morrow of a great
catastrophe, the casual forces of which have by no means spent
themselves. Yes! this world we see, of which we are a part, with its
thousand dislocations, is precisely what we might expect as resultant
from the Fall of Man, with consequences in full working still. It
presents the appropriate aspect of a lost world, though with beams of
redeeming grace about it, those, too, distributed somewhat
capriciously to chosen people and elect souls, who, after all, can
have but an ill time of it here. Under the tragic éclairs of divine
wrath essentially implacable, the gentle, pleasantly undulating,
sunny, earthly prospect of poor loveable humanity which opens out for
one in Montaigne's "Essays," becomes for Pascal a scene of harsh
precipices, of threatening heights and depths--the depths of his own
nothingness. Vanity: nothingness: these [87] are his catchwords:
Nous sommes incapables et du vrai et du bien; nous sommes tous
condamnés. Ce qui y paraît (i.e., what we see in the world) ne
marque ni une exclusion totale ni une présence manifeste de divinité,
mais la présence d'un Dieu qui se cache: (Deus absconditus, that is a
recurrent favourite thought of his) tout porte ce caractère. In this
world of abysmal dilemmas, he is ready to push all things to their
extremes. All or nothing; for him real morality will be nothing
short of sanctity. En Jésus Christ toutes les contradictions sont
accordées. Yet what difficulties again in the religion of Christ!
Nulle autre religion n'a proposé de se haïr. La seule religion
contraire à la nature, contraire au sens commun, est la seule qui ait
toujours été.

Multitudes in every generation have felt at least the aesthetic charm
of the rites of the Catholic Church. For Pascal, on the other hand,
a certain weariness, a certain puerility, a certain unprofitableness
in them is but an extra trial of faith. He seems to have little
sense of the beauty of holiness. And for his sombre, trenchant,
precipitous philosophy there could be no middle terms; irresistible
election, irresistible reprobation; only sometimes extremes meet, and
again it may be the trial of faith that the justified seem as
loveless and unlovely as the reprobate. Abêtissez-vous! A nature,
you may think, that would magnify things to the utmost, nurse, expand
them beyond their natural bounds by his [88] reflex action upon them.
Thus revelation is to be received on evidence, indeed, but an
evidence conclusive only on a presupposition or series of
presuppositions, evidence that is supplemented by an act of
imagination, or by the grace of faith, shall we say? At any rate,
the fact is, that the genius of the great reasoner, of this great
master of the abstract and deductive sciences, turned theologian,
carrying the methods of thought there formed into the things of
faith, was after all of the imaginative order. Now hear what he says
of imagination: Cette faculté trompeuse, qui semble nous être donnée
exprès pour nous induire à une erreur nécessaire. That has a sort of
necessity in it. What he says has again the air of Montaigne, and he
says much of the same kind: Cette superbe puissance ennemie de la
raison, combien toutes les richesses de la terre sont insuffisantes
sans son consentement. The imagination has the disposition of all
things: Elle fait la beauté, la justice, et le bonheur, qui est le
tout du monde. L'imagination dispose de tout. And what we have here
to note is its extraordinary power in himself. Strong in him as the
reasoning faculty, so to speak, it administered the reasoning faculty
in him à son grbut he was unaware of it, that power d'autant plus
fourbe qu'elle ne l'est pas toujours. Hidden under the apparent
rigidity of his favourite studies, imagination, even in them, played
a large part. Physics, mathematics were with him largely matters of
intuition, anticipation, [89] precocious discovery, short cuts,
superb guessing. It was the inventive element in his work and his
way of putting things that surprised those best able to judge. He
might have discovered the mathematical sciences for himself, it is
alleged, had his father, as he once had a mind to do, withheld him
from instruction in them.

About the time when he was bidding adieu to the world, Pascal had an
accident. As he drove round a corner on the Seine side to cross the
bridge at Neuilly, the horses were precipitated down the bank into
the water. Pascal escaped, but with a nervous shock, a certain
hallucination, from which he never recovered. As he walked or sat he
was apt to perceive a yawning depth beside him; would set stick or
chair there to reassure himself. We are now told, indeed, that that
circumstance has been greatly exaggerated. But how true to Pascal's
temper, as revealed in his work, that alarmed precipitous character
in it! Intellectually the abyss was evermore at his side. Nous
avons, he observes, un autre principe d'erreur, les maladies. Now in
him the imagination itself was like a physical malady, troubling,
disturbing, or in active collusion with it. . . .


62. *Published in the Contemporary Review, Feb. 1895, and now
reprinted by the kind permission of the proprietors.

76. +Transliteration: pathos.

80. *The words here cited are, however, from Psalm cxviii., the
cxvii. of the Vulgate, and not from Pascal's favourite Psalm.
(C.L.S.) +C.L.S. stands for Charles Shadwell, editor of the original


[90] TITIAN, as we see him in what some have thought his noblest
work, the large altar-piece, dated 1522, his forty-fifth year, of SS.
Nazaro e Celso, at Brescia, is certainly a religious--a great,
religious painter. The famous Gabriel of the Annunciation, aflight,
in all the effortless energy of an angel indeed, and Sebastian,
adapted, it was said, from an ancient statue, yet as novel in design
as if Titian had been the first to handle that so familiar figure in
old religious art--may represent for us a vast and varied amount of
work--in which he expands to their utmost artistic compass the
earlier religious dreams of Mantegna and the Bellini, affording
sufficient proof how sacred themes could rouse his imagination, and
all his manual skill, to heroic efforts. But he is also the painter
of the Venus of the Tribune and the Triumph of Bacchus; and such
frank acceptance of the voluptuous paganism of the Renaissance, the
motive of a large proportion of his work, [91] might make us think
that religion, grandly dramatic as was his conception of it, can have
been for him only one of many pictorial attitudes. There are however
painters of that date who, while their work is great enough to be
connected (perhaps groundlessly) with Titian's personal influence, or
directly attributed to his hand, possess at least this psychological
interest, that about their religiousness there can be no question.
Their work is to be looked for mainly in and about the two sub-alpine
towns of Brescia and Bergamo; in the former of which it becomes
definable as a school--the school of Moretto, in whom the perfected
art of the later Renaissance is to be seen in union with a
catholicism as convinced, towards the middle of the sixteenth
century, as that of Giotto or Angelico.

Moretto of Brescia, for instance, is one of the few painters who have
fully understood the artistic opportunities of the subject of Saint
Paul, for whom, for the most part, art has found only the
conventional trappings of a Roman soldier (a soldier, as being in
charge of those prisoners to Damascus), or a somewhat commonplace old
age. Moretto also makes him a nobly accoutred soldier--the rim of
the helmet, thrown backward in his fall to the earth, rings the head
already with a faint circle of glory--but a soldier still in
possession of all those resources of unspoiled youth which he is
ready to offer in a [92] moment to the truth that has just dawned
visibly upon him. The terrified horse, very grandly designed, leaps
high against the suddenly darkened sky above the distant horizon of
Damascus, with all Moretto's peculiar understanding of the power of
black and white. But what signs the picture inalienably as Moretto's
own is the thought of the saint himself, at the moment of his
recovery from the stroke of Heaven. The pure, pale, beardless face,
in noble profile, might have had for its immediate model some
military monk of a later age, yet it breathes all the joy and
confidence of the Apostle who knows in a single flash of time that he
has found the veritable captain of his soul. It is indeed the Paul
whose genius of conviction has so greatly moved the minds of men--the
soldier who, bringing his prisoners "bound to Damascus," is become
the soldier of Jesus Christ.

Moretto's picture has found its place (in a dark recess, alas!) in
the Church of Santa Maria presso San Celso, in the suburbs of Milan,
hard by the site of the old Roman cemetery, where Ambrose, at a
moment when in one of his many conflicts a "sign" was needed, found
the bodies of Nazarus and Celsus, youthful patrician martyrs in the
reign of Nero, overflowing now with miraculous powers, their blood
still fresh upon them--conspersa recenti sanguine. The body of Saint
Nazarus he removed into the city: that of Saint Celsus remained
within the little sanctuary [93] which still bears his name, and
beside which, in the fifteenth century, arose the glorious Church of
the Madonna, with spacious atrium after the Ambrosian manner, a
façade richly sculptured in the style of the Renaissance, and
sumptuously adorned within. Behind the massive silver tabernacle of
the altar of the miraculous picture which gave its origin to this
splendid building, the rare visitor, peeping as into some sacred
bird-nest, detects one of the loveliest works of Luini, a small, but
exquisitely finished "Holy Family." Among the fine pictures around
are works by two other very notable religious painters of the cinque-
cento. Both alike, Ferrari and Borgognone, may seem to have
introduced into fiery Italian latitudes a certain northern
temperature, and somewhat twilight, French, or Flemish, or German,
thoughts. Ferrari, coming from the neighbourhood of Varallo, after
work at Vercelli and Novara, returns thither to labour, as both
sculptor and painter, in the "stations" of the Sacro Monte, at a form
of religious art which would seem to have some natural kinship with
the temper of a mountain people. It is as if the living actors in
the "Passion Play" of Oberammergau had been transformed into almost
illusive groups in painted terra-cotta. The scenes of the Last
Supper, of the Martyrdom of the Innocents, of the Raising of Jairus'
daughter, for instance, are certainly touching in the naïve piety of
their life-sized realism. But Gaudenzio Ferrari had many [94]
helpmates at the Sacro Monte; and his lovelier work is in the
Franciscan Church at the foot of the hill, and in those two, truly
Italian, far-off towns of the Lombard plain. Even in his great,
many-storied fresco in the Franciscan Church at Varallo there are
traces of a somewhat barbaric hankering after solid form; the armour
of the Roman soldiers, for example, is raised and gilt. It is as if
this serious soul, going back to his mountain home, had lapsed again
into mountain "grotesque," with touches also, in truth, of a
peculiarly northern poetry--a mystic poetry, which now and again, in
his treatment, for instance, of angel forms and faces, reminds one of
Blake. There is something of it certainly in the little white
spectral soul of the penitent thief making its escape from the
dishonoured body along the beam of his cross.

The contrast is a vigorous one when, in the space of a few hours, the
traveller finds himself at Vercelli, half-stifled in its thick
pressing crop of pumpkins and mulberry trees. The expression of the
prophet occurs to him: "A lodge in a garden of cucumbers." Garden of
cucumbers and half-tropical flowers, it has invaded the quiet open
spaces of the town. Search through them, through the almost
cloistral streets, for the Church of the Umiliati; and there, amid
the soft garden-shadows of the choir, you may find the sentiment of
the neighbourhood expressed with great refinement in what is perhaps
[95] the masterpiece of Ferrari, "Our Lady of the Fruit-garden," as
we might say--attended by twelve life-sized saints and the monkish
donors of the picture. The remarkable proportions of the tall panel,
up which the green-stuff is climbing thickly above the mitres and
sacred garniture of those sacred personages, lend themselves
harmoniously to the gigantic stature of Saint Christopher in the
foreground as the patron saint of the church. With the savour of
this picture in his memory, the visitor will look eagerly in some
half-dozen neighbouring churches and deserted conventual places for
certain other works from Ferrari's hand; and so, leaving the place
under the influence of his delicate religious ideal, may seem to have
been listening to much exquisite church-music there, violins and the
like, on that perfectly silent afternoon--such music as he may still
really hear on Sundays at the neighbouring town of Novara, famed for
it from of old. Here, again, the art of Gaudenzio Ferrari reigns.
Gaudenzio! It is the name of the saintly prelate on whom his pencil
was many times employed, First Bishop of Novara, and patron of the
magnificent basilica hard by which still covers his body, whose
earthly presence in cope and mitre Ferrari has commemorated in the
altar-piece of the "Marriage of St. Catherine," with its refined
richness of colour, like a bank of real flowers blooming there, and
like nothing else around it in the [96] vast duomo of old Roman
architecture, now heavily masked in modern stucco. The solemn
mountains, under the closer shadow of which his genius put on a
northern hue, are far away, telling at Novara only as the grandly
theatrical background to an entirely lowland life. And here, as at
Vercelli so at Novara, Ferrari is not less graciously Italian than
Luini himself.

If the name of Luini's master, Borgognone, is no proof of northern
extraction, a northern temper is nevertheless a marked element of his
genius--something of the patience, especially, of the masters of
Dijon or Bruges, nowhere more clearly than in the two groups of male
and female heads in the National Gallery, family groups, painted in
the attitude of worship, with a lowly religious sincerity which may
remind us of the contemporary work of M. Legros. Like those northern
masters, he accepts piously, but can refine, what "has no
comeliness." And yet perhaps no painter has so adequately presented
that purely personal beauty (for which, indeed, even profane painters
for the most part have seemed to care very little) as Borgognone in
the two deacons, Stephen and Laurence, who, in one of the altar-
pieces of the Certosa, assist at the throne of Syrus, ancient,
sainted, First Bishop of Pavia--stately youths in quite imperial
dalmatics of black and gold. An indefatigable worker at many forms
of religious art, here and elsewhere, assisting at last in the [97]
carving and inlaying of the rich marble façade of the Certosa, the
rich carved and inlaid wood-work of Santa Maria at Bergamo, he is
seen perhaps at his best, certainly in his most significantly
religious mood, in the Church of the Incoronata at Lodi, especially
in one picture there, the "Presentation of Christ in the Temple."
The experienced visitor knows what to expect in the sacristies of the
great Italian churches; the smaller, choicer works of Luini, say, of
Della Robbia or Mino of Fiesole, the superb ambries and drawers and
presses of old oak or cedar, the still untouched morsel of fresco--
like sacred priestly thoughts visibly lingering there in the half-
light. Well! the little octagonal Church of the Incoronata is like
one of these sacristies. The work of Bramante--you see it, as it is
so rarely one's luck to do, with its furniture and internal
decoration complete and unchanged, the coloured pavement, the
colouring which covers the walls, the elegant little organ of
Domenico da Lucca (1507), the altar-screens with their dainty rows of
brass cherubs. In Borgognone's picture of the "Presentation," there
the place is, essentially as we see it to-day. The ceremony,
invested with all the sentiment of a Christian sacrament, takes place
in this very church, this "Temple" of the Incoronata where you are
standing, reflected on the dimly glorious wall, as in a mirror.
Borgognone in his picture has [98] but added in long legend, letter
by letter, on the fascia below the cupola, the Song of Simeon.

The Incoronata however is, after all, the monument less of Ambrogio
Borgognone than of the gifted Piazza family:--Callisto, himself born
at Lodi, his father, his uncle, his brothers, his son Fulvio, working
there in three generations, under marked religious influence, and
with so much power and grace that, quite gratuitously, portions of
their work have been attributed to the master-hand of Titian, in some
imaginary visit here to these painters, who were in truth the
disciples of another--Romanino of Brescia. At Lodi, the lustre of
Scipione Piazza is lost in that of Callisto, his elder brother; but
he might worthily be included in a list of painters memorable for a
single picture, such pictures as the solemn Madonna of Pierino del
Vaga, in the Duomo of Pisa, or the Holy Family of Pellegrino Piola,
in the Goldsmiths' Street at Genoa. A single picture, a single
figure in a picture, signed and dated, over the altar of Saint
Clement, in the Church of San Spirito, at Bergamo, might preserve the
fame of Scipione Piazza, who did not live to be old. The figure is
that of the youthful Clement of Rome himself, "who had seen the
blessed Apostles," writing at the dictation of Saint Paul. For a
moment he looks away from the letters of the book with all the
wistful intelligence of a boy softly touched already by the radiancy
of the [99] celestial Wisdom. "Her ways are ways of pleasantness!"
That is the lesson this winsome, docile, spotless creature--ingenui
vultus puer ingenuique pudoris--younger brother or cousin of
Borgognone's noble deacons at the Certosa--seems put there to teach
us. And in this church, indeed, as it happens, Scipione's work is
side by side with work of his.

It is here, in fact, at Bergamo and at Brescia, that the late
survival of a really convinced religious spirit becomes a striking
fact in the history of Italian art. Vercelli and Novara, though
famous for their mountain neighbourhood, enjoy but a distant and
occasional view of Monte Rosa and its companions; and even then those
awful stairways to tracts of airy sunlight may seem hardly real. But
the beauty of the twin sub-alpine towns further eastward is shaped by
the circumstance that mountain and plain meet almost in their
streets, very effectively for all purposes of the picturesque.
Brescia, immediately below the "Falcon of Lombardy" (so they called
its masterful fortress on the last ledge of the Piè di Monte), to
which you may now ascend by gentle turfed paths, to watch the purple
mystery of evening mount gradually from the great plain up the
mountain-walls close at hand, is as level as a church pavement, home-
like, with a kind of easy walking from point to point about it, rare
in Italian towns--a town full of walled gardens, giving even to [100]
its smaller habitations the retirement of their more sumptuous
neighbours, and a certain English air. You may peep into them,
pacing its broad streets, from the blaze of which you are glad to
escape into the dim and sometimes gloomy churches, the twilight
sacristies, rich with carved and coloured woodwork. The art of
Romanino still lights up one of the darkest of those churches with
the altar-piece which is perhaps his most expressive and noblest
work. The veritable blue sky itself seems to be breaking into the
dark-cornered, low-vaulted, Gothic sanctuary of the Barefoot
Brethren, around the Virgin and Child, the bowed, adoring figures of
Bonaventura, Saint Francis, Saint Antony, the youthful majesty of
Saint Louis, to keep for ever in memory--not the King of France
however, in spite of the fleurs-de-lys on his cope of azure, but
Louis, Bishop of Toulouse. A Rubens in Italy! you may think, if you
care to rove from the delightful fact before you after vague
supposititious alliances--something between Titian and Rubens!
Certainly, Romanino's bold, contrasted colouring anticipates
something of the northern freshness of Rubens. But while the
peculiarity of the work of Rubens is a sense of momentary transition,
as if the colours were even now melting in it, Romanino's canvas
bears rather the steady glory of broad Italian noonday; while he is
distinguished also for a remarkable clearness of [101] design, which
has perhaps something to do, is certainly congruous with, a markedly
religious sentiment, like that of Angelico or Perugino, lingering
still in the soul of this Brescian painter towards the middle of the
sixteenth century.

Romanino and Moretto, the two great masters of Brescia in successive
generations, both alike inspired above all else by the majesty, the
majestic beauty, of religion--its persons, its events, every
circumstance that belongs to it--are to be seen in friendly rivalry,
though with ten years' difference of age between them, in the Church
of San Giovanni Evangelista; Romanino approaching there, as near as
he might, in a certain candle-lighted scene, to that harmony in
black, white, and grey preferred by the younger painter. Before this
or that example of Moretto's work, in that admirably composed picture
of Saint Paul's Conversion, for instance, you might think of him as
but a very noble designer in grisaille. A more detailed study would
convince you that, whatever its component elements, there is a very
complex tone which almost exclusively belongs to him; the "Saint
Ursula" finally, that he is a great, though very peculiar colourist--
a lord of colour who, while he knows the colour resources that may
lie even in black and white, has really included every delicate hue
whatever in that faded "silver grey," which yet lingers in one's
memory as their final effect. For some admirers indeed he is
definable [102] as a kind of really sanctified Titian. It must be
admitted, however, that whereas Titian sometimes lost a little of
himself in the greatness of his designs, or committed their
execution, in part, to others, Moretto, in his work, is always all
there--thorough, steady, even, in his workmanship. That, again, was
a result of his late-surviving religious conscience. And here, as in
other instances, the supposed influence of the greater master is only
a supposition. As a matter of fact, at least in his earlier life,
Moretto made no visit to Venice; developed his genius at home, under
such conditions for development as were afforded by the example of
the earlier masters of Brescia itself; left his work there
abundantly, and almost there alone, as the thoroughly representative
product of a charming place. In the little Church of San Clemente he
is still "at home" to his lovers; an intimately religious artist,
full of cheerfulness, of joy. Upon the airy galleries of his great
altar-piece, the angels dance against the sky above the Mother and
the Child; Saint Clement, patron of the church, being attendant in
pontifical white, with Dominic, Catherine, the Magdalen, and good,
big-faced Saint Florian in complete armour, benign and strong. He
knows many a saint not in the Roman breviary. Was there a single
sweet-sounding name without its martyr patron? Lucia, Agnes, Agatha,
Barbara, Cecilia--holy women, dignified, high-bred, intelligent--
[103] have an altar of their own; and here, as in that festal high
altar-piece, the spectator may note yet another artistic alliance,
something of the pale effulgence of Correggio--an approach, at least,
to that peculiar treatment of light and shade, and a pre-occupation
with certain tricks therein of nature itself, by which Correggio
touches Rembrandt on the one hand, Da Vinci on the other. Here, in
Moretto's work, you may think that manner more delightful, perhaps
because more refined, than in Correggio himself. Those pensive,
tarnished, silver side-lights, like mere reflexions of natural
sunshine, may be noticed indeed in many another painter of that day,
in Lanini, for instance, at the National Gallery. In his "Nativity"
at the Brera, Procaccini of Verona almost anticipates Correggio's
Heilige Nacht. It is, in truth, the first step in the decomposition
of light, a touch of decadence, of sunset, along the whole horizon of
North-Italian art. It is, however, as the painter of the white-
stoled Ursula and her companions that the great master of Brescia is
most likely to remain in the memory of the visitor; with this fact,
above all, clearly impressed on it, that Moretto had attained full
intelligence of all the pictorial powers of white. In the clearness,
the cleanliness, the hieratic distinction, of this earnest and
deeply-felt composition, there is something "pre-Raphaelite"; as also
in a certain liturgical formality in the grouping of the virgins--the
[104] looks, "all one way," of the closely-ranged faces; while in the
long folds of the drapery we may see something of the severe grace of
early Tuscan sculpture--something of severity in the long, thin,
emphatic shadows. For the light is high, as with the level lights of
early morning, the air of which ruffles the banners borne by Ursula
in her two hands, her virgin companions laying their hands also upon
the tall staves, as if taking share, with a good will, in her self-
dedication, with all the hazard of battle. They bring us,
appropriately, close to the grave of this manly yet so virginal
painter, born in the year 1500, dead at forty-seven.

Of Moretto and Romanino, whose works thus light up, or refine, the
dark churches of Brescia and its neighbourhood, Romanino is scarcely
to be seen beyond it. The National Gallery, however, is rich in
Moretto's work, with two of his rare poetic portraits; and if the
large altar-picture would hardly tell his secret to one who had not
studied him at Brescia, in those who already know him it will awake
many a reminiscence of his art at its best. The three white mitres,
for instance, grandly painted towards the centre of the picture, at
the feet of Saint Bernardino of Siena--the three bishoprics refused
by that lowly saint--may remind one of the great white mitre which,
in the genial picture of Saint Nicholas, in the Miracoli at Brescia,
one of the children, who as delightfully+ [105] unconventional
acolytes accompany their beloved patron into the presence of the
Madonna, carries along so willingly, laughing almost, with pleasure
and pride, at his part in so great a function. In the altar-piece at
the National Gallery those white mitres form the key-note from which
the pale, cloistral splendours of the whole picture radiate. You see
what a wealth of enjoyable colour Moretto, for one, can bring out of
monkish habits in themselves sad enough, and receive a new lesson in
the artistic value of reserve.

Rarer still (the single work of Romanino, it is said, to be seen out
of Italy) is the elaborate composition in five parts on the opposite
side of the doorway. Painted for the high-altar of one of the many
churches of Brescia, it seems to have passed into secular hands about
a century ago. Alessandro, patron of the church, one of the many
youthful patrician converts Italy reveres from the ranks of the Roman
army, stands there on one side, with ample crimson banner superbly
furled about his lustrous black armour, and on the other--Saint
Jerome, Romanino's own namesake--neither more nor less than the
familiar, self-tormenting anchorite; for few painters (Bellini, to
some degree, in his picture of the saint's study) have perceived the
rare pictorial opportunities of Jerome; Jerome with the true cradle
of the Lord, first of Christian antiquaries, author of the fragrant
Vulgate version of the [106] Scriptures. Alessandro and Jerome
support the Mother and the Child in the central place. But the
loveliest subjects of this fine group of compositions are in the
corners above, half-length, life-sized figures--Gaudioso, Bishop of
Brescia, above Saint Jerome; above Alessandro, Saint Filippo Benizzi,
meek founder of the Order of Servites to which that church at Brescia
belonged, with his lily, and in the right hand a book; and what a
book! It was another very different painter, Giuseppe Caletti, of
Cremona, who, for the truth and beauty of his drawing of them, gained
the title of the "Painter of Books." But if you wish to see what can
be made of the leaves, the vellum cover, of a book, observe that in
Saint Philip's hand.--The writer? the contents? you ask: What may
they be? and whence did it come?--out of embalmed sacristy, or
antique coffin of some early Brescian martyr, or, through that bright
space of blue Italian sky, from the hands of an angel, like his
Annunciation lily, or the book received in the Apocalypse by John the
Divine? It is one of those old saints, Gaudioso (at home in every
church in Brescia), who looks out with full face from the opposite
corner of the altar-piece, from a background which, though it might
be the new heaven over a new earth, is in truth only the proper,
breathable air of Italy. As we see him here, Saint Gaudioso is one
of the more exquisite treasures of our National Gallery. It was thus
that at the magic [107] touch of Romanino's art the dim, early,
hunted-down Brescian church of the primitive centuries, crushed into
the dust, it might seem, was "brought to her king," out of those old
dark crypts, "in raiment of needle-work"--the delicate, richly
folded, pontifical white vestments, the mitre and staff and gloves,
and rich jewelled cope, blue or green. The face, of remarkable
beauty after a type which all feel though it is actually rare in art,
is probably a portrait of some distinguished churchman of Romanino's
own day; a second Gaudioso, perhaps, setting that later Brescian
church to rights after the terrible French occupation in the
painter's own time, as his saintly predecessor, the Gaudioso of the
earlier century here commemorated, had done after the invasion of the
Goths. The eloquent eyes are open upon some glorious vision. "He
hath made us kings and priests!" they seem to say for him, as the
clean, sensitive lips might do so eloquently. Beauty and Holiness
had "kissed each other," as in Borgognone's imperial deacons at the
Certosa. At the Renaissance the world might seem to have parted them
again. But here certainly, once more, Catholicism and the
Renaissance, religion and culture, holiness and beauty, might seem
reconciled, by one who had conceived neither after any feeble way, in
a gifted person. Here at least, by the skill of Romanino's hand, the
obscure martyr of the crypts shines as a [108] saint of the later
Renaissance, with a sanctity of which the elegant world itself would
hardly escape the fascination, and which reminds one how the great
Apostle Saint Paul has made courtesy part of the content of the
Divine charity itself. A Rubens in Italy!--so Romanino has been
called. In this gracious presence we might think that, like Rubens
also, he had been a courtier.


90. *Published in the New Review, Nov. 1890, and now reprinted by the
kind permission of the proprietors.


[109] THE greatest and purest of Gothic churches, Notre-Dame
d'Amiens, illustrates, by its fine qualities, a characteristic
secular movement of the beginning of the thirteenth century.
Philosophic writers of French history have explained how, in that and
in the two preceding centuries, a great number of the more important
towns in eastern and northern France rose against the feudal
establishment, and developed severally the local and municipal life
of the commune. To guarantee their independence therein they
obtained charters from their formal superiors. The Charter of Amiens
served as the model for many other communes. Notre-Dame d'Amiens is
the church of a commune. In that century of Saint Francis, of Saint
Louis, they were still religious. But over against monastic
interests, as identified with a central authority--king, emperor, or
pope--they pushed forward the local, and, so to call it, secular
authority of their [110] bishops, the flower of the "secular clergy"
in all its mundane astuteness, ready enough to make their way as the
natural Protectors of such townships. The people of Amiens, for
instance, under a powerful episcopal patron, invested their civic
pride in a vast cathedral, outrivalling neighbours, as being in
effect their parochial church, and promoted there the new,
revolutionary, Gothic manner, at the expense of the derivative and
traditional, Roman or Romanesque, style, the imperial style, of the
great monastic churches. Nay, those grand and beautiful people's
churches of the thirteenth century, churches pre-eminently of "Our
Lady," concurred also with certain novel humanistic movements of
religion itself at that period, above all with the expansion of what
is reassuring and popular in the worship of Mary, as a tender and
accessible, though almost irresistible, intercessor with her severe
and awful Son.

Hence the splendour, the space, the novelty, of the great French
cathedrals in the first Pointed style, monuments for the most part of
the artistic genius of laymen, significant pre-eminently of that
Queen of Gothic churches at Amiens. In most cases those early
Pointed churches are entangled, here or there, by the constructions
of the old round-arched style, the heavy, Norman or other, Romanesque
chapel or aisle, side by side, though in strong contrast with, the
soaring new Gothic of nave or transept. But of that older [111]
manner of the round arch, the plein-cintre, Amiens has nowhere, or
almost nowhere, a trace. The Pointed style, fully pronounced, but in
all the purity of its first period, found here its completest
expression. And while those venerable, Romanesque, profoundly
characteristic, monastic churches, the gregarious product of long
centuries, are for the most part anonymous, as if to illustrate from
the first a certain personal tendency which came in with the Gothic
manner, we know the name of the architect under whom, in the year
A.D. 1220, the building of the church of Amiens began--a layman,
Robert de Luzarches.

Light and space--floods of light, space for a vast congregation, for
all the people of Amiens, for their movements, with something like
the height and width of heaven itself enclosed above them to breathe
in;--you see at a glance that this is what the ingenuity of the
Pointed method of building has here secured. For breadth, for the
easy flow of a processional torrent, there is nothing like the
"ambulatory," the aisle of the choir and transepts. And the entire
area is on one level. There are here no flights of steps upward, as
at Canterbury, no descending to dark crypts, as in so many Italian
churches--a few low, broad steps to gain the choir, two or three to
the high altar. To a large extent the old pavement remains, though
almost worn-out by the footsteps of centuries. Priceless, though not
composed of precious material, it gains its effect [112] by ingenuity
and variety in the patterning, zig-zags, chequers, mazes, prevailing
respectively, in white and grey, in great square, alternate spaces--
the original floor of a medieval church for once untouched. The
massive square bases of the pillars of a Romanesque church, harshly
angular, obstruct, sometimes cruelly, the standing, the movements, of
a multitude of persons. To carry such a multitude conveniently round
them is the matter-of-fact motive of the gradual chiselling away, the
softening of the angles, the graceful compassing, of the Gothic base,
till in our own Perpendicular period it all but disappears. You may
study that tendency appropriately in the one church of Amiens; for
such in effect Notre-Dame has always been. That circumstance is
illustrated by the great font, the oldest thing here, an oblong
trough, perhaps an ancient saintly coffin, with four quaint prophetic
figures at the angles, carved from a single block of stone. To it,
as to the baptistery of an Italian town, not so long since all the
babes of Amiens used to come for christening.

Strange as it may seem, in this "queen" of Gothic churches, l'église
ogivale par excellence, there is nothing of mystery in the vision,
which yet surprises, over and over again, the eye of the visitor who
enters at the western doorway. From the flagstone at one's foot to
the distant keystone of the chevet, noblest of its species-- [113]
reminding you of how many largely graceful things, sails of a ship in
the wind, and the like!--at one view the whole is visible,
intelligible;--the integrity of the first design; how later additions
affixed themselves thereto; how the rich ornament gathered upon it;
the increasing richness of the choir; its glazed triforium; the
realms of light which expand in the chapels beyond; the astonishing
boldness of the vault, the astonishing lightness of what keeps it
above one; the unity, yet the variety of perspective. There is no
mystery here, and indeed no repose. Like the age which projected it,
like the impulsive communal movement which was here its motive, the
Pointed style at Amiens is full of excitement. Go, for repose, to
classic work, with the simple vertical law of pressure downwards, or
to its Lombard, Rhenish, or Norman derivatives. Here, rather, you
are conscious restlessly of that sustained equilibrium of oblique
pressure on all sides, which is the essence of the hazardous Gothic
construction, a construction of which the "flying buttress" is the
most significant feature. Across the clear glass of the great
windows of the triforium you see it, feel it, at its Atlas-work
audaciously. "A pleasant thing it is to behold the sun" those first
Gothic builders would seem to have said to themselves; and at Amiens,
for instance, the walls have disappeared; the entire building is
composed of its windows. Those who built it [114] might have had for
their one and only purpose to enclose as large a space as possible
with the given material.

No; the peculiar Gothic buttress, with its double, triple, fourfold
flights, while it makes such marvels possible, securing light and
space and graceful effect, relieving the pillars within of their
massiveness, is not a restful architectural feature. Consolidation
of matter naturally on the move, security for settlement in a very
complex system of construction--that is avowedly a part of the Gothic
situation, the Gothic problem. With the genius which contended,
though not always quite successfully, with this difficult problem,
came also novel aesthetic effect, a whole volume of delightful
aesthetic effects. For the mere melody of Greek architecture, for
the sense as it were of music in the opposition of successive sounds,
you got harmony, the richer music generated by opposition of sounds
in one and the same moment; and were gainers. And then, in contrast
with the classic manner, and the Romanesque survivals from it, the
vast complexity of the Gothic style seemed, as if consciously, to
correspond to the richness, the expressiveness, the thousandfold
influence of the Catholic religion, in the thirteenth century still
in natural movement in every direction. The later Gothic of the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries tended to conceal, as it now took
for granted, the structural use of the buttress, for [115] example;
seemed to turn it into a mere occasion for ornament, not always
pleasantly:--while the ornament was out of place, the structure
failed. Such falsity is far enough away from what at Amiens is
really of the thirteenth century. In this pre-eminently "secular"
church, the execution, in all the defiance of its method, is direct,
frank, clearly apparent, with the result not only of reassuring the
intelligence, but of keeping one's curiosity also continually on the
alert, as we linger in these restless aisles.

The integrity of the edifice, together with its volume of light, has
indeed been diminished by the addition of a range of chapels, beyond
the proper limits of the aisles, north and south. Not a part of the
original design, these chapels were formed for private uses in the
fourteenth century, by the device of walling in and vaulting the open
spaces between the great buttresses of the nave. Under the broad but
subdued sunshine which falls through range upon range of windows,
reflected from white wall and roof and gallery, soothing to the eye,
while it allows you to see the delicate carved work in all its
refinement of touch, it is only as an after-thought, an artificial
after-thought, that you regret the lost stained glass, or the
vanished mural colour, if such to any large extent there ever were.
The best stained glass is often that stained by weather, by centuries
of weather, [116] and we may well be grateful for the amazing
cheerfulness of the interior of Amiens, as we actually find it.
Windows of the richest remain, indeed, in the apsidal chapels; and
the rose-windows of the transepts are known, from the prevailing
tones of their stained glass, as Fire and Water, the western rose
symbolising in like manner Earth and Air, as respectively green and
blue. But there is no reason to suppose that the interior was ever
so darkened as to prevent one's seeing, really and clearly, the
dainty ornament, which from the first abounded here; the floriated
architectural detail; the broad band of flowers and foliage, thick
and deep and purely sculptured, above the arches of nave and choir
and transepts, and wreathing itself continuously round the embedded
piers which support the roof; with the woodwork, the illuminated
metal, the magnificent tombs, the jewellers' work in the chapels.
One precious, early thirteenth-century window of grisaille remains,
exquisite in itself, interesting as evidence of the sort of
decoration which originally filled the larger number of the windows.
Grisaille, with its lace-work of transparent grey, set here and there
with a ruby, a sapphire, a gemmed medallion, interrupts the clear
light on things hardly more than the plain glass, of which indeed
such windows are mainly composed. The finely designed frames of iron
for the support of the glass, in the windows from which even [117]
this decoration is gone, still remain, to the delight of those who
are knowing in the matter.

Very ancient light, this seems, at any rate, as if it had been lying
imprisoned thus for long centuries; were in fact the light over which
the great vault originally closed, now become almost substance of
thought, one might fancy,--a mental object or medium. We are
reminded that after all we must of necessity look on the great
churches of the Middle Age with other eyes than those who built or
first worshipped in them; that there is something verily worth
having, and a just equivalent for something else lost, in the mere
effect of time, and that the salt of all aesthetic study is in the
question,--What, precisely what, is this to me? You and I, perhaps,
should not care much for the mural colouring of a medieval church,
could we see it as it was; might think it crude, and in the way.
What little remains of it at Amiens has parted, indeed, in the course
of ages, with its shrillness and its coarse grain. And in this
matter certainly, in view of Gothic polychrome, our difference from
the people of the thirteenth century is radical. We have, as it was
very unlikely they should have, a curiosity, a very pleasurable
curiosity, in the mere working of the stone they built with, and in
the minute facts of their construction, which their colouring, and
the layer of plaster it involved, disguised or hid. We may think
that in architecture stone is the most beautiful [118] of all things.
Modern hands have replaced the colour on some of the tombs here--the
effigies, the tabernacles above--skilfully as may be, and have but
deprived them of their dignity. Medieval colouring, in fact, must
have improved steadily, as it decayed, almost till there came to be
no question of colour at all. In architecture, close as it is to
men's lives and their history, the visible result of time is a large
factor in the realised aesthetic value, and what a true architect
will in due measure always trust to. A false restoration only
frustrates the proper ripening of his work.

If we may credit our modern eyes, then, those old, very secular
builders aimed at, they achieved, an immense cheerfulness in their
great church, with a purpose which still pursued them into their
minuter decoration. The conventional vegetation of the Romanesque,
its blendings of human or animal with vegetable form, in cornice or
capital, have given way here, in the first Pointed style, to a
pleasanter, because more natural, mode of fancy; to veritable forms
of vegetable life, flower or leaf, from meadow and woodside, though
still indeed with a certain survival of the grotesque in a confusion
of the leaf with the flower, which the subsequent Decorated period
will wholly purge away in its perfect garden-borders. It was not
with monastic artists and artisans that the sheds and workshops
around Amiens Cathedral were filled, [119] as it rose from its
foundations through fifty years; and those lay schools of art, with
their communistic sentiment, to which in the thirteenth century the
great episcopal builders must needs resort, would in the natural
course of things tend towards naturalism. The subordinate arts also
were no longer at the monastic stage, borrowing inspiration
exclusively from the experiences of the cloister, but belonged to
guilds of laymen--smiths, painters, sculptors. The great
confederation of the "city," the commune, subdivided itself into
confederations of citizens. In the natural objects of the first
Pointed style there is the freshness as of nature itself, seen and
felt for the first time; as if, in contrast, those older cloistral
workmen had but fed their imagination in an embarrassed, imprisoned,
and really decadent manner, or mere reminiscence of, or prescriptions
about, things visible.

Congruous again with the popularity of the builders of Amiens, of
their motives, is the wealth, the freedom and abundance, of popular,
almost secular, teaching, here afforded, in the carving especially,
within and without; an open Bible, in place of later legend, as at
monastic Vézelay,--the Bible treated as a book about men and women,
and other persons equally real, but blent with lessons, with the
liveliest observations, on the lives of men as they were then and
now, what they do, and how they do it, or did it then, and on the
doings of nature [120] which so greatly influence what man does;
together with certain impressive metaphysical and moral ideas, a sort
of popular scholastic philosophy, or as if it were the virtues and
vices Aristotle defines, or the characters of Theophrastus,
translated into stone. Above all, it is to be observed that as a
result of this spirit, this "free" spirit, in it, art has at last
become personal. The artist, as such, appears at Amiens, as
elsewhere, in the thirteenth century; and, by making his personal way
of conception and execution prevail there, renders his own work vivid
and organic, and apt to catch the interest of other people. He is no
longer a Byzantine, but a Greek--an unconscious Greek. Proof of this
is in the famous Beau-Dieu of Amiens, as they call that benign,
almost classically proportioned figure, on the central pillar of the
great west doorway; though in fact neither that, nor anything else on
the west front of Amiens, is quite the best work here. For that we
must look rather to the sculpture of the portal of the south
transept, called, from a certain image there, Portail de la Vierge
dorée, gilded at the expense of some unknown devout person at the
beginning of the last century. A presentation of the mystic, the
delicately miraculous, story of Saint Honoré, eighth Bishop of
Amiens, and his companions, with its voices, its intuitions, and
celestial intimations, it has evoked a correspondent method of work
at once [121] naïve and nicely expressive. The rose, or roue, above
it, carries on the outer rim seventeen personages, ascending and
descending--another piece of popular philosophy--the wheel of
fortune, or of human life.

And they were great brass-founders, surely, who at that early day
modelled and cast the tombs of the Bishops Evrard and Geoffrey, vast
plates of massive black bronze in half-relief, like abstract thoughts
of those grand old prelatic persons. The tomb of Evrard, who laid
the foundations (qui fundamenta hujus basilicae locavit), is not
quite as it was. Formerly it was sunk in the pavement, while the
tomb of Bishop Geoffrey opposite (it was he closed in the mighty
vault of the nave: hanc basilicam culmen usque perduxit), itself
vaulted-over the space of the grave beneath. The supreme excellence
of those original workmen, the journeymen of Robert de Luzarches and
his successor, would seem indeed to have inspired others, who have
been at their best here, down to the days of Louis the Fourteenth.
It prompted, we may think, a high level of execution, through many
revolutions of taste in such matters; in the marvellous furniture of
the choir, for instance, like a whole wood, say a thicket of old
hawthorn, with its curved topmost branches spared, slowly transformed
by the labour of a whole family of artists, during fourteen years,
into the stalls, in number one hundred and ten, with nearly four
[122] thousand figures. Yet they are but on a level with the
Flamboyant carved and coloured enclosures of the choir, with the
histories of John the Baptist, whose face-bones are here preserved,
and of Saint Firmin--popular saint, who protects the houses of Amiens
from fire. Even the screens of forged iron around the sanctuary,
work of the seventeenth century, appear actually to soar, in their
way, in concert with the airy Gothic structure; to let the daylight
pass as it will; to have come, they too, from smiths, odd as it may
seem at just that time, with some touch of inspiration in them. In
the beginning of the fifteenth century they had reared against a
certain bald space of wall, between the great portal and the western
"rose," an organ, a lofty, many-chambered, veritable house of church-
music, rich in azure and gold, finished above at a later day, not
incongruously, in the quaint, pretty manner of Henri-Deux. And those
who are interested in the curiosities of ritual, of the old
provincial Gallican "uses," will be surprised to find one where they
might least have expected it. The reserved Eucharist still hangs
suspended in a pyx, formed like a dove, in the midst of that
lamentable "glory" of the eighteenth century in the central bay of
the sanctuary, all the poor, gaudy, gilt rays converging towards it.
There are days in the year in which the great church is still
literally filled with reverent worshippers, and if you come late to
service you push the [123] doors in vain against the closely serried
shoulders of the good people of Amiens, one and all in black for
church-holiday attire. Then, one and all, they intone the Tantum
ergo (did it ever sound so in the Middle Ages?) as the Eucharist,
after a long procession, rises once more into its resting-place.

If the Greeks, as at least one of them says, really believed there
could be no true beauty without bigness, that thought certainly is
most specious in regard to architecture; and the thirteenth-century
church of Amiens is one of the three or four largest buildings in the
world, out of all proportion to any Greek building, both in that and
in the multitude of its external sculpture. The chapels of the nave
are embellished without by a double range of single figures, or
groups, commemorative of the persons, the mysteries, to which they
are respectively dedicated--the gigantic form of Christopher, the
Mystery of the Annunciation.

The builders of the church seem to have projected no very noticeable
towers; though it is conventional to regret their absence, especially
with visitors from England, where indeed cathedral and other towers
are apt to be good, and really make their mark. Robert de Luzarches
and his successors aimed rather at the domical outline, with its
central point at the centre of the church, in the spire or flèche.
The existing spire is a wonderful mass of carpentry [124] of the
beginning of the sixteenth century, at which time the lead that
carefully wraps every part of it was heavily gilt. The great western
towers are lost in the west front, the grandest, perhaps the
earliest, example of its species--three profound, sculptured portals;
a double gallery above, the upper gallery carrying colossal images of
twenty-two kings of the House of Judah, ancestors of Our Lady; then
the great rose; above it the ringers' gallery, half masking the gable
of the nave, and uniting at their top-most storeys the twin, but not
exactly equal or similar, towers, oddly oblong in plan, as if never
intended to carry pyramids or spires. They overlook an immense
distance in those flat, peat-digging, black and green regions, with
rather cheerless rivers, and are the centre of an architectural
region wider still--of a group to which Soissons, far beyond the
woods of Compiègne, belongs, with St. Quentin, and, towards the west,
a too ambitious rival, Beauvais, which has stood however--what we now
see of it--for six centuries.

It is a spare, rather sad world at most times that Notre-Dame
d'Amiens thus broods over; a country with little else to be proud of;
the sort of world, in fact, which makes the range of conceptions
embodied in these cliffs of quarried and carved stone all the more
welcome as a hopeful complement to the meagreness of most people's
present existence, and its apparent ending in a [125] sparely built
coffin under the flinty soil, and grey, driving sea-winds. In Notre-
Dame, therefore, and her sisters, there is not only a common method
of construction, a single definable type, different from that of
other French latitudes, but a correspondent common sentiment also;
something which speaks, amid an immense achievement just here of what
is beautiful and great, of the necessity of an immense effort in the
natural course of things, of what you may see quaintly designed in
one of those hieroglyphic carvings--radix de terra sitienti: "a root
out of a dry ground."


109. *Published in the Nineteenth Century, March 1894, and now
reprinted by the kind permission of the proprietors.


[126] As you discern the long unbroken line of its roof, low-pitched
for France, above the cottages and willow-shaded streams of the
place, you might think the abbey church of Pontigny, the largest
Cistercian church now remaining, only a great farm-building. On a
nearer view there is something unpretending, something pleasantly
English, in the plain grey walls, pierced with long "lancet" windows,
as if they overlooked the lowlands of Essex, or the meadows of Kent
or Berkshire, the sort of country from which came those saintly
exiles of our race who made the cloisters of Pontigny famous, and one
of whom, Saint Edmund of Abingdon, Saint-Edme, still lies enshrined
here. The country which the sons of Saint Bernard choose for their
abode is in fact but a patch of scanty pasture-land in the midst of a
heady wine-district. Like its majestic Cluniac rivals, the church
has its western portico, elegant in structure but of comparatively
humble [127] proportions, under a plain roof of tiles, pent-wise.
Within, a heavy coat of white-wash seems befitting to the simple
forms of the "Transition," or quite earliest "Pointed," style, to its
remarkable continence of spirit, its uniformity, and cleanness of
build. The long prospect of nave and choir ends, however, with a
sort of graceful smallness, in a chevet of seven closely packed,
narrow bays. It is like a nun's church, or like a nun's coif.

The church of Pontigny, representative generally of the churches of
the Cistercian order, including some of the loveliest early English
ones, was in truth significant of a reaction, a reaction against
monasticism itself, as it had come to be in the order of Cluny, the
genius of which found its proper expression in the imperious, but
half-barbaric, splendours of the richest form of the Romanesque, the
monastic style pre-eminently, as we may still see it at La Charité-
sur-Loire, at Saint-Benoît, above all, on the hill of Vézelay. Saint
Bernard, who had lent his immense influence to the order of Cîteaux
by way of a monastic reform, though he had a genius for hymns and was
in other ways an eminent religious poet, and though he gave new life
to the expiring romance of the crusades, was, as regards the visible
world, much of a Puritan. Was it he who, wrapt in thought upon the
world unseen, walked along the shores of Lake Leman without observing
it?--the eternal snows he might have taken for the walls of the New
Jerusalem; the blue waves he [128] might have fancied its pavement of
sapphire. In the churches, the worship, of his new order he required
simplicity, and even severity, being fortunate in finding so winsome
an exponent of that principle as the early Gothic of Pontigny, or of
the first Cistercian church, now destroyed, at Cîteaux itself.
Strangely enough, while Bernard's own temper of mind was a survival
from the past (we see this in his contest with Abelard), hierarchic,
reactionary, suspicious of novelty, the architectural style of his
preference was largely of secular origin. It had a large share in
that inventive and innovating genius, that expansion of the natural
human soul, to which the art, the literature, the religious movements
of the thirteenth century in France, as in Italy, where it ends with
Dante, bear witness.

In particular, Bernard had protested against the sculpture, rich and
fantastic, but gloomy, it might be indecent, developed more
abundantly than anywhere else in the churches of Burgundy, and
especially in those of the Cluniac order. "What is the use," he
asks, "of those grotesque monsters in painting and sculpture?" and
almost certainly he had in mind the marvellous carved work at
Vézelay, whither doubtless he came often--for example on Good Friday,
1146, to preach, as we know, the second crusade in the presence of
Louis the Seventh. He too might have wept at the sight of the doomed
multitude (one in ten, it is said, returned from the Holy [129]
Land), as its enthusiasm, under the charm of his fiery eloquence,
rose to the height of his purpose. Even the aisles of Vézelay were
not sufficient for the multitude of his hearers, and he preached to
them in the open air, from a rock still pointed out on the hillside.
Armies indeed have been encamped many times on the slopes and meadows
of the valley of the Cure, now to all seeming so impregnably
tranquil. The Cluniac order even then had already declined from its
first intention; and that decline became especially visible in the
Abbey of Vézelay itself not long after Bernard's day. Its majestic
immoveable church was complete by the middle of the twelfth century.
And there it still stands in spite of many a threat, while the
conventual buildings around it have disappeared; and the institution
it represented--secularised at its own request at the Reformation--
had dwindled almost to nothing at all, till in the last century the
last Abbot built himself, in place of the old Gothic lodging below
those solemn walls, a sort of Château Gaillard, a dainty abode in the
manner of Louis Quinze--swept away that too at the Revolution--where
the great oaks now flourish, with the rooks and squirrels.

Yet the order of Cluny, in its time, in that dark period of the
eleventh and twelfth centuries, had deserved well of those to whom
religion, and art, and social order are precious. The Cluniacs had
in fact represented monasticism in the most [130] legitimate form of
its activity; and, if the church of Vézelay was not quite the
grandest of their churches, it is certainly the grandest of them
which remains. It is also typical in character. As Notre-Dame
d'Amiens is pre-eminently the church of the city, of a commune, so
the Madeleine of Vézelay is typically the church of a monastery.

The monastic style proper, then, in its peculiar power and influence,
was Romanesque, and with the Cluniac order; and here perhaps better
than anywhere else we may understand what it really came to, what was
its effect on the spirits, the imagination.

As at Pontigny, the Cistercians, for the most part, built their
churches in lowly valleys, according to the intention of their
founder. The representative church of the Cluniacs, on the other
hand, lies amid the closely piled houses of the little town, which it
protected and could punish, on a steep hill-top, like a long massive
chest there, heavy above you, as you climb slowly the winding road,
the old unchanged pathway of Saint Bernard. In days gone by it
threatened the surrounding neighbourhood with four boldly built
towers; had then also a spire at the crossing; and must have been at
that time like a more magnificent version of the buildings which
still crown the hill of Laon. Externally, the proportions, the
squareness, of the nave (west and east, the vast narthex or porch,
and the [131] Gothic choir, rise above its roof-line), remind one of
another great Romanesque church at home--of the nave of Winchester,
out of which Wykeham carved his richly panelled Perpendicular

At Vézelay however, the Romanesque, the Romanesque of Burgundy, alike
in the first conception of the whole structure, and in the actual
locking together of its big stones, its masses of almost unbroken
masonry, its inertia, figures as of more imperial character, and
nearer to the Romans of old, than its feebler kindred in England or
Normandy. We seem to have before us here a Romanesque architecture,
studied, not from Roman basilicas or Roman temples, but from the
arenas, the colossal gateways, the triumphal arches, of the people of
empire, such as remain even now, not in the South of France only.
The simple "flying," or rather leaning and almost couchant,
buttresses, quadrants of a circle, might be parts of a Roman
aqueduct. In contrast to the lightsome Gothic manner of the last
quarter of the twelfth century (as we shall presently find it here
too, like an escape for the eye, for the temper, out of some grim
underworld into genial daylight), the Cluniac church might seem a
still active instrument of the iron tyranny of Rome, of its tyranny
over the animal spirits. As the ghost of ancient Rome still lingers
"over the grave thereof," in the papacy, the hierarchy, so is it with
the material structures [132] also, the Cluniac and other Romanesque
churches, which most emphatically express the hierarchical, the papal
system. There is something about this church of Vézelay, in the
long-sustained patience of which it tells, that brings to mind the
labour of slaves, whose occasional Fescennine licence and fresh
memories of a barbaric life also find expression, now and again, in
the strange sculpture of the place. Yet here for once, around a
great French church, there is the kindly repose of English
"precincts," and the country which this monastic acropolis overlooks
southwards is a very pleasant one, as we emerge from the shadows of--
yes! of that peculiarly sad place--a country all the pleasanter by
reason of the toil upon it, performed, or exacted from others, by the
monks, through long centuries; Le Morvan, with its distant blue hills
and broken foreground, the vineyards, the patches of woodland, the
roads winding into their cool shadows; though in truth the fortress-
like outline of the monastic church and the sombre hue of its
material lend themselves most readily to the effects of a stormy sky.

By a door, which in the great days opened from a magnificent
cloister, you enter what might seem itself but the ambulatory of a
cloister, superbly vaulted and long and regular, and built of huge
stones of a metallic colour. It is the southern aisle of the nave, a
nave of ten bays, the grandest Romanesque interior in France, [133]
perhaps in the world. In its mortified light the very soul of
monasticism, Roman and half-military, as the completest outcome of a
religion of threats, seems to descend upon one. Monasticism is
indeed the product of many various tendencies of the religious soul,
one or another of which may very properly connect itself with the
Pointed style, as we saw in those lightsome aisles of Pontigny, so
expressive of the purity, the lowly sweetness, of the soul of
Bernard. But it is here at Vézelay, in this iron place, that
monasticism in its central, its historically most significant
purpose, presents itself as most completely at home. There is no
triforium. The monotonous cloistral length of wall above the long-
drawn series of stately round arches, is unbroken save by a plain
small window in each bay, placed as high as possible just below the
cornice, as a mere after-thought, you might fancy. Those windows
were probably unglazed, and closed only with wooden shutters as
occasion required. Furnished with the stained glass of the period,
they would have left the place almost in darkness, giving doubtless
full effect to the monkish candle-light in any case needful here. An
almost perfect cradle-roof, tunnel-like from end to end of the long
central aisle, adds by its simplicity of form to the magnificent
unity of effect. The bearing-arches, which span it from bay to bay,
being parti-coloured, with voussures of alternate white and a kind of
grey or green, [134] being also somewhat flat at the keystone, and
literally eccentric, have, at least for English eyes, something of a
Saracenic or other Oriental character. Again, it is as if the
architects--the engineers--who worked here, had seen things undreamt
of by other Romanesque builders, the builders in England and

Here then, scarcely relieving the almost savage character of the
work, abundant on tympanum and doorway without, above all on the
immense capitals of the nave within, is the sculpture which offended
Bernard. A sumptuous band of it, a carved guipure of singular
boldness, passes continuously round the arches, and along the
cornices from bay to bay, and with the large bossy tendency of the
ornament throughout may be regarded as typical of Burgundian
richness. Of sculptured capitals, to like, or to dislike with Saint
Bernard, there are nearly a hundred, unwearied in variety, unique in
the energy of their conception, full of wild promise in their coarse
execution, cruel, you might say, in the realisation of human form and
features. Irresistibly they rivet attention.

The subjects are for the most part Scriptural, chosen apparently as
being apt for strongly satiric treatment, the suicide of Judas, the
fall of Goliath. The legend of Saint Benedict, naturally at home in
a Benedictine church, presented the sculptor with a series of
forcible grotesques ready-made. Some monkish story, [135] half
moral, half facetious, perhaps a little coarse, like that of Sainte
Eugénie, from time to time makes variety; or an example of the
punishment of the wicked by men or by devils, who play a large, and
to themselves thoroughly enjoyable and merry, part here. The
sculptor would seem to have witnessed the punishment of the
blasphemer; how adroitly the executioner planted knee on the
culprit's bosom, as he lay on the ground, and out came the sinful
tongue, to meet the iron pincers. The minds of those who worked thus
seem to have been almost insanely preoccupied just then with the
human countenance, but by no means exclusively in its pleasantness or
dignity. Bold, crude, original, their work indicates delight in the
power of reproducing fact, curiosity in it, but little or no sense of
beauty. The humanity therefore here presented, as in the Cluniac
sculpture generally, is wholly unconventional. M. Viollet-le-Duc
thinks he can trace in it individual types still actually existing in
the peasantry of Le Morvan. Man and morality, however, disappearing
at intervals, the acanthine capitals have a kind of later Venetian
beauty about them, as the Venetian birds also, the conventional
peacocks, or birds wholly of fantasy, amid the long fantastic
foliage. There are still however no true flowers of the field here.
There is pity, it must be confessed, on the other hand, and the
delicacy, the beauty, which that always brings [136] with it, where
Jephtha peeps at the dead daughter's face, lifting timidly the great
leaves that cover it; in the hanging body of Absalom; in the child
carried away by the eagle, his long frock twisted in the wind as he
goes. The parents run out in dismay, and the devil grins, not
because it is the punishment of the child or of them; but because he
is the author of all mischief everywhere, as the monkish carver
conceived--so far wholesomely.

We must remember that any sculpture less emphatic would have been
ineffective, because practically invisible, in this sombre place.
But at the west end there is an escape for the eye, for the soul,
towards the unhindered, natural, afternoon sun; not however into the
outer and open air, but through an arcade of three bold round arches,
high above the great closed western doors, into a somewhat broader
and loftier place than this, a reservoir of light, a veritable camera
lucida. The light is that which lies below the vault and within the
tribunes of the famous narthex (as they say), the vast fore-church or
vestibule, into which the nave is prolonged. A remarkable feature of
many Cluniac churches, the great western porch, on a scale which is
approached in England only at Peterborough, is found also in some of
the churches of the Cistercians. It is characteristic, in fact,
rather of Burgundy than of either of those religious orders

[137] At Pontigny itself, for instance, there is a good one; and a
very early one at Paray-le-Monial. Saint-Père-sous-Vézelay, daughter
of the great church, in the vale below, has a late Gothic example;
Semur also, with fantastic lodges above it. The cathedral of Autun,
a secular church in rivalry of the "religious," presents, by way of
such western porch or vestibule, two entire bays of the nave,
unglazed, with the vast western arch open to the air; the west front,
with its rich portals, being thrown back into the depths of the great
fore-church thus produced.

The narthex of Vézelay, the largest of these singular structures, is
glazed, and closed towards the west by what is now the façade. It is
itself in fact a great church, a nave of three magnificent bays, and
of three aisles, with a spacious triforium. With their fantastic
sculpture, sheltered thus from accident and weather, in all its
original freshness, the great portals of the primitive façade serve
now for doorways, as a second, solemn, door of entrance, to the
church proper within. The very structure of the place, and its
relation to the main edifice, indicate that it was for use on
occasion, when, at certain great feasts, that of the Magdalen
especially, to whom the church of Vézelay is dedicated, the monastery
was swollen with pilgrims, too poor, too numerous, to be lodged in
the town, come hither to worship before the [138] relics of the
friend of Jesus, enshrined in a low-vaulted crypt, the floor of which
is the natural rocky surface of the hill-top. It may be that the
pilgrims were permitted to lie for the night, not only on the
pavement, but (if so favoured) in the high and dry chamber formed by
the spacious triforium over the north aisle, awaiting an early Mass.
The primitive west front, then, had become but a wall of partition;
and above its central portal, where the round arched west windows had
been, ran now a kind of broad, arcaded tribune, in full view of the
entire length of the church. In the midst of it stood an altar; and
here perhaps, the priest who officiated being visible to the whole
assembled multitude east and west, the early Mass was said.

The great vestibule was finished about forty years after the
completion of the nave, towards the middle of the twelfth century.
And here, in the great pier-arches, and in the eastern bay of the
vault, still with the large masonry, the large, flat, unmoulded
surfaces, and amid the fantastic carvings of the Romanesque building
about it, the Pointed style, determined yet discreet, makes itself
felt--makes itself felt by appearing, if not for the first time, yet
for the first time in the organic or systematic development of French
architecture. Not in the unambitious façade of Saint-Denis, nor in
the austere aisles of Sens, but at Vézelay, in this grandiose fabric,
so worthy of the event, Viollet-le-Duc would [139] fain see the
birthplace of the Pointed style. Here at last, with no sense of
contrast, but by way of veritable "transition," and as if by its own
matured strength, the round arch breaks into the double curve, les
arcs brisés, with a wonderful access of grace. And the imaginative
effect is forthwith enlarged. Beyond, far beyond, what is actually
presented to the eye in that peculiar curvature, its mysterious
grace, and by the stateliness, the elevation of the ogival method of
vaulting, the imagination is stirred to present one with what belongs
properly to it alone. The masonry, though large, is nicely fitted; a
large light is admitted through the now fully pronounced Gothic
windows towards the west. At Amiens we found the Gothic spirit,
reigning there exclusively, to be a restless one. At Vézelay, where
it breathes for the first time amid the heavy masses of the old
imperial style, it breathes the very genius of monastic repose. And
then, whereas at Amiens, and still more at Beauvais, at Saint-
Quentin, you wonder how these monuments of the past can have endured
so long, in strictly monastic Vézelay you have a sense of freshness,
such as, in spite of their ruin, we perceive in the buildings of
Greece. We enjoy here not so much, as at Amiens, the sentiment of
antiquity, but that of eternal duration.

But let me place you once more where we stood for a while, on
entering by the doorway [140] in the midst of the long southern
aisle. Cross the aisle, and gather now in one view the perspective
of the whole. Away on the left hand the eye is drawn upward to the
tranquil light of the vaults of the fore-church, seeming doubtless
the more spacious because partly concealed from us by the wall of
partition below. But on the right hand, towards the east, as if with
the set purpose of a striking architectural contrast, an instruction
as to the place of this or that manner in the architectural series,
the long, tunnel-like, military work of the Romanesque nave opens
wide into the exhilarating daylight of choir and transepts, in the
sort of Gothic Bernard would have welcomed, with a vault rising now
high above the roof-line of the body of the church, sicut lilium
excelsum. The simple flowers, the flora, of the early Pointed style,
which could never have looked at home as an element in the half-
savage decoration of the nave, seem to be growing here upon the
sheaves of slender, reedy pillars, as if naturally in the carved
stone. Even here indeed, Roman, or Romanesque, taste still lingers
proudly in the monolith columns of the chevet. Externally, we may
note with what dexterity the Gothic choir has been inserted into its
place, below and within the great buttresses of the earlier
Romanesque one.

Visitors to the great church of Assisi have sometimes found a kind of
parable in the threefold [141] ascent from the dark crypt where the
body of Saint Francis lies, through the gloomy "lower" church, into
the height and breadth, the physical and symbolic "illumination," of
the church above. At Vézelay that kind of contrast suggests itself
in one view; the hopeful, but transitory, glory upon which one
enters; the long, darksome, central avenue; the "open vision" into
which it conducts us. As a symbol of resurrection, its choir is a
fitting diadem to the church of the Magdalen, whose remains the monks
meant it to cover.

And yet, after all, notwithstanding this assertion of the superiority
(are we so to call it?) of the new Gothic way, perhaps by the very
force of contrast, the Madeleine of Vézelay is still pre-eminently a
Romanesque, and thereby the typically monastic, church. In spite of
restoration even, as we linger here, the impression of the monastic
Middle Age, of a very exclusive monasticism, that has verily turned
its back upon common life, jealously closed inward upon itself, is a
singularly weighty one; the more so because, as the peasant said when
asked the way to an old sanctuary that had fallen to the occupation
of farm-labourers, and was now deserted even by them: Maintenant il
n'y a personne là.


126. *Published in the Nineteenth Century, June 1894, and now
reprinted by the kind permission of the proprietors.


[142] "CONSECUTIVE upon Apollo in all his solar fervour and
effulgence," says a writer of Teutonic proclivities, "we may discern
even among the Greeks themselves, elusively, as would be natural with
such a being, almost like a mock sun amid the mists, the northern or
ultra-northern sun-god. In hints and fragments the lexicographers
and others have told us something of this Hyperborean Apollo, fancies
about him which evidence some knowledge of the Land of the Midnight
Sun, of the sun's ways among the Laplanders, of a hoary summer
breathing very softly on the violet beds, or say, the London-pride
and crab-apples, provided for those meagre people, somewhere amid the
remoteness of their icy seas. In such wise Apollo had already
anticipated his sad fortunes in the Middle Age as a god definitely in
exile, driven north of the Alps, and even here ever in flight before
the summer. Summer indeed he leaves now to the management of [143]
others, finding his way from France and Germany to still paler
countries, yet making or taking with him always a certain seductive
summer-in-winter, though also with a divine or titanic regret, a
titanic revolt in his heart, and consequent inversion at times of his
old beneficent and properly solar doings. For his favours, his
fallacious good-humour, which has in truth a touch of malign magic
about it, he makes men pay sometimes a terrible price, and is in fact
a devil!"

Devilry, devil's work:--traces of such you might fancy were to be
found in a certain manuscript volume taken from an old monastic
library in France at the Revolution. It presented a strange example
of a cold and very reasonable spirit disturbed suddenly, thrown off
its balance, as by a violent beam, a blaze of new light, revealing,
as it glanced here and there, a hundred truths unguessed at before,
yet a curse, as it turned out, to its receiver, in dividing
hopelessly against itself the well-ordered kingdom of his thought.
Twelfth volume of a dry enough treatise on mathematics, applied,
still with no relaxation of strict method, to astronomy and music, it
should have concluded that work, and therewith the second period of
the life of its author, by drawing tight together the threads of a
long and intricate argument. In effect however, it began, or, in
perturbed manner, and as [144] with throes of childbirth, seemed the
preparation for, an argument of an entirely new and disparate
species, such as would demand a new period of life also, if it might
be, for its due expansion.

But with what confusion, what baffling inequalities! How afflicting
to the mind's eye! It was a veritable "solar storm"--this
illumination, which had burst at the last moment upon the strenuous,
self-possessed, much-honoured monastic student, as he sat down
peacefully to write the last formal chapters of his work ere he
betook himself to its well-earned practical reward as superior, with
lordship and mitre and ring, of the abbey whose music and calendar
his mathematical knowledge had qualified him to reform. The very
shape of Volume Twelve, pieced together of quite irregularly formed
pages, was a solecism. It could never be bound. In truth, the man
himself, and what passed with him in one particular space of time,
had invaded a matter, which is nothing if not entirely abstract and
impersonal. Indirectly the volume was the record of an episode, an
interlude, an interpolated page of life. And whereas in the earlier
volumes you found by way of illustration no more than the simplest
indispensable diagrams, the scribe's hand had strayed here into mazy
borders, long spaces of hieroglyph, and as it were veritable pictures
of the theoretic elements of his subject. Soft wintry auroras seemed
to play behind whole pages of crabbed textual writing, line and
figure [145] bending, breathing, flaming, in, to lovely
"arrangements" that were like music made visible; till writing and
writer changed suddenly, "to one thing constant never," after the
known manner of madmen in such work. Finally, the whole matter broke
off with an unfinished word, as a later hand testified, adding the
date of the author's death, "deliquio animi."

He had been brought to the monastery as a little child; was bred
there; had never yet left it, busy and satisfied through youth and
early manhood; was grown almost as necessary a part of the community
as the stones of its material abode, as a pillar of the great tower
he ascended to watch the movement of the stars. The structure of a
fortified medieval town barred in those who belonged to it very
effectively. High monastic walls intrenched the monk still further.
From the summit of the tower you looked straight down into the deep
narrow streets, upon the houses (in one of which Prior Saint-Jean was
born) climbing as high as they dared for breathing space within that
narrow compass. But you saw also the green breadth of Normandy and
Picardy, this way and that; felt on your face the free air of a still
wider realm beyond what was seen. The reviving scent of it, the mere
sight of the flowers brought thence, of the country produce at the
convent gate, stirred the ordinary monkish soul with desires,
sometimes with efforts, to be sent on duty there. Prior [146] Saint-
Jean, on the other hand, shuddered at the view, at the thoughts it
suggested to him; thoughts of unhallowed wild places, where the old
heathen had worshipped "stocks and stones," and where their
wickedness might still survive them in something worse than
mischievous tricks of nature, such as you might read of in Ovid,
whose verses, however, he for his part had never so much as touched
with a finger. He gave thanks rather, that his vocation to the
abstract sciences had kept him far apart from the whole crew of
miscreant poets--Abode of demons.

Thither nevertheless he was now to depart, sent to the Grange or
Obedience of Notre-Dame De-Pratis by the aged Abbot (about to resign
in his favour) for the benefit of his body's health, a little
impaired at last by long intellectual effort, yet so invaluable to
the community. But let him beware! whispered his dearest friend, who
shared those strange misgivings, let him "take heed to his ways" when
he was come to that place. "The mere contact of one's feet with its
soil might change one." And that same night, disturbed perhaps by
thoughts of the coming journey with which his brain was full, Prior
Saint-Jean himself dreamed vividly, as he had been little used to do.
He saw the very place in which he lay (he knew it! his little inner
cell, the brown doors, the white breadth of wall, the black crucifix
upon it) alight, alight [147] softly; and looking, as he fancied,
from the window, saw also a low circlet of soundless flame, waving,
licking daintily up the black sky, but harmless, beautiful, closing
in upon that round dark space in the midst, which was the earth. He
seemed to feel upon his shoulder just then the touch of his friend
beside him. "It is hell-fire!" he said.

The Prior took with him a very youthful though devoted companion--
Hyacinthus, the pet of the community. They laughed admiringly at the
rebellious masses of his black hair, with blue in the depths of it,
like the wings of the swallow, which refused to conform to the
monkish pattern. It only grew twofold, crown upon crown, after the
half-yearly shaving. And he was as neat and serviceable as he was
delightful to be with. Prior Saint-Jean, then, and the boy started
before daybreak for the long journey; onwards, till darkness, a soft
twilight rather, was around them again. How unlike a winter night it
seemed, the further they went through the endless, lonely, turf-grown
tracts, and along the edge of a valley, at length--vallis monachorum,
monksvale--taken aback by its sudden steepness and depth, as of an
immense oval cup sunken in the grassy upland, over which a golden
moon now shone broadly. Ah! there it was at last, the white Grange,
the white gable of the chapel apart amid a few scattered white
gravestones, the white flocks crouched about on the hoar-frost, [148]
like the white clouds, packed somewhat heavily on the horizon, and
nacrés as the clouds of June, with their own light and heat in them,
in their hollows, you might fancy.

From the very first, the atmosphere, the light, the influence of
things, seemed different from what they knew; and how distant already
the dark buildings of their home! Was there the breath of surviving
summer blossom on the air? Now and then came a gentle, comfortable
bleating from the folds, and themselves slept soundly at last in the
great open upper chamber of the Grange; were awakened by the sound of
thunder. Strange, in the late November night! It had parted,
however, with its torrid fierceness; modulated by distance, seemed to
break away into musical notes. And the lightning lingered along with
it, but glancing softly; was in truth an aurora, such as persisted
month after month on the northern sky as they sojourned here. Like
Prospero's enchanted island, the whole place was "full of noises."
The wind it might have been, passing over metallic strings, but that
they were audible even when the night was breathless.

So like veritable music, however, were they on that first night that,
upon reflexion, the Prior climbed softly the winding stair down which
they appeared to flow, to the great solar among the beams of the
roof, where the farm produce lay stored. A flood of moonlight now
fell through the unshuttered dormer-windows; and, [149] under the
glow of a lamp hanging from the low rafters, Prior Saint-Jean seemed
to be looking for the first time on the human form, on the old Adam
fresh from his Maker's hand. A servant of the house, or farm-
labourer, perhaps!--fallen asleep there by chance on the fleeces
heaped like golden stuff high in all the corners of the place. A
serf! But what unserflike ease, how lordly, or godlike rather, in
the posture! Could one fancy a single curve bettered in the rich,
warm, white limbs; in the haughty features of the face, with the
golden hair, tied in a mystic knot, fallen down across the inspired
brow? And yet what gentle sweetness also in the natural movement of
the bosom, the throat, the lips, of the sleeper! Could that be
diabolical, and really spotted with unseen evil, which was so
spotless to the eye? The rude sandals of the monastic serf lay
beside him apart, and all around was of the roughest, excepting only
two strange objects lying within reach (even in their own renowned
treasury Prior Saint-Jean had not seen the like of them), a harp, or
some such instrument, of silver-gilt once, but the gold had mostly
passed from it, and a bow, fashioned somehow of the same precious
substance. The very form of these things filled his mind with
inexplicable misgivings. He repeated a befitting collect, and trod
softly away.

It was in truth but a rude place to which they were come. But, after
life in the [150] monastery, the severe discipline of which the Prior
himself had done much to restore, there was luxury in the free, self-
chosen hours, the irregular fare, in doing pretty much as one
pleased, in the sweet novelties of the country; to the boy Hyacinth
especially, who forgot himself, or rather found his true self for the
first time. Girding up his heavy frock, which he laid aside erelong
altogether to go in his coarse linen smock only, he seemed a monastic
novice no longer; yet, in his natural gladness, was found more
companionable than ever by his senior, surprised, delighted, for his
part, at the fresh springing of his brain, the spring of his
footsteps over the close greensward, as if smoothed by the art of
man. Cause of his renewed health, or concurrent with its effects,
the air here might have been that of a veritable paradise, still
unspoiled. "Could there be unnatural magic," he asked himself again,
"any secret evil, lurking in these tranquil vale-sides, in their
sweet low pastures, in the belt of scattered woodland above them, in
the rills of pure water which lisped from the open down beyond?"
Making what was really a boy's experience, he had a wholly boyish
delight in his holiday, and certainly did not reflect how much we
beget for ourselves in what we see and feel, nor how far a certain
diffused music in the very breath of the place was the creation of
his own ear or brain.

[151] That strange enigmatic owner of the harp and the bow, whom he
had found sleeping so divinely, actually waited on them the next
morning with all obsequiousness, stirred the great fire of peat,
adjusted duly their monkish attire, laid their meal. It seemed an
odd thing to be served thus, like St. Jerome by the lion, as if by
some imperiously beautiful wild animal tamed. You hesitated to
permit, were a little afraid of, his services. Their silent tonsured
porter himself, contrast grim enough to any creature of that kind,
had been so far seduced as to permit him to sleep there in the
Grange, as he loved to do, instead of in ruder, rougher quarters;
and, coaxed into odd garrulity on this one matter, told the new-
comers the little he knew, with much also that he only suspected,
about him; among other things, as to the origin of those precious
objects, which might have belonged to some sanctuary or noble house,
found thus in the possession of a mere labourer, who is no Frenchman,
but a pagan, or gipsy, white as he looks, from far south or east, and
who works or plays furtively, by night for the most part, returning
to sleep awhile before daybreak. The other herdsmen of the valley
are bond-servants, but he a hireling at will, though coming regularly
at a certain season. He has come thus for any number of years past,
though seemingly never grown older (as the speaker reflects), singing
his way meagrely from farm to farm, to the sound of [152] his harp.
His name?--It was scarcely a name at all, in the diffident syllables
he uttered in answer to that question, on first coming there; but of
names known to them it came nearest to a malignant one in Scripture,
Apollyon. Apollyon had a just discernible tonsure, but probably no
right to it.

Well skilled in architecture, Prior Saint-Jean was set, by way of a
holiday task, to superintend the completion of the great monastic
barn then in building. The visitor admires it still; perhaps
supposes it, with its noble aisle, though set north and south, to be
a desecrated church. If he be an expert in such matters, he will
remark a sort of classical harmony in its broad, very simple
proportions, with a certain suppression of Gothic emphasis, more
especially in that peculiarly Gothic feature, the buttresses,
scarcely marking the unbroken, windowless walls, which rise very
straight, taking the sun placidly. The silver-grey stone, cut, if it
came from this neighbourhood at all, from some now forgotten quarry,
has the fine, close-grained texture of antique marble. The great
northern gable is almost a classic pediment. The horizontal lines of
plinth and ridge and cornice are kept unbroken, the roof of sea-grey
slates being pitched less angularly than is usual in this rainy
clime. A welcome contrast, the Prior thought it, to the sort of
architectural nightmare he came from. He found the structure already
more than half- [153] way up, the low squat pillars ready for their

Yes! it must have so happened often in the Middle Age, as you feel
convinced, in looking sometimes at medieval building. Style must
have changed under the very hands of men who were no wilful
innovators. Thus it was here, in the later work of Prior Saint-Jean,
all unconsciously. The mysterious harper sat there always, at the
topmost point achieved; played, idly enough it might seem, on his
precious instrument, but kept in fact the hard taxed workmen
literally in tune, working for once with a ready will, and, so to
speak, with really inventive hands--working expeditiously, in this
favourable weather, till far into the night, as they joined unbidden
in a chorus, which hushed, or rather turned to music, the noise of
their chipping. It was hardly noise at all, even in the night-time.
Now and again Brother Apollyon descended nimbly to surprise them, at
an opportune moment, by the display of an immense strength. A great
cheer exploded suddenly, as single-handed he heaved a massive stone
into its place. He seemed to have no sense of weight: "Put there by
the devil!" the modern villager assures you.

With a change then, not so much of style as of temper, of management,
in the application of acknowledged rules, Prior Saint-Jean shaping
only, adapting, simplifying, partly with a view [154] to economy, not
the heavy stones only, but the heavy manner of using them, turned
light. With no pronounced ornamentation, it is as if in the upper
story ponderous root and stem blossomed gracefully, blossomed in
cornice and capital and pliant arch-line, as vigorous as they were
graceful, and rose on high quickly. Almost suddenly tie-beam and
rafter knit themselves together into the stone, and the dark, dry,
roomy place was closed in securely to this day. Mere audible music,
certainly, had counted for something in the operations of an art,
held at its best (as we know) to be a sort of music made visible.
That idle singer, one might fancy, by an art beyond art, had
attracted beams and stones into their fit places. And there, sure
enough, he still sits, as a final decorative touch, by way of apex on
the gable which looks northward, though much weather-worn, and with
an ugly gap between the shoulder and the fingers on the harp,* as if,
literally, he had cut off his right hand and put it from him:--King
David, or an angel? guesses the careless tourist. The space below
has been lettered. After a little puzzling you recognise there the
relics of a familiar verse from a Latin psalm Nisi Dominus
aedificaverit domum,+ and the rest: inscribed as well as may be in
Greek characters. Prior Saint-Jean caused it to be so inscribed,
absurdly, during his last days there.

[155] And is not the human body, too, a building, with architectural
laws, a structure, tending by the very forces which primarily held it
together to drop asunder in time? Not in vain, it seemed, had Prior
Saint-Jean come to this mystic place for the improvement of his
body's health. Thenceforth that fleshly tabernacle had housed him,
had housed his cunning, overwrought and excitable soul, ever the
better day by day, and he began to feel his bodily health to be a
positive quality or force, the presence near him of that singular
being having surely something to do with this result. He and his
fascinations, his music, himself, might at least be taken for an
embodiment of all those genial influences of earth and sky, and the
easy ways of living here, which made him turn, with less of an effort
than he had known for many years past, to his daily tasks, and sink
so regularly, so immediately, to wholesome rest on returning from
them. It was as if Brother Apollyon himself abhorred the spectacle
of distress, and mainly for his own satisfaction charmed away other
people's maladies. The mere touch of that ice-cold hand, laid on the
feverish brow, when the Prior lapsed from time to time into his
former troubles, certainly calmed the respiration of a troubled
sleeper. Was there magic in it, not wholly natural? The hand might
have been a dead one. But then, was it surprising, after all, that
the [156] methods of curing men's maladies, as being in very deed the
fruit of sin, should have something strange and unlooked-for about
them, like some of those Old Testament healings and purifications
which the Prior's biblical lore suggested to him? Yet Brother
Apollyon, if their surly Janitor, in his less kindly moments, spoke
truly, himself greatly needed purification, being not only a thief,
but a homicide in hiding from the law. Nay, once, on his annual
return from southern or eastern lands, he had been observed on his
way along the streets of the great town literally scattering the
seeds of disease till his serpent-skin bag was empty. And within
seven days the "black death" was there, reaping its thousands. As a
wise man declared, he who can best cure disease can also most
cunningly engender it.

In short, these creatures of rule, these "regulars," the Prior and
his companion, were come in contact for the first time in their lives
with the power of untutored natural impulse, of natural inspiration.
The boy experienced it immediately in the games which suited his
years, but which he had never so much as seen before; as his superior
was to undergo its influence by-and-by in serious study. By night
chiefly, in its long, continuous twilights, Hyacinth became really a
boy at last, with immense gaiety; eyes, hands and feet awake,
expanding, as he raced his comrade over the [157] turf, with the
conical Druidic stone for a goal, or wrestled lithely enough with
him, though as with a rock; or, taking the silver bow in hand for a
moment, transfixed a mark, next a bird, on the bough, on the wing,
shedding blood for the first time, with a boy's delight, a boy's
remorse. Friend Apollyon seemed able to draw the wild animals too,
to share their sport, yet not altogether kindly. Tired, surfeited,
he destroys them when his game with them is at an end; breaks the
toy; deftly snaps asunder the fragile back. Though all alike would
come at his call, or the sound of his harp, he had his preferences;
and warred in the night-time, as if on principle, against the
creatures of the day. The small furry thing he pierced with his
arrow fled to him nevertheless caressingly, with broken limb, to die
palpitating in his hand. In this wonderful season, the migratory
birds, from Norway, from Britain beyond the seas, came there as usual
on the north wind, with sudden tumult of wings; but went that year no
further, and by Christmas-time had built their nests, filling that
belt of woodland around the vale with the chatter of their business
and love quarrels. In turn they drew after them strangers no one
here had ever known before; the like of which Hyacinth, who knew his
bestiary, had never seen even in a picture. The wild-cat, the wild-
swan--the boy peeped on these wonders as they floated over the vale,
or [158] glided with unwonted confidence over its turf, under the
moonlight, or that frequent continuous aurora which was not the dawn.
Even the modest rivulets of the hill-side felt that influence, and
"lisped" no longer, but babbled as they leapt, like mountain streams,
exposing their rocky bed. Were they angry, as they ran red sometimes
with blood-drops from the stricken bird caught there by rock or
bough, as it fell with rent breast among the waves?

But say, think, what you might against him, the pagan outlaw was
worth his hire as a herdsman; seemingly loved his sheep; was an
"affectionate shepherd"; cured their diseases; brought them easily to
the birth, and if they strayed afar would bring them back tenderly
upon his shoulders. Monastic persons would have seen that image many
times before. Yet if Apollyon looked like the great carved figure
over the low doorway of their place of penitence at home, that could
be but an accident, or perhaps a deceit; so closely akin to those
soulless creatures did he still seem to the wondering Prior,--
immersed in, or actually a part of, that irredeemable natural world
he had dreaded so greatly ere he came hither. And was he after all
making terms with it now, in the seductive person of this mysterious
being--man or demon--suspected of murder; who has an air of
unfathomable evil about him as from a distant but ineffaceable past,
and a sort of heathen [159] understanding with the dark realm of
matter; who is bringing the simple people, the women and lovesick
lads, back to those caves and cromlechs and blasted trees, resorts of
old godless secret-telling? And still he has all his own way with
beasts and man, with the Prior himself, much as all alike distrust

Most conspicuous in the little group of buildings, a feudal tower of
goodly white stone, cylindrical and smoothly polished without to
hinder the ascent of creeping things, and snugly plastered within to
resist the damp, was the pigeon-house--a veritable feudal tower, a
veritable feudal plaisance of birds, which the common people dared
not so much as ruffle. About a thousand of them were housed there,
each in its little chamber, encouraged to grow plump, and to breed,
in perfect self-content. From perch to perch of the great axle-tree
in the centre, monastic feet might climb, gentle monastic hands pass
round to every tiny compartment in turn. The arms of the monastery
were carved on the keystone of the doorway, and the tower finished in
a conical roof, with becoming aerial gaillardise, with pretty dormer-
windows for the inmates to pass in and out, little balconies for
brooding in the sun, little awnings to protect them from rough
breezes, and a great weather-vane, on which the birds crowded for the
chance of a ride. If the peasants of that day, whose small fields
they plundered, noting all this, perhaps [160] envied the birds
dumbly, for the brethren, on the other hand, it was a constant
delight to watch the feathered brotherhood, which supplied likewise
their daintiest fare. Who then, what hawk, or wild-cat, or other
savage beast, had ravaged it so wantonly, so very cruelly destroyed
the bright creatures in a single night--broken backs, rent away
limbs, pierced the wings? And what was that object there below? The
silver harp surely, lying broken likewise on the sanded floor,
soaking in the pale milky blood and torn plumage.

Apollyon sobbed and wept audibly as he went about his ordinary doings
next day, for once fully, though very sadly, awake in it; and towards
evening, when the villagers came to the Prior to confess themselves,
the Feast of the Nativity being now at hand, he too came along with
them in his place meekly, like any other penitent, touched the
lustral water devoutly, knew all the ways, seemed to desire
absolution from some guilt of blood heavier than the slaughter of
beast or bird. The Prior and his attendant, on their side, are
reminded that by this time they have wellnigh forgotten the monastic
duties still incumbent upon them, especially in that matter of the
"Offices." On the vigil of the feast, however, Brother Apollyon
himself summoned the devout to Midnight Mass with the great bell,
which had hung silent for a generation, wedged in immoveably by a
beam of [161] the cradle fallen out of its place. With an immense
effort of strength he relieved it, hitched the bell back upon its
wheel; the thick rust cracked on the hinges, and the strokes tolled
forth betimes, with a hundred querulous, quaint creatures, bats and
owls, circling stupidly in the waves of sound, but allowed to settle
back again undisturbedly into their beds.

People and priest, the Prior, vested as well as might be, with
Hyacinth as "server," come in due course, all alike amazed to find
that frozen neglected place, with its low-browed vault and narrow
windows, alight, and as if warmed with flowers from a summer more
radiant far than that of France, with ilex and laurel--gilt laurel--
by way of holly and box. Prior Saint-Jean felt that he had never
really seen flowers before. Somewhat later they and the like of them
seemed to have grown into and over his brain; to have degraded the
scientific and abstract outlines of things into a tangle of useless
ornament. Whence were they procured? From what height, or hellish
depth perhaps? Apollyon, who entered the chapel just then, as if
quite naturally, though with a bleating lamb in his bosom ("dropped"
thus early in that wonderful season) by way of an offering, took his
place at the altar's very foot, and drawing forth his harp, now
restrung, at the right moment, turned to real silvery music the
hoarse Gloria in Excelsis of those rude worshippers, still [162]
shrinking from him, while they listened in a little circle, as he
stood there in his outlandish attire of skins strangely spotted and
striped. With that however the Mass broke off unconsummated. The
Prior felt obliged to desist from the sacred office, and had left the
altar hurriedly.

But Brother Apollyon put his strange attire aside next day, and in a
much-worn monk's frock, drawn forth from a dark corner, came with
them, still like a Penitent, when they turned once more to their
neglected studies somewhat sadly. See them then, after a collect for
"Light" repeated by Hyacinth, skull-cap in hand, seated at their
desks in the little scriptorium, panelled off from their living-room
on the first floor, while the Prior makes an effort to recover the
last thought of his long-suspended work, in the execution of which
the boy is to assist with his skilful pen. The great glazed windows
remain open; admit, as if already on the soft air of spring, what
seems like a stream of flowery odours, the entire moonlit scene, with
the thorn bushes on the vale-side prematurely bursting into blossom,
and the sound of birds and flocks emphasising the deep silence of the

Apollyon then, as if by habit, as he had shared all their occupations
of late, had taken his seat beside them, meekly enough, at first with
the manner of a mere suppliant for the [163] crumbs of their high
studies. But, straightway again, he surprises by more than racing
forward incredibly on the road to facts, and from facts to luminous
doctrine; Prior Saint-Jean himself, in comparison, seeming to lag
incompetently behind. He can but wonder at this strange scholar's
knowledge of a distant past, evidenced in his familiarity (it was as
if he might once have spoken them) with the dead languages in which
their text-books are written. There was more surely than the utmost
merely natural acuteness in his guesses as to the words intended by
those crabbed contractions, of their meaning, in his sense of
allusions and the like. An ineffaceable memory it might rather seem
of the entire world of which those languages had been the living
speech, once more vividly awake under the Prior's cross- questioning,
and now more than supplementing his own laborious search.

And at last something of the same kind happens with himself. Had he,
on his way hither from the convent, passed unwittingly through some
river or rivulet of Lethe, that had carried away from him all his so
carefully accumulated intellectual baggage of fact and theory? The
hard and abstract laws, or theory of the laws, of music, of the
stars, of mechanical structure, in hard and abstract formulae, adding
to the abstract austerity of the man, seemed to have deserted him; to
be revived in him again [164] however, at the contact of this
extraordinary pupil or fellow-inquirer, though in a very different
guise or attitude towards himself, as matters no longer to be
reasoned upon and understood, but to be seen rather, to be looked at
and heard. Did not he see the angle of the earth's axis with the
ecliptic, the deflexions of the stars from their proper orbits with
fatal results here below, and the earth--wicked, unscriptural truth!-
-moving round the sun, and those flashes of the eternal and unorbed
light such as bring water, flowers, living things, out of the rocks,
the dust? The singing of the planets: he could hear it, and might in
time effect its notation. Having seen and heard, he might erelong
speak also, truly and with authority, on such matters. Could one but
arrest it for one's self, for final transference to others, on the
written or printed page--this beam of insight, or of inspiration!

Alas! one result of its coming was that it encouraged delay. If he
set hand to the page, the firm halo, here a moment since, was gone,
had flitted capriciously to the wall; passed next through the window,
to the wall of the garden; was dancing back in another moment upon
the innermost walls of one's own miserable brain, to swell there--
that astounding white light!--rising steadily in the cup, the mental
receptacle, till it overflowed, and he lay faint and drowning in it.
Or he rose above it, as above a great liquid surface, and hung
giddily over it--light, [165] simple, and absolute--ere he fell. Or
there was a battle between light and darkness around him, with no way
of escape from the baffling strokes, the lightning flashes; flashes
of blindness one might rather call them. In truth, the intuitions of
the night (for they worked still, or tried to work, by night) became
the sickly nightmares of the day, in which Prior Saint-Jean slept, or
tried to sleep, or lay sometimes in a trance without food for many
hours, from which he would spring up suddenly to crowd, against time,
as much as he could into his book with pen or brush; winged flowers,
or stars with human limbs and faces, still intruding themselves, or
mere notes of light and darkness from the actual horizon. There it
all is still in the faded gold and colours of the ancient volume--
"Prior Saint-Jean's folly":--till on a sudden the hand collapses, as
he becomes aware of that real, prosaic, broad daylight lying harsh
upon the page, making his delicately toned auroras seem but a patch
of grey, and himself for a moment, with a sigh of disgust, of self-
reproach, to be his old unimpassioned monastic self once more.

The boy, for his part, was grown at last full of misgiving. He
ponders how he may get the Prior away, or escape by himself, find his
way back to the convent and report his master's condition, his
strange loss of memory for names and the like, his illusions about
himself and [166] others. And he is more than ever distrustful now
of his late beloved playmate, who quietly obstructs any movement of
the kind, and has undertaken, at the Prior's entreaty, to draw down
the moon from the sky, for some shameful price, known to the
magicians of that day.

Yet Apollyon, at all events, would still play as gaily as ever on
occasion. Hitherto they had played as young animals do; without
playthings namely, applying hand or foot only to their games. But it
happened about this time that a grave was dug, a grave of unusual
depth, to be ready, in that fiery plaguesome weather, the first heat
of veritable summer come suddenly, for the body of an ancient
villager then at the point of death. In the drowsy afternoon
Hyacinth awakes Apollyon, to see the strange thing he has found at
the grave-side, among the gravel and yellow bones cast up there. He
had wrested it with difficulty from the hands of the half-crippled
gravedigger, at eighty still excitable by the mere touch of metal.

The like of it had indeed been found before, within living memory, in
this place of immemorial use as a graveyard--"Devil's penny-pieces"
people called them. Five such lay hidden already in a dark corner of
the chapel, to keep them from superstitious employment. To-day they
came out of hiding at last. Apollyon knew the use of the thing at a
glance; had put an expert hand to it forthwith; poises the [167]
discus; sets it wheeling. How easily it spins round under one's arm,
in the groove of the bent fingers, slips thence smoothly like a knife
flung from its sheath, as if for a course of perpetual motion!
Splendescit eundo: it seems to burn as it goes. It is heavier many
times than it looks, and sharp-edged. By night they have scoured and
polished the corroded surfaces. Apollyon promises Hyacinth and
himself rare sport in the cool of the evening--an evening however, as
it turned out, not less breathless than the day.

In the great heat Apollyon had flung aside, as if for ever, the last
sorry remnant of his workman's attire, and challenged the boy to do
the same. On the moonlit turf there, crouching, right foot foremost,
and with face turned backwards to the disk in his right hand, his
whole body, in that moment of rest, full of the circular motion he is
about to commit to it, he seemed--beautiful pale spectre--to shine
from within with a light of his own, like that of the glow-worm in
the thicket, or the dead and rotten roots of the old trees. And as
if they had a proper motion of their own in them, the disks, the
quoits, ran, amid the delighted shouts and laughter of the boy, as he
follows, scarcely less swift, to score the points of their contact
with the grass. Again and again they recommence, forgetful of the
hours; while the death-bell cries out harshly for the grave's
occupant, and [168] the corpse itself is borne along stealthily not
far from them, and, unnoticed by either, the entire aspect of things
has changed. Under the overcast sky it is in darkness they are
playing, by guess and touch chiefly; and suddenly an icy blast of
wind has lifted the roof from the old chapel, the trees are moaning
in wild circular motion, and their devil's penny-piece, when Apollyon
throws it for the last time, is itself but a twirling leaf in the
wind, till it sinks edgewise, sawing through the boy's face, uplifted
in the dark to trace it, crushing in the tender skull upon the brain.

His shout of laughter is turned in an instant to a cry of pain, of
reproach; and in that which echoed it--an immense cry, as from the
very heart of ancient tragedy, over the Picard wolds--it was as if
that half-extinguished deity, its proper immensity, its old greatness
and power, were restored for a moment. The villagers in their beds
wondered. It was like the sound of some natural catastrophe.

The storm which followed was still in possession, still moving
tearfully among the poplar groves, though it had spent its heat and
thunder. The last drops of the blood of Hyacinth still trickled
through the thick masses of dark hair, where the tonsure had been.
An abundant rain, mingling with the copious purple stream, had
coloured the grass all around where the corpse lay, stealing afar in
tiny channels.

[169] So it was, when Apollyon, reduced in the morning light to his
smaller self, came with the other people of the Grange to gaze, to
enquire, and found the Prior already there, speechless. Clearly this
was no lightning stroke; and Apollyon straightway conceives certain
very human fears that, coming upon those antecedent suspicions of
himself, the boy's death may be thought the result of intention on
his part. He proposes to bury the body at once, with no delay for
religious rites, in that still uncovered grave, the bearers having
fled from it in the tempest.

And next day, fulfilling his annual custom, he went his way
northward, without a word of farewell to Prior Saint-Jean, whom he
leaves in fact under suspicion of murder. From the profound slumber
which had followed the excitements of yesterday, the Prior awoke amid
the sound of voices, the voices of the peasants singing no Christian
song, certainly, but a song which Apollyon himself had taught them,
to dismiss him on his journey. For, strange or not as it might be,
they loved him, perhaps in spite of themselves; would certainly
protect him at any risk. Prior Saint-Jean arose, and looked forth--
with wonder. A brief spell of sunshine amid the rain had clothed the
vale with a marvel of blue flowers, if it were not rather with
remnants of the blue sky itself, fallen among the woods there. But
there too, in the little courtyard, [170] the officers of justice
are already in waiting to take him, on the charge of having caused
the death of his young server by violence, in a fit of mania, induced
by dissolute living in that solitary place. One hitherto so
prosperous in life would, of course, have his enemies.

The monastic authorities, however, claim him from the secular power,
to correct his offence in their own way, and with friendly
interpretation of the facts. Madness, however wicked, being still
madness, Prior, now simple Brother, Saint-Jean, is detained in a
sufficiently cheerful apartment, in a region of the atmosphere likely
to restore lost wits, whence indeed he can still see the country--
vallis monachorum. The one desire which from time to time fitfully
rouses him again to animation for a few moments is to return thither.
Here then he remains in peace, ostensibly for the completion of his
great work. He never again set pen to it, consistent and clear now
on nothing save that longing to be once more at the Grange, that he
may get well, or die and be well so. He is like the damned spirit,
think some of the brethren, saying "I will return to the house whence
I came out." Gazing thither daily for many hours, he would mistake
mere blue distance, when that was visible, for blue flowers, for
hyacinths, and wept at the sight; though blue, as he observed, was
the colour of Holy Mary's gown on the illuminated page, the colour of
hope, of merciful [171] omnipresent deity. The necessary permission
came with difficulty, just too late. Brother Saint-Jean died,
standing upright with an effort to gaze forth once more, amid the
preparations for his departure.


142. *Published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Nov. 1893, and now
reprinted by the kind permission of the proprietors.

154. *Or sundial, as some maintain, though turned from the south.

154. +Latin Vulgate (ed. Saint Jerome) Psalm 126, verse 1:
"canticum graduum Salomonis nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum in vanum
laboraverunt qui aedificant eam nisi Dominus custodierit civitatem
frustra vigilavit qui custodit." King James Bible's translation:
"When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them
that dream."


[172] As Florian Deleal walked, one hot afternoon, he overtook by the
wayside a poor aged man, and, as he seemed weary with the road,
helped him on with the burden which he carried, a certain distance.
And as the man told his story, it chanced that he named the place, a
little place in the neighbourhood of a great city, where Florian had
passed his earliest years, but which he had never since seen, and,
the story told, went forward on his journey comforted. And that
night, like a reward for his pity, a dream of that place came to
Florian, a dream which did for him the office of the finer sort of
memory, bringing its object to mind with a great clearness, yet, as
sometimes happens in dreams, raised a little above itself, and above
ordinary retrospect. The true aspect of the place, especially of the
house there in which he had lived as a child, the fashion of its
doors, its hearths, its windows, the very scent upon the air of it,
was with him in sleep for a season; only, with tints more musically
blent on wall [173] and floor, and some finer light and shadow
running in and out along its curves and angles, and with all its
little carvings daintier. He awoke with a sigh at the thought of
almost thirty years which lay between him and that place, yet with a
flutter of pleasure still within him at the fair light, as if it
were a smile, upon it. And it happened that this accident of his
dream was just the thing needed for the beginning of a certain design
he then had in view, the noting, namely, of some things in the story
of his spirit--in that process of brain-building by which we are,
each one of us, what we are. With the image of the place so clear
and favourable upon him, he fell to thinking of himself therein, and
how his thoughts had grown up to him. In that half-spiritualised
house he could watch the better, over again, the gradual expansion of
the soul which had come to be there--of which indeed, through the law
which makes the material objects about them so large an element in
children's lives, it had actually become a part; inward and outward
being woven through and through each other into one inextricable
texture--half, tint and trace and accident of homely colour and form,
from the wood and the bricks; half, mere soul-stuff, floated thither
from who knows how far. In the house and garden of his dream he saw
a child moving, and could divide the main streams at least of
the winds that had played on [174] him, and study so the first stage
in that mental journey.

The old house, as when Florian talked of it afterwards he always
called it, (as all children do, who can recollect a change of home,
soon enough but not too soon to mark a period in their lives) really
was an old house; and an element of French descent in its inmates--

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest