By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Hills and the Sea
Author: Belloc, Hilaire, 1870-1953
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Hills and the Sea" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.




       *       *       *       *       *



_There were once two men. They were men of might and breeding. They were
young, they were intolerant, they were hale. Were there for humans as
there is for dogs a tribunal to determine excellence; were there judges
of anthropoidal points and juries to, give prizes for manly race,
vigour, and the rest, undoubtedly these two men would have gained the
gold and the pewter medals. They were men absolute._

_They loved each other like brothers, yet they quarrelled like
Socialists. They loved each other because they had in common the bond of
mankind; they quarrelled because they differed upon nearly all other
things. The one was of the Faith, the other most certainly was not. The
one sang loudly, the other sweetly. The one was stronger, the other more
cunning. The one rode horses with a long stirrup, the other with a
short. The one was indifferent to danger, the other forced himself at
it. The one could write verse, the other was quite incapable thereof.
The one could read and quote Theocritus, the other read and quoted
himself alone. The high gods had given to one judgment, to the other
valour; but to both that measure of misfortune which is their Gift to
those whom they cherish._

_From this last proceeded in them both a great knowledge of truth and a
defence of it, to the tedium of their friends: a demotion to the beauty
of women and of this world; an outspoken hatred of certain things and
men, and, alas! a permanent sadness also. All these things the gods
gave them in the day when the decision was taken upon Olympus that these
two men should not profit by any great good except Friendship, and that
all their lives through Necessity should jerk her bit between their
teeth, and even at moments goad their honour._

_The high gods, which are names only to the multitude, visited these
men. Dionysus came to them with all his company once, at dawn, upon the
Surrey hills, and drove them in his car from a suburb whose name I
forget right out into the Weald. Pallas Athene taught them by word of
mouth, and the Cytherean was their rosy, warm, unfailing friend. Apollo
loved them. He bestowed upon them, under his own hand the power not only
of remembering all songs, but even of composing light airs of their own;
and Pan, who is hairy by nature and a lurking fellow afraid of others,
was reconciled to their easy comradeship, and would accompany them into
the mountains when they were remote from mankind. Upon these occasions
he revealed to them the life of trees and the spirits that haunt the
cataracts, so that they heard voices calling where no one else had ever
heard them, and that they saw stones turned into animals and men._

_Many things came to them in common. Once in the Hills, a thousand miles
from home, when they had not seen men for a very long time, Dalua
touched them with his wing, and they went mad for the space of thirty
hours. It was by a stream in a profound gorge at evening and under a
fretful moon. The next morning they lustrated themselves with water, and
immediately they were healed._

_At another time they took a rotten old leaky boat they were poor and
could afford no other--they took, I say, a rotten old leaky boat whose
tiller was loose and whose sails mouldy, and whose blocks were jammed
and creaking, and whose rigging frayed, and they boldly set out together
into the great North Sea._

_It blew a capful, it blew half a gale, it blew a gale: little they
cared, these sons of Ares, these cousins of the broad daylight! There
mere no men on earth save these two who would not have got her under a
trysail and a rag of a storm-jib with fifteen reefs and another: not so
the heroes. Not a stitch would they take in. They carried all her
canvas, and cried out to the north-east wind: "We know her better than
you! She'll carry away before she capsizes, and she'll burst long before
she'll carry away." So they ran before it largely till the bows were
pressed right under, and it was no human poser that saved the gybe. They
went tearing and foaming before it, singing a Saga as befitted the place
and time. For it was their habit to sing in every place its proper
song--in Italy a Ritornella, in Spain a Segeduilla, in Provence a
Pastourou, in Sussex a Glee, but an the great North Sea a Saga. And they
rolled at last into Orford Haven on the very tiptop of the highest tide
that ever has run since the Noachic Deluge; and even so, as they crossed
the bar they heard the grating of the keel. That night they sacrificed
oysters to Poseidon._

_And when they slept the Sea Lady, the silver-footed one, came up
through the waves and kissed them in their sleep; for she had seen no
such men since Achilles. Then she went back through the waves with all
her Nereids around her to where her throne is, beside her old father in
the depths of the sea._

_In their errantry they did great good. It was they that rescued
Andromeda, though she lied, as a woman will, and gave the praise to her
lover. It was they, also, who slew the Tarasque on his second
appearance, when he came in a thunderstorm across the broad bridge of
Beaucaire, all scaled in crimson and gold, forty foot long and twenty
foot high, galloping like an angry dog and belching forth flames and
smoke. They also hunted down the Bactrian Bear, who had claws like the
horns of a cow, and of whom it is written in the Sacred Books of the
East that:_

     _A Bear out of Bactria came,
       And he wandered all over the world,
     And his eyes were aglint and aflame,
       And the tip of his caudal was curled._

_Oh! they hunted him down and they cut him up, and they cured one of his
hams and ate it, thereby acquiring something of his mighty spirit....
And they it was who caught the great Devil of Dax and tied him up and
swinged him with an ash-plant till he swore that he would haunt the
woods no more._

_And here it is that you ask me for their names. Their names! Their
names? Why, they gave themselves a hundred names: now this, now that,
but always names of power. Thus upon that great march of theirs from
Gascony into Navarre, one, on the crest of the mountains, cut himself a
huge staff and cried loudly:_

_"My name is URSUS, and this is my staff DREADNOUGHT: let the people in
the Valley be afraid!"_

_Whereat the other cut himself a yet huger staff, and cried out in a yet
louder voice:_

_"My name is TAURUS, and this is my staff CRACK-SKULL: let them tremble
who live in the Dales!"_

_And when they had said this they strode shouting down the
mountain-side and conquered the town of Elizondo, where they are
worshipped as gods to this day. Their names? They gave themselves a
hundred names!_

_"Well, well," you say to me then, "no matter about the names: what are
names? The men themselves concern me!... Tell me," you go on, "tell me
where I am to find them in the flesh, and converse with them. I am in
haste to see them with my own eyes."_

_It is useless to ask. They are dead. They will never again be heard
upon the heaths at morning singing their happy songs: they will never
more drink with their peers in the deep ingle-nooks of home. They are
perished. They have disappeared. Alas! The valiant fellows!_

_But lest some list of their proud deeds and notable excursions should
be lost on earth, and turn perhaps into legend, or what is worse, fade
away unrecorded, this book has been got together; in which will be found
now a sight they saw together, and now a sight one saw by himself, and
now a sight seen only by the other. As also certain thoughts and
admirations which the second or the first enjoyed, or both together: and
indeed many other towns, seas, places, mountains, rivers, and
men--whatever could be crammed between the covers._

_And there is an end of it._

       *       *       *       *       *

     Many of these pages have appeared in the "Speaker,"
     the "Pilot," the "Morning Post," the "Daily News."
     the "Pall Mall Magazine," the "Evening Standard,"
     the "Morning Leader," and the "Westminster Gazette."

       *       *       *       *       *


It was on or about a Tuesday (I speak without boasting) that my
companion and I crept in by darkness to the unpleasant harbour of
Lowestoft. And I say "unpleasant" because, however charming for the
large Colonial yacht, it is the very devil for the little English craft
that tries to lie there. Great boats are moored in the Southern Basin,
each with two head ropes to a buoy, so that the front of them makes a
kind of entanglement such as is used to defend the front of a position
in warfare. Through this entanglement you are told to creep as best you
can, and if you cannot (who could?) a man comes off in a boat and moors
you, not head and stern, but, as it were, criss-cross, or slant-ways, so
that you are really foul of the next berth alongside, and that in our
case was a little steamer.

Then when you protest that there may be a collision at midnight, the man
in the boat says merrily, "Oh, the wind will keep you off," as though
winds never changed or dropped.

I should like to see moorings done that way, at Cowes, say, or in
Southampton Water. I should like to see a lot of craft laid head and
tail to the wind with a yard between each, and, when Lord Isaacs
protested, I should like to hear the harbour man say in a distant voice,
"_Sic volo, sic jubeo_" (a classical quotation misquoted, as in the
South-country way), "the wind never changes here."

Such as it was, there it was, and trusting in the wind and God's
providence we lay criss-cross in Lowestoft South Basin. The Great Bear
shuffled round the pole and streaks of wispy clouds lay out in heaven.

The next morning there was a jolly great breeze from the East, and my
companion said, "Let us put out to sea." But before I go further, let me
explain to you and to the whole world what vast courage and meaning
underlay these simple words. In what were we to put to sea?

This little boat was but twenty-five feet over all. She had lived since
1864 in inland waters, mousing about rivers, and lying comfortably in
mudbanks. She had a sprit seventeen foot outboard, and I appeal to the
Trinity Brothers to explain what that means; a sprit dangerous and
horrible where there are waves; a sprit that will catch every sea and
wet the foot of your jib in the best of weathers; a sprit that weighs
down already overweighted bows and buries them with every plunge. _Quid
dicam?_ A Sprit of Erebus. And why had the boat such a sprit? Because
her mast was so far aft, her forefoot so deep and narrow, her helm so
insufficient, that but for this gigantic sprit she would never come
round, and even as it was she hung in stays and had to have her weather
jib-sheet hauled in for about five minutes before she would come round.
So much for the sprit.

This is not all, nor nearly all. She had about six inches of free-board.
She did not rise at the bows: not she! Her mast was dependent upon a
forestay (spliced) and was not stepped, but worked in a tabernacle. She
was a hundred and two years old. Her counter was all but awash. Her
helm--I will describe her helm. It waggled back and forth without effect
unless you jerked it suddenly over. Then it "bit," as it were, into the
rudder post, and she just felt it--but only just--the ronyon!

She did not reef as you and I do by sane reefing points, but in a
gimcrack fashion with a long lace, so that it took half an hour to take
in sail. She had not a jib and foresail, but just one big headsail as
high as the peak, and if one wanted to shorten sail after the enormous
labour of reefing the mainsail (which no man could do alone) one had to
change jibs forward and put up a storm sail--under which (by the way)
she was harder to put round than ever.

Did she leak? No, I think not. It is a pious opinion. I think she was
tight under the composition, but above that and between wind and water
she positively showed daylight. She was a basket. Glory be to God that
such a boat should swim at all!

But she drew little water? The devil she did! There was a legend in the
yard where she was built that she drew five feet four, but on a close
examination of her (on the third time she was wrecked), I calculated
with my companion that she drew little if anything under six feet. All
this I say knowing well that I shall soon put her up for sale; but that
is neither here nor there. I shall not divulge her name.

So we put to sea, intending to run to Harwich. There was a strong flood
down the coast, and the wind was to the north of north-east. But the
wind was with the tide--to that you owe the lives of the two men and the
lection of this delightful story; for had the tide been against the wind
and the water steep and mutinous, you would never have seen either of us
again: indeed we should have trembled out of sight for ever.

The wind was with the tide, and in a following lump of a sea, without
combers and with a rising glass, we valorously set out, and, missing the
South Pier by four inches, we occupied the deep.

For one short half-hour things went more or less well. I noted a white
horse or two to windward, but my companion said it was only the sea
breaking over the outer sands. She plunged a lot, but I flattered myself
she was carrying Caesar, and thought it no great harm. We had started
without food, meaning to cook a breakfast when we were well outside: but
men's plans are on the knees of the gods. The god called Æolus, that
blows from the north-east of the world (you may see him on old maps--it
is a pity they don't put him on the modern), said to his friends: "I see
a little boat. It is long since I sank one"; and altogether they gave
chase, like Imperialists, to destroy what was infinitely weak.

I looked to windward and saw the sea tumbling, and a great number of
white waves. My heart was still so high that I gave them the names of
the waves in the eighteenth _Iliad_: The long-haired wave, the graceful
wave, the wave that breaks on an island a long way off, the sandy wave,
the wave before us, the wave that brings good tidings. But they were in
no mood for poetry. They began to be great, angry, roaring waves, like
the chiefs of charging clans, and though I tried to keep up my courage
with an excellent song by Mr. Newbolt, "Slung between the round shot in
Nombre Dios Bay," I soon found it useless, and pinned my soul to the
tiller. Every sea following caught my helm and battered it. I hung on
like a stout gentleman, and prayed to the seven gods of the land. My
companion said things were no worse than when we started. God forgive
him the courageous lie. The wind and the sea rose.

It was about opposite Southwold that the danger became intolerable, and
that I thought it could only end one way. Which way? The way out, my
honest Jingoes, which you are more afraid of than of anything else in
the world. We ran before it; we were already over-canvased, and she
buried her nose every time, so that I feared I should next be cold in
the water, seeing England from the top of a wave. Every time she rose
the jib let out a hundredweight of sea-water; the sprit buckled and
cracked, and I looked at the splice in the forestay to see if it yet
held. I looked a thousand times, and a thousand times the honest splice
that I had poked together in a pleasant shelter under Bungay Woods (in
the old times of peace, before ever the sons of the Achaians came to the
land) stood the strain. The sea roared over the fore-peak, and gurgled
out of the scuppers, and still we held on. Till (Æolus blowing much more
loudly, and, what you may think a lie, singing through the rigging,
though we were before the wind) opposite Aldeburgh I thought she could
not bear it any more.

I turned to my companion and said: "Let us drive her for the shore and
have done with it; she cannot live in this. We will jump when she
touches." But he, having a chest of oak, and being bound three times
with brass, said: "Drive her through it. _It is not often we have such a
fair-wind_." With these words he went below; I hung on for Orfordness.
The people on the strand at Aldeburgh saw us. An old man desired to put
out in a boat to our aid. He danced with fear. The scene still stands in
their hollow minds.

As Orfordness came near, the seas that had hitherto followed like giants
in battle now took to a mad scrimmage. They leapt pyramidically, they
heaved up horribly under her; she hardly obeyed her helm, and even in
that gale her canvas flapped in the troughs. Then in despair I prayed to
the boat itself (since nothing else could hear me), "Oh, Boat," for so I
was taught the vocative, "bear me safe round this corner, and I will
scatter wine over your decks." She heard me and rounded the point, and
so terrified was I that (believe me if you will) I had not even the soul
to remember how ridiculous and laughable it was that sailors should call
this Cape of Storms "the Onion."

Once round it, for some reason I will not explain, but that I believe
connected with my prayer, the sea grew tolerable. It still came on to
the land (we could sail with the wind starboard), and the wind blew
harder yet; but we ran before it more easily, because the water was less
steep. We were racing down the long drear shingle bank of Oxford, past
what they call "the life-boat house" on the chart (there is no life-boat
there, nor ever was), past the look-out of the coastguard, till we saw
white water breaking on the bar of the Alde.

Then I said to my companion, "There are, I know, two mouths to this
harbour, a northern and a southern; which shall we take?" But he said,
"Take the nearest."

I then, reciting my firm beliefs and remembering my religion, ran for
the white water. Before I knew well that she was round, the sea was
yellow like a pond, the waves no longer heaved, but raced and broke as
they do upon a beach. One greener, kindly and roaring, a messenger of
the gale grown friendly after its play with us, took us up on its crest
and ran us into the deep and calm beyond the bar, but as we crossed, the
gravel ground beneath our keel. So the boat made harbour. Then, without
hesitation, she cast herself upon the mud, and I, sitting at the tiller,
my companion ashore, and pushing at her inordinate sprit, but both
revelling in safety, we gave thanks and praise. That night we scattered
her decks with wine as I had promised, and lay easy in deep water

But which of you who talk so loudly about the island race and the
command of the sea have had such a day? I say to you all it does not
make one boastful, but fills one with humility and right vision. Go out
some day and run before it in a gale. You will talk less and think more;
I dislike the memory of your faces. I have written for your correction.
Read less, good people, and sail more; and, above all, leave us in


The other day as I was taking my pleasure along a river called "The
River of Gold," from which one can faintly see the enormous mountains
which shut off Spain from Europe, as I walked, I say, along the Mail, or
ordered and planted quay of the town, I heard, a long way off, a man
singing. His singing was of that very deep and vibrating kind which
Gascons take for natural singing, and which makes one think of hollow
metal and of well-tuned bells, for it sounds through the air in waves;
the further it is the more it booms, and it occupies the whole place in
which it rises. There is no other singing like it in the world. He was
too far off for any words to be heard, and I confess I was too occupied
in listening to the sound of the music to turn round at first and notice
who it was that sang; but as he gradually approached between the houses
towards the river upon that happy summer morning, I left the sight of
the houses, and myself sauntered nearer to him to learn more about him
and his song.

I saw a man of fifty or thereabouts, not a mountaineer, but a man of the
plains--tall and square, large and full of travel. His face was brown
like chestnut wood, his eyes were grey but ardent; his brows were
fierce, strong, and of the colour of shining metal, half-way between
iron and silver. He bore himself as though he were still well able to
wrestle with younger men in the fairs, and his step, though extremely
slow (for he was intent upon his song), was determined as it was
deliberate. I came yet nearer and saw that he carried a few pots and
pans and also a kind of kit in a bag: in his right hand was a long and
polished staff of ashwood, shod with iron; and still as he went he
sang. The song now rose nearer me and more loud, and at last I could
distinguish the words, which, were, in English, these:

"Men that cook in copper know well how difficult is the cleaning of
copper. All cooking is a double labour unless the copper is properly

This couplet rhymed well in the tongue he used, which was not Languedoc
nor even Béarnais, but ordinary French of the north, well chosen,
rhythmical, and sure. When he had sung this couplet once, glancing, as
he sang it, nobly upwards to the left and the right at the people in
their houses, he paused a little, set down his kit and his pots and his
pans, and leant upon his stick to rest. A man in white clothes with a
white square cap on his head ran out of a neighbouring door and gave him
a saucepan, which he accepted with a solemn salute, and then, as though
invigorated by such good fortune, he lifted his burdens again and made a
dignified progress of some few steps forward, nearer to the place in
which I stood. He halted again and resumed his song.

It had a quality in it which savoured at once of the pathetic and of the
steadfast: its few notes recalled to me those classical themes which
conceal something of dreadful fate and of necessity, but are yet
instinct with dignity and with the majestic purpose of the human will,
and Athens would have envied such a song. The words were these:

"All kinds of game, Izard, Quails, and Wild Pigeon, are best roasted
upon a spit; but what spit is so clean and fresh as a spit that has been
newly tinned?"

When he had sung this verse by way of challenge to the world, he halted
once more and mopped his face with a great handkerchief, waiting,
perhaps, for a spit to be brought; but none came. The spits of the town
were new, and though the people loved his singing, yet they were of too
active and sensible a kind to waste pence for nothing. When he saw that
spits were not forthcoming he lifted up his kit again and changed his
subject just by so pinch as might attract another sort of need. He
sang--but now more violently, and as though with a worthy protest:

     Le lièvre et le lapin,
     Quand c'est bien cuit, ça fait du bien.

That is: "Hare and rabbit, properly cooked, do one great good," and then
added after the necessary pause and with a gesture half of offering and
half of disdain: "But who can call them well cooked if the tinning of
the pot has been neglected?" And into this last phrase he added notes
which hinted of sadness and of disillusion. It was very fine.

As he was now quite near me and ready, through the slackness of trade,
to enter into a conversation, I came quite close and said to him, "I
wish you good day," to which he answered, "And I to you and the
company," though there was no company.

Then I said, "You sing and so advertise your trade?"

He answered, "I do. It lifts the heart, it shortens the way, it attracts
the attention of the citizens, it guarantees good work."

"In what way," said I, "does it guarantee good work?"

"The man," he answered, "who sings loudly, clearly, and well, is a man
in good health. He is master of himself. He is strict and well-managed.
When people hear him they say, 'Here is a prompt, ready, and serviceable
man. He is not afraid. There is no rudeness in him. He is urbane, swift,
and to the point. There is method in this fellow.' All these things may
be in the man who does not sing, but singing makes them apparent.
Therefore in our trade we sing."

"But there must be some," I said, "who do not sing and who yet are good

At this he gave a little shrug of his shoulders and spread down his
hands slightly but imperatively. "There are such," said he. "They are
even numerous. But while they get less trade they are also less happy
men. For I would have you note (saving your respect and that of the
company) that this singing has a quality. It does good within as well
as without. It pleases the singer in his very self as well as brings him
work and clients."

Then I said, "You are right, and I wish to God I had something to tin;
let me however tell you something in place of the trade I cannot offer
you. All things are trine, as you have heard" (here he nodded), "and
your singing does, therefore, not a double but a triple good. For it
gives you pleasure within, it brings in trade and content from others,
and it delights the world around you. It is an admirable thing."

When he heard this he was very pleased. He took off his enormous hat,
which was of straw and as big as a wheel, and said, "Sir, to the next
meeting!" and went off singing with a happier and more triumphant note,
"Carrots, onions, lentils, and beans, depend upon the tinner for their
worth to mankind."


A "Mail" is a place set with trees in regular order so as to form
alleys; sand and gravel are laid on the earth beneath the trees; masonry
of great solidity, grey, and exquisitely worked, surrounds the whole
except on one side, where strong stone pillars carry heavy chains across
the entrance. A "Mail" takes about two hundred years to mature, remains
in perfection for about a hundred more, and then, for all I know, begins
to go off. But neither the exact moment at which it fails nor the length
of its decline is yet fixed, for all "Mails" date from the seventeenth
century at earliest, and the time when most were constructed was that of
Charles II's youth and Louis XIV's maturity--or am I wrong? Were these
two men not much of an age?

I am far from books; I am up in the Pyrenees. Let me consider dates and
reconstruct my formula. I take it that Charles II was more than a boy
when Worcester was fought and when he drank that glass of ale at
Hotighton, at the "George and Dragon" there, and crept along tinder the
Downs to Bramber and so to Shoreham, where he took ship and was free. I
take it, therefore, that when he came back in 1660 he must have been in
the thirties, more or less, but how far in the thirties I dare not

Now, in 1659, the year before Charles II came back, Mazarin signed the
treaty with Spain. At that time Louis XIV must have been quite a young
man. Again, he died about thirty years after Charles II, and he was
seventy something when he died.

I am increasingly certain that Charles II was older than Louis XIV.... I
affirm it. I feel no hesitation....

Lord! How dependent is mortal man upon books of reference! An editor or
a minister of the Crown with books of reference at his elbow will seem
more learned than Erasmus himself in the wilds. But let any man who
reads this (and I am certain five out of six have books of reference by
them as they read), I say, let any man who reads this ask himself
whether he would rather be where he is, in London, on this August day
(for it is August), or where I am, which is up in Los Altos, the very
high Pyrenees, far from every sort of derivative and secondary thing and
close to all things primary?

I will describe this place. It is a forest of beech and pine; it grows
upon a mountain-side so steep that only here and there is there a ledge
on which to camp. Great precipices of limestone diversify the wood and
show through the trees, tall and white beyond them. One has to pick
one's way very carefully along the steep from one night's camp to
another, and often one spends whole hours seeking up and down to turn a
face of rock one cannot cross.

It seems dead silent. There are few birds, and even at dawn one only
hears a twittering here and there. Swirls of cloud form and pass beneath
one in the gorge and hurry up the opposing face of the ravine; they add
to this impression of silence: and the awful height of the pines and the
utter remoteness from men in some way enhance it. Yet, though it seems
dead silent, it is not really so, and if you were suddenly put here from
the midst of London, you would be confused by the noise which we who
know the place continually forget--and that is the waterfalls.

All the way down the gorge for miles, sawing its cut in sheer surfaces
through the rock, crashes a violent stream, and all the valley is full
of its thunder. But it is so continuous, so sedulous, that it becomes
part of oneself. One does not lose it at night as one falls asleep, nor
does one recover it in the morning, when dreams are disturbed by a
little stir of life in the undergrowth and one opens one's eyes to see
above one the bronze of the dawn.

It possesses one, does this noise of the torrent, and when, after many
days in such a wood, I pick my way back by marks I know to a ford, and
thence to an old shelter long abandoned, and thence to the faint
beginnings of a path, and thence to the high road and so to men; when I
come down into the plains I shall miss the torrent and feel ill at ease,
hardly knowing what I miss, and I shall recall Los Altos, the high
places, and remember nothing but their loneliness and silence.

I shall saunter in one of the towns of the plain, St. Girons or another,
along the riverside and under the lime trees ... which reminds me of
"Mails"! Little pen, little fountain pen, little vagulous, blandulous
pen, companion and friend, whither have you led me, and why cannot you
learn the plodding of your trade?


Shut in between two of the greatest hills in Europe--hills almost as
high as Etna, and covering with their huge bases half a county of
land--there lies, in the Spanish Pyrenees, a little town. It has been
mentioned in books very rarely, and visited perhaps more rarely. Of
three men whom in my life I have heard speak its name, two only had
written of it, and but one had seen it. Yet to see it is to learn a
hundred things.

There is no road to it. No wheeled thing has ever been seen in its
streets. The crest of the Pyrenees (which are here both precipitous and
extremely high) is not a ridge nor an edge, but a great wall of slabs,
as it were, leaning up against the sky. Through a crack in this wall,
between two of these huge slabs, the mountaineers for many thousand
years have wormed their way across the hills, but the height and the
extreme steepness of the last four thousand feet have kept that passage
isolated and ill-known. Upon the French side the path has recently been
renewed; within a few yards upon the southern slope it dwindles and
almost disappears.

As one so passes from the one country to the other, it is for all the
world like the shutting of a door between oneself and the world. For
some reason or other the impression of a civilisation active to the
point of distress follows one all up the pass from the French railway to
the summit of the range; but when that summit is passed the new and
brilliant sun upon the enormous glaciers before one, the absence of
human signs and of water, impress one suddenly with silence.

From that point one scrambles down and down for hours into a deserted
valley--all noon and afternoon and evening: on the first flats a rude
path, at last appears. A river begins to flow; great waterfalls pour
across one's way, and for miles upon miles one limps along and down the
valley across sharp boulders such as mules go best on, and often along
the bed of a stream, until at nightfall--if one has started early and
has put energy into one's going, and if it is a long summer day--then at
nightfall one first sees cultivated fields--patches of oats not half an
acre large hanging upon the sides of the ravine wherever a little shelf
of soil has formed.

So went the Two Men upon an August evening, till they came in the
half-light upon something which might have been rocks or might have been
ruins--grey lumps against the moon: they were the houses of a little
town. A sort of gulf, winding like a river gorge, and narrower than a
column of men, was the street that brought us in. But just as we feared
that we should have to grope our way to find companionship we saw that
great surprise of modern mountain villages (but not of our own
England)--a little row of electric lamps hanging from walls of an
incalculable age.

Here, in this heap of mountain stones, and led by this last of
inventions, we heard at last the sound of music, and knew that we were
near an inn. The Moors called (and call) an inn Fundouk; the Spaniards
call it Fonda. To this Fonda, therefore, we went, and as we went the
sound of music grew louder, till we came to a door of oak studded with
gigantic nails and swung upon hinges which, by their careful workmanship
and the nature of their grotesques, were certainly of the Renaissance.
Indeed, the whole of this strange hive of mountain men was a
mixture--ignorance, sharp modernity, utter reclusion: barbaric,
Christian; ruinous and enduring things. The more recent houses had for
the most part their dates marked above their doors. There were some of
the sixteenth century, and many of the seventeenth, but the rest were
far older, and bore no marks at all. There was but one house of our own
time, and as for the church, it was fortified with narrow windows made
for arrows.

Not only did the Moors call an inn a Fundouk, but also they lived (and
live) not on the ground floor, but on the first floor of their houses:
so after them the Spaniards. We came in from the street through those
great oaken doors, not into a room, but into a sort of barn, with a
floor of beaten earth; from this a stair (every banister of which was
separately carved in a dark-wood) led up to the storey upon which the
inn was held. There was no hour for the meal. Some were beginning to
eat, some had ended. When we asked for food it was prepared, but an hour
was taken to prepare it, and it was very vile; the wine also was a wine
that tasted as much of leather as of grapes, and reminded a man more of
an old saddle than of vineyards.

The people who put this before us had in their faces courage, complete
innocence, carelessness, and sleep. They spoke to us in their language
(I understood it very ill) of far countries, which they did not clearly
know--they hardly knew the French beyond the hills. As no road led into
their ageless village, so did no road lead out of it. To reach the great
cities in the plain, and the railway eighty miles away, why, there was
the telephone. They slept at such late hours as they chose; by midnight
many were still clattering through the lane below. No order and no law
compelled them in anything.

The Two Men were asleep after this first astonishing glimpse of
forgotten men and of a strange country. In the stifling air outside
there was a clattering of the hoofs of mules and an argument of drivers.
A long way off a man was playing a little stringed instrument, and there
was also in the air a noise of insects buzzing in the night heat; when
all of a sudden the whole place awoke to the noise of a piercing cry
which but for its exquisite tone might have been the cry of pain, so
shrill was it and so coercing to the ear. It was maintained, and before
it fell was followed by a succession of those quarter-tones which only
the Arabs have, and which I had thought finally banished from Europe. To
this inhuman and appalling song were set loud open vowels rather than

Of the Two Men, one leapt at once from his bed crying out, "This is the
music! This is what I have desired to hear!" For this is what he had
once been told could be heard in the desert, when first he looked out
over the sand from Atlas: but though he had travelled far, he had never
heard it, and now he heard it here, in the very root of these European
hills. It was on this account that he cried out, "This is the music!"
And when he had said this he put on a great rough cloak and ran to the
room from which the song or cry proceeded, and after him ran his

The Two Men stood at the door behind a great mass of muleteers, who all
craned forward to where, upon a dais at the end of the room, sat a
Jewess who still continued for some five minutes this intense and
terrible effort of the voice. Beside her a man who was not of her race
urged her on as one urges an animal to further effort, crying out, "Hap!
Hap!" and beating his palms together rhythmically and driving and
goading her to the full limit of her power.

The sound ceased suddenly as though it had been stabbed and killed, and
the woman whose eyes had been strained and lifted throughout as in a
trance, and whose body had been rigid and quivering, sank down upon
herself and let her eyelids fall, and her head bent forward.

There was complete silence from that moment till the dawn, and the
second of the Two Men said to the first that they had had an experience
not so much of music as of fire.


Delft is the most charming town in the world. It is one of the neat
cities: trim, small, packed, self-contained. A good woman in early
middle age, careful of her dress, combined, orderly, not without a sober
beauty--such a woman on her way to church of a Sunday morning is not
more pleasing than Delft. It is on the verge of monotony, yet still
individual; in one style, yet suggesting many centuries of activity.
There is a full harmony of many colours, yet the memory the place leaves
is of a united, warm, and generous tone. Were you suddenly put down in
Delft you would know very well that the vast and luxuriant meadows of
Holland surrounded it, so much are its air, houses, and habits those of
men inspired by the fields.

Delft is very quiet, as befits a town so many of whose streets are
ordered lanes of water, yet one is inspired all the while by the voices
of children, and the place is strongly alive. Over its sky there follow
in stately order the great white clouds of summer, and at evening the
haze is lit just barely from below with that transforming level light
which is the joy and inspiration of the Netherlands. Against such an
expanse stands up for ever one of the gigantic but delicate belfries,
round which these towns are gathered. For Holland, it seems, is not a
country of villages, but of compact, clean towns, standing scattered
over a great waste of grass like the sea.

This belfrey of Delft is a thing by itself in Europe, and all these
truths can be said of it by a man who sees it for the first time: first,
that its enormous height is drawn up, as it were, and enhanced by every
chance stroke that the instinct of its slow builders lit upon; for
these men of the infinite flats love the contrast of such pinnacles, and
they have made in the labour of about a thousand years a landscape of
their own by building, just as they have made by ceaseless labour a rich
pasture and home out of those solitary marshes of the delta.

Secondly, that height is inhanced by something which you will not see,
save in the low countries between the hills of Ardennes and the yellow
seas--I mean brick Gothic; for the Gothic which you and I know is built
up of stone, and, even so, produces every effect of depth and distance;
but the Gothic of the Netherlands is often built curiously of bricks,
and the bricks are so thin that it needs a whole host of them in an
infinity of fine lines to cover a hundred feet of wall. They fill the
blank spaces with their repeated detail; they make the style (which even
in stone is full of chances and particular corners) most intricate,
and--if one may use so exaggerated a metaphor--"populous." Above all,
they lead the eye up and up, making a comparison and measure of their
tiny bands until the domination of a buttress or a tower is exaggerated
to the enormous. Now the belfry of Delft, though all the upper part is
of stone, yet it stands on a great pedestal (as it were) of brick--a
pedestal higher than the houses, and in this base are pierced two
towering, broad, and single ogives, empty and wonderful and full of that
untragic sadness which you may find also in the drooping and wide eyes
of extreme old age.

Thirdly, the very structure of the thing is bells. Here the bells are
more than the soul of a Christian spire; they are its body too, its
whole self. An army of them fills up all the space between the delicate
supports and framework of the upper parts; for I know not how many feet,
in order, diminishing in actual size and in the perspective also of that
triumphant elevation, stand ranks on ranks of bells from the solemn to
the wild, from the large to the small; a hundred or two hundred or a
thousand. There is here the prodigality of Brabant and Hainaut and the
Batavian blood, a generosity and a productivity in bells without stint,
the man who designed it saying: "Since we are to have bells, let us
have bells: not measured out, calculated, expensive, and prudent bells,
but careless bells, self-answering multitudinous bells; bells without
fear, bells excessive and bells innumerable; bells worthy of the
ecstasies that are best thrown out and published in the clashing of
bells. For bells are single, like real pleasures, and we will combine
such a great number that they shall be like the happy and complex life
of a man. In a word, let us be noble and scatter our bells and reap a
harvest till our town is famous for its bells." So now all the spire is
more than clothed with them; they are more than stuff or ornament; they
are an outer and yet sensitive armour, all of bells.

Nor is the wealth of these bells in their number only, but also in their
use; for they are not reserved in any way, but ring tunes and add
harmonies at every half and quarter and at all the hours both by night
and by day. Nor must you imagine that there is any obsession of noise
through this; they are far too high and melodious, and, what is more,
too thoroughly a part of all the spirit of Delft to be more than a
perpetual and half-forgotten impression of continual music; they render
its air sacred and fill it with something so akin to an uplifted silence
as to leave one--when one has passed from their influence--asking what
balm that was which soothed all the harshness of sound about one.

Round that tower and that voice the town hangs industrious and
subdued--a family. Its waters, its intimate canals, its boats for
travel, and its slight plashing of bows in the place of wheels, entered
the spirit of the traveller and gave him for one long day the Right of
Burgess. In autumn, in the early afternoon--the very season for those
walls--it was easy for him to be filled with a restrained but united
chorus, the under-voices of the city, droning and murmuring perpetually
of Peace and of Labour and of the wild rose--Content....

Peace, labour, and content--three very good words, and summing up,
perhaps, the goal of all mankind. Of course, there is a problem
everywhere, and it would be heresy to say that the people of Delft have
solved it. It is Matter of Breviary that the progress of our lives is
but asymptotic to true joy; we can approach it nearer and nearer, but we
can never reach it.

Nevertheless, I say that in this excellent city, though it is outside
Eden, you may, when the wind is in the right quarter, receive in distant
and rare appeals the scent and air of Paradise; the soul is filled.

To this emotion there corresponds and shall here be quoted a very noble
verse, which runs--or rather glides--as follows:--

     Satiety, that momentary flower
     Stretched to an hour--
     These are her gifts which all mankind may use,
     And all refuse.

Or words to that effect. And to think that you can get to a place like
that for less than a pound!


Time was, and that not so long ago, when the Two Men had revealed to
them by their Genius a corner of Europe wherein they were promised more
surprises and delights than in any other.

It was secretly made known to them that in this place there were no
pictures, and no one had praised its people, and further that no Saint
had ever troubled it; and the rich and all their evils (so the Two Men
were assured) had never known the place at all.

It was under the influence of such a message that they at once began
walking at a great speed for the river which is called the River of
Gold, and for the valleys of Andorra; and since it seemed that other men
had dared to cross the Pyrenees and to see the Republic, and since it
seemed also, according to books, records, and what not, that may have
been truth or may have been lies, that common men so doing went always
by one way, called the Way of Hospitalet, the Two Men determined to go
by no such common path, but to march, all clothed with power, in a
straight line, and to take the main range of the mountains just where
they chose, and to come down upon the Andorrans unexpectedly and to
deserve their admiration and perhaps their fear.

They chose, therefore, upon the map the valley of that torrent called
the Aston, and before it was evening, but at an hour when the light of
the sun was already very ripe and low, they stood under a great rock
called Guie, which was all of bare limestone with façades as bare as the
Yosemite, and almost as clean. They looked up at this great rock of Guie
and made it the terminal of their attempt. I was one and my companion
was the other: these were the Two Men who started out before a sunset
in August to conquer the high Pyrenees. Before me was a very deep valley
full of woods, and reaching higher and higher perpetually so that it
reminded me of Hyperion, but as for my companion, it reminded him of
nothing, for he said loudly that he had never seen any such things
before and had never believed that summits of so astonishing a height
were to be found on earth. Not even at night had he imagined such
appalling upward and upward into the sky, and this he said though he had
seen the Alps, of which it is true that when you are close to them they
are very middling affairs; but not so the Pyrenees, which are not only
great but also terrible, for they are haunted, as you shall hear. But
before I begin to write of the spirits that inhabit the deserts of the
Aston, I must first explain, for the sake of those who have not seen
them, how the awful valleys of the Pyrenees are made.

All the high valleys of mountains go in steps, but those of the Pyrenees
in a manner more regular even than those of the Sierra Nevada out in
California, which the Pyrenees so greatly resemble. For the steps here
are nearly always three in number between the plain and the main chain,
and each is entered by a regular gate of rock. So it is in the valley of
the Ariege, and so it is in that of the Aston, and so it is in every
other valley until you get to the far end where live the cleanly but
incomprehensible Basques. Each of these steps is perfectly level,
somewhat oval in shape, a mile or two or sometimes five miles long, but
not often a mile broad. Through each will run the river of the valley,
and upon either side of it there will be rich pastures, and a high plain
of this sort is called a _jasse_, the same as in California is called a
"flat": as "Dutch Flat," "Poverty Flat," and other famous flats.

First, then, will come a great gorge through which one marches up from
the plain, and then at the head of it very often a waterfall of some
kind, along the side of which one forces one's way up painfully through
a narrow chasm of rock and finds above one The great green level of the
first jasse with the mountains standing solemnly around it. And then
when one has marched all along this level one will come to another gorge
and another chasm, and when one has climbed over the barrier of rock and
risen up another 2000 feet or so, one comes to a second jasse, smaller
as a rule than the lower one; but so high are the mountains that all
this climbing into the heart of them does not seem to have reduced their
height at all. And then one marches along this second jasse and one
comes to yet another gorge and climbs up just as one did the two others,
through a chasm where there will be a little waterfall or a large one,
and one finds at the top the smallest and most lonely of the jasses.
This often has a lake in it. The mountains round it will usually be
cliffs, forming sometimes a perfect ring, and so called cirques, or, by
the Spaniards, cooking-pots; and as one stands on the level floor of one
such last highest jasse and looks up at the summit of the cliffs, one
knows that one is looking at the ridge of the main chain. Then it is
one's business, if one desires to conquer the high Pyrenees, to find a
sloping place up the cliffs to reach their summits and to go down into
the further Spanish valleys. This is the order of the Pyrenean dale, and
this was the order of that of the Aston.

Up the gorge then we went, my companion and I; the day fell as we
marched, and there was a great moon out, filling the still air, when we
came to the first chasm, and climbing through it saw before us, spread
with a light mist over its pastures, the first jasse under the
moonlight. And up we went, and up again, to the end of the second jasse,
having before us the vast wall of the main range, and in our hearts a
fear that there was something unblessed in the sight of it. For though
neither I told it to my companion nor he to me, we had both begun to
feel a fear which the shepherds of these mountains know very well. It
was perhaps midnight or a little more when we made our camp, after
looking in vain for a hut which may once have stood there, but now stood
no longer. We lit a fire, but did not overcome the cold, which tormented
us throughout the night, for the wind blew off the summits; and at last
we woke from our half-sleep and spent the miserable hours in watching
the Great Bear creeping round the pole, and in trying to feed the dying
embers with damp fuel. And there it was that I discovered what I now
make known to the world, namely, that gorse and holly will burn of
themselves, even while they are yet rooted in the ground. So we sat
sleepless and exhausted, and not without misgiving, for we had meant
that night before camping to be right under the foot of the last cliffs,
and we were yet many miles away. We were glad to see the river at last
in the meadows show plainly under the growing light, the rocks turning
red upon the sky-line, and the extinction of the stars. As we so looked
north and eastward the great rock of Guie stood up all its thousands of
feet enormous against the rising of the sun.

We were very weary, and invigorated by nothing but the light, but,
having that at least to strengthen us, we made at once for the main
range, knowing very well that, once we were over it, it would be
downhill all the way, and seeing upon our maps that there were houses
and living men high in the further Andorran valley, which was not
deserted like this vale of the Aston, but inhabited: full, that is, of
Catalans, who would soon make us forget the inhuman loneliness of the
heights, for by this time we were both convinced, though still neither
of us said it to the other, that there was an evil brooding over all
this place.

It was noon when, after many hours of broken marching and stumbling,
which betrayed our weakness, we stood at last beside the tarn in which
the last cliffs of the ridge are reflected, and here was a steep slope
up which a man could scramble. We drank at the foot of it the last of
our wine and ate the last of our bread, promising ourselves refreshment,
light, and peace immediately upon the further side, and thus lightened
of our provisions, and with more heart in us, we assaulted the final
hill; but just at the summit, where there should have greeted us a great
view over Spain, there lowered upon us the angry folds of a black cloud,
and the first of the accidents that were set in order by some enemy to
ruin us fell upon my companion and me.

For a storm broke, and that with such violence that we thought it would
have shattered the bare hills, for an infernal thunder crashed from one
precipice to another, and there flashed, now close to us, now vividly
but far off, in the thickness of the cloud, great useless and blinding
glares of lightning, and hailstones of great size fell about us also,
leaping from the bare rocks like marbles. And when the rain fell it was
just as though it had been from a hose, forced at one by a pressure
instead of falling, and we two on that height were the sole objects of
so much fury, until at last my companion cried out from the rock beneath
which he was cowering, "This is intolerable!" And I answered him, from
the rock which barely covered me, "It is not to be borne!" So in the
midst of the storm we groped our way down into the valley beneath, and
got below the cloud; and when we were there we thought we had saved the
day, for surely we were upon the southern side of the hills, and in a
very little while we should see the first roofs of the Andorrans.

For two doubtful hours we trudged down that higher valley, but there
were no men, nor any trace of men except this, that here and there the
semblance of a path appeared, especially where the valley fell rapidly
from one stage to another over smooth rocks, which, in their least
dangerous descent, showed by smooth scratches the passage of some lost
animal. For the rest, nothing human nor the memory of it was there to
comfort us, though in one place we found a group of cattle browsing
alone without a master. There we sat down in our exhaustion and
confessed at last what every hour had inwardly convinced us of with
greater strength, that we were not our own masters, that there was
trouble and fate all round us, that we did not know what valley this
might be, and that the storm had been but the beginning of an unholy
adventure. We had been snared into Fairyland.

We did not speak much together, for fear of lowering our hearts yet more
by the confession one to the other of the things we knew to be true. We
did not tell each other what reserve of courage remained to us, or of
strength. We sat and looked at the peaks immeasurably above us, and at
the veils of rain between them, and at the black background of the sky.
Nor was there anything in the landscape which did not seem to us
unearthly and forlorn.

It was, in a manner, more lonely than had been the very silence of the
further slope: there was less to comfort and support the soul of a man;
but with every step downward we were penetrated more and more with the
presence of things not mortal and of influences to which any desolation
is preferable. At one moment voices called to us from the water, at
another we heard our names, but pronounced in a whisper so slight and so
exact that the more certain we were of hearing them the less did we dare
to admit the reality of what we had heard. In a third place we saw twice
in succession, though we were still going forward, the same tree
standing by the same stone: for neither tree nor stone were natural to
the good world, but each had been put there by whatever was mocking us
and drawing us on.

Already had we stumbled twice and thrice the distance that should have
separated us from the first Andorran village, but we had seen nothing,
not a wall, nor smoke from a fire, let alone the tower of a Christian
church, or the houses of men. Nor did any length of the way now make us
wonder more than we had already wondered, nor did we hope, however far
we might proceed, that we should be saved unless some other influence
could be found to save us from the unseen masters of this place. For by
this time we had need of mutual comfort, and openly said it to one
another--but in low tones--that the valley was Faëry. The river went on
calling to us all the while. In places it was full of distant cheering,
in others crowded with the laughter of a present multitude of tiny
things, and always mocking us with innumerable tenuous voices. It grew
to be evening. It was nearly two days since we had seen a man.

There stood in the broader and lower part of the valley to which we had
now come, numerous rocks and boulders; for our deception some one of
them or another would seem to be a man. I heard my companion call
suddenly, as though to a stranger, and as he called I thought that he
had indeed perceived the face of a human being, and I felt a sort of
sudden health in me when I heard the tone of his voice; and when I
looked up I also saw a man. We came towards him and he did not move.
Close up beside his form we put out our hands: but what we touched was a
rough and silent stone.

After that we spoke no more. We went on through the gathering twilight,
determined to march downwards to the end, but knowing pretty well what
the end would be. Once only did we again fall into the traps that were
laid about us, when we went and knocked at the hillside where we thought
we had seen a cottage and its oaken door, and after the mockery of that
disappointment we would not be deceived again, nor make ourselves again
the victims of the laughter that perpetually proceeded from the torrent.
The path led us onwards in a manner that was all one with the plot now
woven round our feet. We could but follow the path, though we knew with
what an evil purpose it was made: that it was as phantom as the rest. At
one place it invited us to cross, upon two shaking pine trunks, the
abyss of a cataract; in another it invited us to climb, in spite of our
final weariness, a great barrier of rock that lay between an upper and a
lower jasse. We continued upon it determinedly, with heads bent, barely
hoping that perhaps at last we should emerge from this haunted ground,
but the illusions which had first mocked us we resolutely refused. So
much so, that where at one place there stood plainly before us in the
gathering darkness a farm-house with its trees and its close, its
orchard and its garden gate, I said to my companion, "All this place is
cursed, and I will not go near." And he applauded me, for he knew as
well as I that if we had gone a few steps towards that orchard and that
garden close, they would have turned into the bracken of the hillside,
bare granite and unfruitful scree.

The main range, where it appeared in revelations behind us through the
clouds, was far higher than mountains ever seem to waking men, and it
stood quite sheer as might a precipice in a dream. The forests upon
either side ran up until they were lost miles and miles above us in the

Night fell and we still went onward, the one never daring to fall far
behind the other, and once or twice in an hour calling to each other to
make sure that another man was near; but this we did not continue,
because as we went on each of us became aware under the midnight of the
presence of a Third.

There was a place where the path, now broad and plain, approached a sort
of little sandy bay going down towards the stream, and there I saw, by a
sudden glimpse of the moon through the clouds, a large cave standing
wide. We went down to it in silence, we gathered brushwood, we lit a
fire, and we lay down in the cave. But before we lay down I said to my
companion: "I have seen the moon--she is in the _north_. Into what place
have we come?" He said to me in answer, "Nothing here is earthly," and
after he had said this we both fell into a profound sleep in which we
forgot not only cold, great hunger, and fatigue, but our own names and
our very souls, and passed, as it were, into a deep bath of

When we woke at the same moment, it was dawn.

We stood up in the clear and happy light and found that everything was
changed. We poured water upon our faces and our hands, strode out a
hundred yards and saw again the features of a man. He had a kind face of
some age, and eyes such as are the eyes of mountaineers, which seem to
have constantly contemplated the distant horizons and wide plains
beneath their homes. We heard as he came up the sound of a bell in a
Christian church below, and we exchanged with him the salutations of
living men. Then I said to him: "What day is this?" He said "Sunday,"
and a sort of memory of our fear came on us, for we had lost a day.

Then I said to him: "What river are we upon, and what valley is this?"

He answered: "The river and the valley of the Aston." And what he said
was true, for as we rounded a corner we perceived right before us a
barrier, that rock of Guie from which we had set out. We had come down
again into France, and into the very dale by which we had begun our

But what that valley was which had led us from the summits round
backward to our starting-place, forcing upon us the refusal of whatever
powers protect this passage of the chain, I have never been able to
tell. It is not upon the maps; by our description the peasants knew
nothing of it. No book tells of it. No men except ourselves have seen
it, and I am willing to believe that it is not of this world.


There are two ways by which a man may acquire any kind of learning or
profit, and this is especially true of travel.

Everybody knows that one can increase what one has of knowledge or of
any other possession by going outwards and outwards; but what is also
true, and what people know less, is that one can increase it by going
inwards and inwards. There is no goal to either of these directions, nor
any term to your advantage as you travel in them.

If you will be extensive, take it easy; the infinite is always well
ahead of you, and its symbol is the sky.

If you will be intensive, hurry as much as you like you will never
exhaust the complexity of things; and the truth of this is very evident
in a garden, or even more in the nature of insects; of which beasts I
have heard it said that the most stolid man in the longest of lives
would acquire only a cursory knowledge of even one kind, as, for
instance, of the horned beetle, which sings so angrily at evening.

You may travel for the sake of great horizons, and travel all your life,
and fill your memory with nothing but views from mountain-tops, and yet
not have seen a tenth of the world. Or you may spend your life upon the
religious history of East Rutland, and plan the most enormous book upon
it, and yet find that you have continually to excise and select from the
growing mass of your material.

       *       *       *       *       *

A wise man having told me this some days before (and I having believed
it), it seemed to me as though a new entertainment had been invented for
me, or rather as though I had found a bottomless purse; since by this
doctrine there was manifestly no end to the number of my pleasures, and
to each of this infinite number no possibility of exhaustion; but I
thought I would put it to the test in this way: putting aside but three
days, I determined in that space to explore a little corner of this

Now, although I saw not one-hundredth of the buildings or the people in
this very small space, and though I knew nothing of the birds or the
beasts or the method of tillage, or of anything of all that makes up a
land, yet I saw enough to fill a book. And the pleasure of my thoughts
was so great that I determined to pick out a bit here and a bit there,
and to put down the notes almost without arrangement, in order that
those who cannot do these things (whether from lack of leisure or for
some other reason) may get some part of my pleasure without loss to me
(on the contrary, with profit); and in order that every one may be
convinced of what this little journey finally taught me, and which I
repeat--that there is an inexhaustible treasure everywhere, not only
outwards, but inwards.

I had known the Ouse--(how many years ago!)--had looked up at those
towers of Ely from my boat; but a town from a river and a town from the
street are two different things. Moreover, in that time I speak of, the
day years ago, it was blowing very hard from the south, and I was
anxious to be away before it, and away I went down to Lynn at one
stretch; for in those days the wind and the water seemed of more moment
than old stones. Now (after how many years!) it was my business to go up
by land, and as I went, the weight of the Cathedral filled the sky
before me.

Impressions of this sort are explained by every man in his own way--for
my part I felt the Norman.

I know not by what accident it was, but never had I come so nearly into
the presence of the men who founded England. The isolation of the hill,
the absence of clamour and false noise and everything modern, the
smallness of the village, the solidity and amplitude of the homes and
their security, all recalled an origin.

I went into the door of the Cathedral under the high tower. I noted the
ponderous simplicity of the great squat pillars, the rough
capitals--plain bulges of stone without so much as a pattern cut upon
them--the round arch and the low aisles; but in one corner remaining
near the door--a baptistery, I suppose--was a crowd of ornament which
(like everything of that age) bore the mark of simplicity, for it was an
endless heap of the arch and the column and the zigzag ornament--the
broken line. Its richness was due to nothing but the repetition of
similar forms, and everywhere the low stature, the muscles, the broad
shoulders of the thing, proved and reawoke the memory of the Norman

They have been written of enough to-day, but who has seen them from
close by or understood that brilliant interlude of power?

The little bullet-headed men, vivacious, and splendidly brave, we know
that they awoke all Europe, that the first provided settled financial
systems and settled governments of land, and that everywhere, from the
Grampians to Mesopotamia, they were like steel when all other Christians
were like wood or like lead.

We know that they were a flash. They were not formed or definable at all
before the year 1000; by the year 1200 they were gone. Some odd
transitory phenomenon of cross-breeding, a very lucky freak in the
history of the European family, produced the only body of men who all
were lords and who in their collective action showed continually nothing
but genius.

We know that they were the spear-head, as it were, of the Gallic spirit:
the vanguard of that one of the Gallic expansions which we associate
with the opening of the Middle Ages and with the crusades. ... We know
all this and write about it; nevertheless, we do not make enough of the
Normans in England.

Here and there a man who really knows his subject and who disdains the
market of the school books, puts as it should be put their conquest of
this island and their bringing into our blood whatever is still
strongest in it. Many (descended from their leaders) have remarked
their magical ride through South Italy, their ordering of Sicily, their
hand in Palestine. As for the Normans in Normandy, of their exchequer
there, of what Rouen was--all that has never been properly written down
at all. Their great adventure here in England has been most written of
by far; but I say again no one has made enough of them; no one has
brought them back out of their graves. The character of what they did
has been lost in these silly little modern quarrels about races, which
are but the unscholarly expression of a deeper hypocritical quarrel
about religion.

Yet it is in England that the Norman can be studied as he can be studied
nowhere else. He did not write here (as in Sicily) upon a palimpsest. He
was not merged here (as in the Orient) with the rest of the French. He
was segregated here; he can be studied in isolation; for though so many
that crossed the sea on that September night with William, the big
leader of them, held no Norman tenure, yet the spirit of the whole thing
was Norman: the regularity the suddenness, the achievement, and, when
the short fighting was over the creation of a new society. It was the
Norman who began everything over again--the first fresh influence since

The riot of building has not been seized. The island was conquered in
1070. It was a place of heavy foolish men with random laws, pale eyes,
and a slow manner; their houses were of wood: sometimes they built (but
how painfully, and how childishly!) with stone. There was no height,
there was no dignity, there was no sense of permanence. The Norman
Government was established. At once rapidity, energy, the clear object
of a united and organised power followed. And see what followed in
architecture alone, and in what a little space of the earth, and in what
a little stretch of time--less than the time that separates us to-day
from the year of Disraeli's death or the occupation of Egypt.

The Conquest was achieved in 1070. In that same year they pulled down
the wooden shed at Bury St Edmunds, "unworthy," they said, "of a great
saint," and began the great shrine of stone. Next year it was the
castle at Oxford, in 1075 Monkswearmouth, Jarrow, and the church at
Chester; in 1077 Rochester and St Albans; in 1079 Winchester. Ely,
Worcester, Thorney, Hurley, Lincoln, followed with the next years; by
1089 they had tackled Gloucester, by 1092 Carlisle, by 1093 Lindisfarne,
Christchurch, tall Durham.... And this is but a short and random list of
some of their greatest works in the space of one boyhood. Hundreds of
castles, houses, village churches are unrecorded.

Were they not indeed a people?... And all that effort realised itself
before Pope Urban had made the speech which launched the armies against
the Holy Land. The Norman had created and founded all this before the
Mass of Europe was urged against the flame of the Arab, to grow fruitful
and to be transformed.

One may say of the Norman preceding the Gothic what Dante said of Virgil
preceding the Faith: Would that they had been born in a time when they
could have known it! But the East was not yet open. The mind of Europe
had not yet received the great experience of the Crusades; the Normans
had no medium wherein to express their mighty soul, save the round arch
and the straight line, the capital barbaric or naked, the sullen round
shaft of the pillar--more like a drum than like a column. They could
build, as it-were, with nothing but the last ruins of Rome. They were
given no forms but the forms which the fatigue and lethargy of the Dark
Ages had repeated for six hundred years. They were capable, even in the
north, of impressing even these forms with a superhuman majesty.

       *       *       *       *       *

Was I not right in saying that everywhere in the world one can look in
and in and never find an end to one's delight? I began to explore but a
tiny corner of England, and here in one corner of that corner, and in
but one thought arising from this corner of a corner, I have found these

       *       *       *       *       *

But England is especially a garden of this sort, or a storehouse; and
in nothing more than in this matter of the old architecture which
perpetuates the barbaric grandeur of the eleventh century--the time
before it was full day.

When the Gothic came the whole of northern Europe was so enamoured of it
that common men, bishops, and kings pulled down and rebuilt everywhere.
Old crumbling walls of the Romanesque fell at Amiens; you can still see
them cowering at Beauvais; only an accident of fire destroyed them in
Notre Dame. In England the transition survived; nowhere save in England
is the Northern Romanesque triumphant, not even at Caen. Elsewhere the
Gothic has conquered. Only here in England can you see the Romanesque
facing, like an equal, newer things, because here only was there a great
outburst of building--a kind of false spring before the Gothic came,
because here only in Europe had a great political change and a great
flood of wealth come in before the expansion of the twelfth century

There is one little corner of England; here is another.

The Isle of Ely lying on the fens is like a starfish lying on a flat
shore at low tide. Southward, westward, and northward from the head or
centre of the clump (which is where the Cathedral stands) it throws out
arms every way, and these arms have each short tentacles of their own.
In between the spurs runs the even fen like a calm sea, and on the crest
of the spurs, radiating also from Ely, run the roads. Long ago there was
but one road of these that linked up the Isle with the rest of England.
It was the road from the south, and there the Romans had a station; the
others led only to the farms and villages dependent upon the city. Now
they are prolonged by artifice into the modern causeways which run over
the lower and new-made land.

The Isle has always stood like a fortress, and has always had a title
and commandership, which once were very real things; the people told me
that the King of England's third title was Marquis of Ely, and I knew of
myself that just before the civil wars the commandership of the Isle
gave the power of raising men.

The ends of many wars drifted to this place to die. Here was the last
turn of the Saxon lords, and the last rally of the feudal rebellions of
the thirteenth century.

Not that the fens were impassable or homeless, but they were difficult
in patches; their paths were rare and laid upon no general system. Their
inhabited fields were isolated, their waters tidal, with great banks of
treacherous mud, intricate and unbridged; such conditions are amply
sufficient for a defensive war. The flight of a small body in such a
land can always baffle an army until that small body is thrust into some
one refuge so well defended by marsh or river that the very defence cuts
off retreat: and a small body so brought to bay in such a place has this
further advantage, that from the bits of higher land, the "Islands," one
of the first requirements of defence is afforded--an unbroken view of
every avenue by which attack can come. There is no surprising such

So much is in Ely to-day and a great deal more. For instance (a third
and last idea out of the thousand that Ely arouses), Ely is dumb and yet
oracular. The town and the hill tell you nothing till you have studied
them in silence and for some considerable time. This boast is made by
many towns, that they hold a secret. But Ely, which is rather a village
than a town, has alone a true claim, the proof of which is this, that no
one comes to Ely for a few hours and carries anything away, whereas no
man lives in Ely for a year without beginning to write a book. I do not
say that all are published, but I swear that all are begun.


Whatever, keeping its proportion and form, is designed upon a scale much
greater or much less than that of our general experience, produces upon
the mind an effect of phantasy.

A little perfect model of an engine or a ship does not only amuse or
surprise; it rather casts over the imagination something of that veil
through which the world is transfigured, and which I have called "the
wing of Dalua"; the medium of appreciations beyond experience; the
medium of vision, of original passion and of dreams. The principal spell
of childhood returns as we bend over the astonishing details. We are
giants--or there is no secure standard left in our intelligence.

So it is with the common thing built much larger than the million
examples upon which we had based our petty security. It has been always
in the nature of worship that heroes, or the gods made manifest, should
be men, but larger than men. Not tall men or men grander, but men
transcendent: men only in their form; in their dimension so much
superior as to be lifted out of our world. An arch as old as Rome but
not yet ruined, found on the sands of Africa, arrests the traveller in
this fashion. In his modern cities he has seen greater things; but here
in Africa, where men build so squat and punily, cowering under the heat
upon the parched ground, so noble and so considerable a span, carved as
men can carve under sober and temperate skies, catches the mind and
clothes it with a sense of the strange. And of these emotions the
strongest, perhaps, is that which most of those who travel to-day go
seeking; the enchantment of mountains; the air by which we know them
for something utterly different from high hills. Accustomed to the
contour of downs and tors, or to the valleys and long slopes that
introduce a range, we come to some wider horizon and see, far off, a
further line of hills. To hills all the mind is attuned: a moderate
ecstasy. The clouds are above the hills, lying level in the empty sky;
men and their ploughs have visited, it seems, all the land about us;
till, suddenly, faint but hard, a cloud less varied, a greyer portion of
the infinite sky itself, is seen to be permanent above the world. Then
all our grasp of the wide view breaks down. We change. The valleys and
the tiny towns, the unseen mites of men, the gleams or thread of roads,
are prostrate, covering a little watching space before the shrine of
this dominant and towering presence.

It is as though humanity were permitted to break through the vulgar
illusion of daily sense, and to learn in a physical experience how
unreal are all the absolute standards by which we build. It is as though
the vast and the unexpected had a purpose, and that purpose were the
showing to mankind in rare glimpses what places are designed for the
soul--those ultimate places where things common become shadows and fail,
and the divine part in us, which adores and desires, breathes its own
air, and is at last alive.

       *       *       *       *       *

This awful charm which attaches to the enormous envelops the Causse of
Mende; for its attributes are all of them pushed beyond the ordinary

Each of the four Causses is a waste; but the Causse of Mende is utterly
bereft of men. Each is a high plateau; but this, I believe, the highest
in feet, and certainly in impression. You stand there as it were upon
the summit of a lonely pedestal, with nothing but a rocky edge around
you. Each is dried up; but the Catisse of Mende is without so much as a
dew-pan or a well; it is wrinkled, horny, and cauterised under the
alternate frost and flame of its fierce open sky, as are the deserts of
the moon. Each of the Causses is silent; but the silence of the Causse
of Mende is scorched and frozen into its stones, and is as old as they:
all around, the torrents which have sawn their black canons upon every
side of the block frame this silence with their rumble. Each of the
Causses casts up above its plain fantastic heaps of rock consonant to
the wild spirit of its isolation; but the Causse of Mende holds a kind
of fortress--a medley so like the ghost of a dead town that, even in
full daylight, you expect the footsteps of men; and by night, as you go
gently, in fear of waking the sleepers, you tread quite certainly among
built houses and spires. This place the peasants of the canons have
called "The Old City"; and no one living will go near it who knows it

The Causses have also this peculiar to them: that the ravines by which
each is cut off are steep and sudden. But the cliffs of the Causse of
Mende are walls. That the chief of these walls may seem the more
terrible, it is turned northwards, so that by day and night it is in
shadow, and falls sheer.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was when I had abandoned this desolate wonder (but with its influence
strong upon me) that I left the town of Mende, down on the noise of its
river, and began to climb the opposing mountain of the Margeride.

It was already evening, though as yet there were no stars. The air was
fresh, because the year was at that season when it is summer in the
vineyard plains, but winter in the hills. A twilight so coloured and
translucent as to suggest cold spanned like an Aurora the western mouth
of the gully. Upon my eastward and upward way the full moon, not yet
risen, began to throw an uncertain glory over the sky.

This road was made by the French kings when their influence had crept so
far south as to control these mountains. They became despots, and their
despotism, which was everywhere magnificent, engraved itself upon these
untenanted bare rocks. They strengthened and fortified the road. Its
grandeur in so empty and impoverished a land was a boast or a threat of
their power. The Republic succeeded the kings, the Armies succeeded the
Republic, and every experiment succeeded the victories and the breakdown
of the Armies. The road grew stronger all the while, bridging this
desert, and giving pledge that the brain of Paris was able, and more
able, to order the whole of the soil. So then, as I followed it, it
seemed to me to bear in itself, and in its contrast with untamed
surroundings, the history and the character of this one nation out of
the many which live by the tradition of Europe. As I followed it and saw
its exact gradient, its hard and even surface, its square border stones,
and, every hundred yards, its carved mark of the distance done, these
elaborations, standing quite new among the tumbled rocks of a vague
upland, made one certain that Paris had been at work. Very far back (how
far was marked on the milestone) the road had left the swarming gate of
Toulouse. Very far on (how far was marked on the milestone) it was to
cross the Saône by its own bridge, and feed the life of Lyons. In
between it met and surmounted (still civilised, easy, complete) this
barbaric watershed of the Margeride.

As I followed it, law--good law and evil--seemed to go with me up the
mountain side.

There was more sound than on the arid wastes of the Causse. There were
trees, and birds in the trees, moving faintly. The great moon, which had
now risen, shone also upon scanty grass and (from time to time) upon the
trickle of water passing in runnels beneath the road.

The torrent in the depth below roared openly and strong, and, beyond it,
the black wall of the Causse, immense and battlemented above me under
the moon, made what poor life this mountain supported seem for a moment
gracious by comparison. I remembered that sheep and goats and men could
live on the Margeride.

But the Margeride has rightly compelled its 'very few historians to
melancholy or fear.

It is a district, or a mountain range, or a single summit, which cuts
off the east from the west, the Loire from the Gironde: a long, even
barrow of dark stone. Its people are one, suspicious of the plains. Its
line against the sky is also one: no critical height in Europe is so
strict and unbroken. You may see it from a long way east--from the
Velay, or even from the last of the Forèz, and wonder whether it is a
land or a sullen bar of black cloud.

All the world knows how snow, even in mere gullies and streaks, uplifts
a mountain. Well, I have seen the dull roof-tile of the Margeride from
above Puy in spring, when patches of snow still clung to it, and the
snow did no more than it would have done to a plain. It neither raised
nor distinguished this brooding thing.

But it is indeed a barrier. Its rounded top is more formidable than if
it were a ridge of rock; its saddle, broad and indeterminate, deceives
the traveller, with new slight slopes following one upon the other when
the sharp first of the ascent is done.

Already the last edge of the Causse beyond the valley had disappeared,
and already had the great road taken me higher than the buttress which
holds up that table-land, when, thinking I had gained the summit, I
turned a corner in the way and found a vague roll of rising land before
me. Upon this also, under the strong moonlight, I saw the ruin of a
mill. Water, therefore, must have risen behind it. I expected and found
yet another uncertain height, and beyond it a third, and, a mile beyond,
another. This summit was like those random marshy steps which rise
continually and wearily between the sluggish rivers of the prairies.

I passed the fields that gave his title to La Peyrouse. The cold, which
with every hundred feet had increased unnoticed, now first disturbed me.
The wind had risen (for I had come to that last stretch of the glacis,
over which, from beyond the final height, an eastern wind can blow), and
this wind carried I know not what dust of ice, that did not make a
perceptible fall, yet in an hour covered my clothes with tiny spangles,
and stung upon the face like Highland snow in a gale. With that wind and
that fine, powdery frost went no apparent clouds. The sky was still
clear above me. Such rare stars as can conquer the full moon shone
palely; but round the moon herself bent an evanescent halo, like those
one sees over the Channel upon clear nights before a stormy morning. The
spindrift of fine ice had, I think, defined this halo.

How long I climbed through the night I do not know. The summit was but a
slight accident upon a tumbled plain. The ponds stood thick with ice,
the sound of running water had ceased, when the slight downward of the
road through a barren moor and past broad undrained films of frozen bog,
told me that I was on the further northern slope. The wind also was now
roaring over the platform of the watershed, and great patches of
whirling snow lay to the right and left like sand upon the grassy dunes
of a coast.

Through all this loneliness and cold I went down, with the great road
for a companion. Majesty and power were imposed by it upon these savage
wilds. The hours uncalculated, and the long arrears of the night, had
confused my attention; the wind, the little arrows of the ice, the
absence of ploughlands and of men. Those standards of measure which (I
have said) the Causses so easily disturb would not return to me. I took
mile after mile almost unheeding, numbed with cold, demanding sleep, but
ignorant of where might be found the next habitation.

It was in this mood that I noticed on a distant swirl of rocks before me
what might have been roofs and walls; but in that haunted country the
rocks play such tricks as I have told. The moonlight also, which seems
so much too bright upon a lonely heath, fails one altogether when
distinction must be made between distant things, and when men are near.
I did not know that these rocks (or houses) were the high group of
Chateauneuf till I came suddenly upon the long and low house which
stands below it on the road, and is the highway inn for the mountain
town beyond.

I halted for a moment, because no light came from the windows. Just
opposite the house a great tomb marked the fall of some hero. The wind
seemed less violent. The waters of the marshy plain had gathered. They
were no longer frozen, and a little brook ran by. As I waited there,
hesitating, my fatigue came upon me, and I knocked at their great door.
They opened, and light poured upon the road, and the noise of peasants
talking loudly, and the roaring welcome of a fire. In this way I ended
my crossing of these sombre and unrecorded hills.

       *       *       *       *       *

I that had lost count of hours and of heights in the glamour of the
midnight and of the huge abandoned places of my climb, stepped now into
a hall where the centuries also mingled and lost their order. The
dancing fire filled one of those great pent-house chimneys that witness
to the communal life of the Middle Ages. Around and above it, ironwork
of a hundred years branched from the ingle-nooks to support the drying
meats of the winter provision. A wide board, rude, over-massive, and
shining with long usage, reflected the stone ware and the wine. Chairs,
carved grotesquely, and as old almost as the walls about me, stood round
the comfort of the fire. I saw that the windows were deeper than a man's
arms could reach, and wedge-shaped--made for fighting. I saw that the
beams of the high roof, which the firelight hardly caught, were black
oak and squared enormously, like the ribs of a master-galley, and in the
leaves and garden things that hung from them, in the mighty stones of
the wall, and the beaten earth of the floor, the strong simplicity of
our past, and the promise of our endurance, came upon me.

The peasants sitting about the board and fire had risen, looking at the
door; for strangers were rare, and it was very late as I came out of the
empty cold into that human room. Their dress was ancestral; the master,
as he spoke to me, mixed new words with old. He had phrases that the
Black Prince used when he went riding at arms across the Margeride. He
spoke also of modern things, of the news in the valley from which I had
come, and the railway and Puy below us. They put before me bread and
wine, which I most needed. I sat right up against the blaze. We all
talked high together of the things we knew. For when I had told them
what news there was in the valley, they also answered my questions, into
which I wove as best I could those still living ancient words I had
caught from their mouths. I asked them whose was that great tomb under
the moonlight, at which I had shuddered as I entered their doors. They
told me it was Duguesclin's tomb; for he got his death-wound here under
the walls of the town above them five hundred years ago, and in this
house he had died. Then I asked what stream that was which trickled from
the half-frozen moss, and led down the valley of my next day's journey.
They told me it was called the River Red-cap, and they said that it was
Faëry. I asked them also what was the name of the height over which I
had come; they answered, that the shepherds called it "The King's
House," and that hence, in clear weather, under an eastern wind, one
could see far off, beyond the Velay, that lonely height which is called
"The Chair of God."

So we talked together, drinking wine and telling each other of many
things, I of the world to which I was compelled to return, and they of
the pastures and the streams, and all the story of Lozère. And, all the
while, not the antiquity alone, but the endurance of Christendom poured
into me from every influence around.

They rose to go to the homes which were their own, without a lord. We
exchanged the last salutations. The wooden soles of their shoes
clattered upon the stone threshold of the door.

The master also rose and left me. I sat there for perhaps an hour,
alone, with the falling fire before me and a vision in my heart.

Though I was here on the very roof and centre of the western land, I
heard the surge of the inner and the roll of the outer sea; the foam
broke against the Hebrides, and made a white margin to the cliffs of
Holy Ireland. The tide poured up beyond our islands to the darkness in
the north. I saw the German towns, and Lombardy, and the light on Rome.
And the great landscape I saw from the summit to which I was exalted was
not of to-day only, but also of yesterday, and perhaps of to-morrow.

Our Europe cannot perish. Her religion--which is also mine--has in it
those victorious energies of defence which neither merchants nor
philosophers can understand, and which are yet the prime condition of
establishment. Europe, though she must always repel attacks from within
and from without, is always secure; the soul of her is a certain spirit,
at once reasonable and chivalric. And the gates of Hell shall not
prevail against it.

She will not dissolve by expansion, nor be broken by internal strains.
She will not suffer that loss of unity which would be for all her
members death, and for her history and meaning and self an utter
oblivion. She will certainly remain.

Her component peoples have merged and have remerged. Her particular,
famous cities have fallen down. Her soldiers have believed the world to
have lost all, because a battle turned against them, Hittin or Leipsic.
Her best has at times grown poor, and her worst rich. Her colonies have
seemed dangerous for a moment from the insolence of their power, and
then again (for a moment) from the contamination of their decline. She
has suffered invasion of every sort; the East has wounded her in arms
and has corrupted her with ideas; her vigorous blood has healed the
wounds at once, and her permanent sanity has turned such corruptions
into innocuous follies. She will certainly remain.

       *       *       *       *       *

So that old room, by its very age, reminded me, not of decay, but of
unchangeable things.

All this came to me out of the fire; and upon such a scene passed the
pageantry of our astounding history. The armies marching perpetually,
the guns and ring of bronze; I heard the chant of our prayers; and,
though so great a host went by from the Baltic to the passes of the
Pyrenees, the myriads were contained in one figure common to them all.

I was refreshed, as though by the resurrection of something loved and
thought dead. I was no longer afraid of Time.

That night I slept ten hours. Next day, as I swung out into the air, I
knew that whatever Power comforts men had thrown wide open the gates of
morning; and a gale sang strong and clean across that pale blue sky
which mountains have for a neighbour.

I could see the further valley broadening among woods, to the warmer
places; and I went down beside the River Red-cap onwards, whither it
pleased me to go.


Upon the very limit of the Fens, not a hundred feet in height, but very
sharp against the level, there is a lonely little hill. From the edge of
that hill the land seems very vague; the flat line of the horizon is the
only boundary, and that horizon mixes into watery clouds. No countryside
is so formless until one has seen the plan of it set down in a map, but
on studying such a map one understands the scheme of the Fens.

The Wash is in the shape of a keystone with the narrow side towards the
sea and the broad side towards the land. Imagine the Wash prolonged for
twenty or thirty miles inland and broadened considerably as it proceeded
as would a curving fan, or better still, a horseshoe, and you have the
Fens: a horseshoe whose points, as Dugdale says, are the corners of
Lincolnshire and Norfolk.

All around them is land of some little height, and quite dry. It is
oölitic on the east, chalky on the south, and the old towns and the old
roads look from all round this amphitheatre of dry land down upon the
alluvial flats beneath. Peterboro', Cambridge, Lynn, are all just off
the Fens, and the Ermine street runs on the bank which forms their
eastern frontier.

This plain has suffered very various fortunes. How good the land was and
how well inhabited before the ruin of the monasteries is not yet
completely grasped, even by these who love these marshes and who have
written their history. Yet there is physical evidence of what was once
here: masses of trees but just buried, grass lying mown in swathes
beneath the moss-land, the implements of men where now no men can live,
the great buried causeway running right across from east to west.

Beyond such proofs there are the writers who, rare as are the
descriptions of medieval scenery, manage to speak of this. For Henry of
Huntingdon it was a kind of garden. There were many meres in it, but
there were also islands and woods and orchards. William of Malmesbury
writes of it with delight, and mentions even its vines. The meres were
not impassable marshes; for instance, in _Domesday_ you find the Abbot
of Ramsay owning a vessel upon Whittlesea Mere. The whole impression one
gets from the earlier time is that of something like the upper waters of
the rivers in the Broads: much draining and a good many ponds, but most
of the land firm with good deep pastures and a great diversity of woods.

Great catastrophes have certainly overcome this countryside. The
greatest was the anarchy of the sixteenth century; but it is probable
that, coincidently with every grave lesion in the continuity of our
civilisation, the Fens suffered, for they always needed the perpetual
attention of man to keep them (as they so long were, and may be again if
ever our people get back their land and restore a communal life) fully
inhabited, afforested, and cultured.

It is probable that the break-up of the ninth century saw the Fens
partly drowned, and that after the Black Death something of the same
sort happened again, for it is in the latter fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries that you begin to hear of a necessity for reclaiming them.
John of Gaunt had a scheme, and Morton dug a ditch which is still called
"Morton's Leam." I say, every defeat of our civilisation was inflicted
here in the Fens, but it is certain that the principal disaster followed
the suppression of the monasteries.

These great foundations--nourishing hundreds and governing thousands,
based upon the populace, drawn from the populace, and living by the
common life--were scattered throughout the Fens. They were founded on
the "islands" nearest the good land: Thorney, Ramsay, Croyland, Ely--the
nuns of Chatteris.

They dated from the very beginning. Ely was founded within sight of our
conversion, 672. Croyland came even before that, before civilisation and
religion were truly re-established in Britain; Penda's great-nephew gave
it its charter; St Augustine had been dead for little more than a
century when the charter was signed. Even as the monks came to claim
their land they discovered hermits long settled there. Thorney--Ancarig
it was then--was even fifty years older than Croyland. The roots of all
these go back to the beginning of the nation.

Ramsay and Charteris cannot be traced beyond the gulf of the Danish
invasion, but they are members of the group or ring of houses which
clustered round the edge of the dry land and sent out its industry
towards the Wash, making new land; for this ring sent out feelers
eastward, draining the land and recovering it every way, founding cells,
establishing villages. Holbeach, Spalding, Freiston, Holland, and I know
not how much more was their land.

When the monasteries were destroyed their lordship fell into the hands
of that high class--now old, then new--the Cromwells and Russells and
the rest, upon whom has since depended the greatness of the country. The
intensive spirit proper to a teeming but humble population was
forgotten. The extensive economics of the great owners, their love of
distances and of isolation took the place of the old agriculture. Within
a generation the whole land was drowned.

The isolated villages forgot the general civilisation of England; they
came to depend for their living upon the wildfowl of the marshes; here
and there was a little summer pasturing, more rarely a little ploughing
of the rare patches of dry land; but the whole place soon ran wild, and
there Englishmen soon grew to cause an endless trouble to the new
landlords. These, all the while on from the death of Henry to that of
Elizabeth, pursued their vigilance and their accumulations. Their power
rose above the marshes like a slow sun and dried them up at last.

In every inch of England you can find the history of England. You find
it very typically here. The growth of that leisured class which we still
enjoy--the class that in the seventeenth century destroyed the central
government of the Crown, penetrated and refreshed the universities,
acquired for its use and reformed the endowed primary education of the
English, and began a thorough occupation of our public land--the growth
of that leisured class is nowhere more clearly to be seen than in the
history of the Fens, since the Fens had their faith removed from them.

Here is the story of one such family, a family without whose privileges
and public services it would be difficult to conceive modern England.
Their wealth is rooted in the Fens; the growth of that wealth is
parallel to the growth of every fortune by which we are governed.

When the monasteries were despoiled and their farms thrown open to a
gamble, when the water ran in again, the countryside and all its
generations of human effort were drowned, there was raised up for the
restoration of this land the family of Russell.

The Abbey of Thorney had been given to these little squires. They were
in possession when, towards the end of Elizabeth's reign, in 1600, was
passed the General Draining Act. It was a generous and a broad Act: it
was to apply not only to the Great Level, but to all the marshes of the
realm. It was soon bent to apply to the family.

Seven years later a Dutchman of the name of Cornelius Vermuyden was sent
for, that the work might be begun. For fifty years this man dug and
intrigued. He was called in to be the engineer; he had the temerity to
compete with the new landlords; he boasted a desire--less legitimate in
an alien than in a courtier--to make a great fortune rapidly. He was

All the adventurers who first attempted the draining of the Fens were
ruined--but not that permanent Russell-Francis, the Earl of Bedford,
surnamed "the Incomparable."

The story of Vermuyden by him is intricate, but every Englishman now
living on another man's land should study it. Vermuyden was to drain the
Great Level and to have 95,000 acres for his pains. These acres were in
the occupation--for the matter of that, in great part the ownership--of
a number of English families. It is true the land had lain derelict for
seventy years, bereft of capital since the Reformation, and swamped. It
is true that the occupiers (and owners) were very poor. It is true,
therefore, that they could not properly comprehend a policy that was
designed for the general advantage of the country. They only understood
that the hunting and fishing by which they lived were to stop; that
their land was to be very considerably improved and taken from them. In
their ignorance of ultimate political good they began to show some
considerable impatience.

The cry of the multitude has a way of taking on the forms of stupidity.
The multitude in this case cried out against Vermuyden. They objected to
a foreigner being given so much freehold. "In an anguish of despair"--to
use one chronicler's words--they threw themselves under the protection
of a leader. "That leader was, of course, Francis, Earl of Bedford,
surnamed 'the Incomparable.' He could not hear unmoved the cry of his
fellow-citizens. He yielded to their petition, took means to oust the
Dutchmen, and immediately obtained for himself the grant of the 95,000
acres, by a royal order of 13 January, 1630/1, known as 'the Lynn Law.'"

When he saw the extent of the land and of the water upon it, even his
tenacious spirit was alarmed. He therefore associated with himself in
the expenses thirteen others, all persons of rank and fortune, as was
fitting: alone of the fourteen he preserved his fortune.

The fourteen, then, began the digging of nine drains (if we include the
repair of Morton's Leam); the largest was that fine twenty-one miles
called the old Bedford River, and Charles I, though all in favour of so
great a work, was all in dread of the power it might give to the class
which--as his prophetic conscience told him--was destined to be his

There was a contract that the work should be finished in six years: when
the six years were ended it was very far from finished. The King
grumbled; but Francis, Earl of Bedford, belonged to a clique already
half as powerful as the Crown. He threatened, and a new royal order gave
him an extension of time. It was the second of his many victories.

The King refused to forget his defeat, and Francis, Earl of Bedford,
began to show that hatred of absolute government which has made of his
kind the leaders of a happy England. The King did a Stuart thing--he
lost his temper. He said, "You may keep your 95,000 acres, but I shall
tax them"; and he did. Francis, Earl of Bedford, felt in him a growing
passion for just government. He already spoke of freedom; but he had no
leisure wherein to enjoy it, for within two years he departed this life,
of the smallpox, leaving to his son William the legacy of the great
battle for liberty and for the public land.

This change in the Bedford dynasty coincided with the Civil Wars.
William Russell, having led some of the Parliamentary forces at Edge
Hill, was so uncertain which side might ultimately be victorious as to
open secret negotiations with the King. Nothing happened to him, nor
even to his brother, who intrigued later against Cromwell's life. He was
at liberty to return once more and to survey from the walls of the old
abbey the drowned land upon which he had set his heart.

The work of digging could not be carried on during the turmoil of the
time; William, Earl of Bedford, filled his leisure in the framing of an
elaborate bill of costs. It was dated 20 May, 1646, and showed the sums
which he had spent and which had been wasted in the failure to reclaim
the Fens. He stated them at over £90,000, and to this he added, like a
good business man, interest at the rate of 8 per cent, for so many years
as to amount to more than another £30,000.

As against the King, the trick was a good one; but, like many another
financier, William, Earl of Bedford, was shortsighted. The more anxious
the King grew to pay out public money to the Russells, the less able he
grew to do so, till at last he lost not only the shadow of power over
the treasury, but life itself; and William, Earl of Bedford, brought in
his bill to the Commonwealth.

Cromwell was of the same class, and knew the trick too well. He gave
the family leave to prosecute their digging to forget their demand for
money. The Act was passed at noon. Bedford was sent for at seven o'clock
the next morning and ordered to attend upon Cromwell, "and make thankful
acknowledgments." He did so.

The works began once more. The common people, in their simplicity, rose
as they had so often risen before, against a benefit they could not
comprehend; but they no longer had a Stuart to deal with. To their
extreme surprise they were put down "with the aid of the military."
Then, for all the world as in the promotion of a modern company, the
consulting engineer of the original promotors reappears. The Russells
had patched it up with Vermuyden, and the work was resumed a third time.

There was, however, this difficulty, that though Englishmen might
properly be constrained at this moment to love an orderly and godly
life, and to relinquish their property when it was to the public good
that they should do so, yet it would have been abhorrent to the whole
spirit of the Commonwealth to enslave them even for a work of national
advantage. A labour difficulty arose, and the works were in grave peril.

Those whose petty envy may be pleased at the entanglement of William,
Earl of Bedford, have forgotten the destiny which maintains our great
families. In the worst of the crisis the battle of Dunbar was fought;
166 Scotch prisoners (and later 500 more) were indentured out to dig the
ditches, and it was printed and posted in the end of 1651 that it was
"death without mercy" for any to attempt to escape.

The respite was not for long. Heaven, as though to try the patience of
its chosen agent, raised up a new obstacle before the great patriot.
Peace was made, and the Scotch prisoners were sent home. It was but the
passing frown which makes the succeeding smiles of the Deity more
gracious. At that very moment Blake was defeating the Dutch upon the
seas, and these excellent prisoners, laborious, and (by an accident
which clearly shows the finger of Divine providence) especially
acquainted with the digging of ditches, arrived in considerable
numbers, chained, and were handed over to the Premier House. At the same
time it was ordered by the Lord Protector that when the 95,000 acres
should at last be dry, any Protestant, even though he were a foreigner,
might buy. Two years later an unfortunate peace compelled the return of
the Dutch prisoners; but the work was done, and the Earl of Bedford
returned thanks in his cathedral.

Restored to the leisure which is necessary for political action, the
Russells actively intrigued for the return of the Stuarts, and pointed
out (when Charles II was well upon his throne) how necessary it was for
the Fens that their old, if irregular, privileges should be confirmed.
It was argued for the Crown that 10,000 acres of land had been quietly
absorbed by the Family while there was no king in England: but there
happened in this case what happened in every other since the upper
class, the natural leaders of the people, had curbed the tyranny of the
King--Charles capitulated. Then followed (of course) popular rising; it
was quelled. Before their long struggle for freedom against the Stuart
dynasty was ended, the peasants had been taught their place, Vermuyden
was out of the way, the ditches were all dug, the land acquired.

All the world knows the great part played by the House in the
emancipation of England from the yoke of James II. The martyrdom of Lord
William may have cast upon the Family a passing cloud; but whatever
compensation the perishable things of this world can afford, they
received and accepted. In 1694, having assisted at the destruction of
yet another form of government, the Earl of Bedford was made Duke, and
on 7 September, 1700, his great work now entirely accomplished, he
departed this life peacefully in his eighty-seventh year. It was once
more in their cathedral that the funeral service was preached by a Dr.
Freeman, chaplain of no less than the King himself. I have read the
sermon in its entirety. It closes with the fine phrase that William the
fifth Earl and the first Duke of Bedford had sought throughout the whole
of a laborious and patriotic life a crown not corruptible but

It was precisely a century since the Family had set out in its quest
for that hundred square miles of land. Through four reigns, a bloody
civil war, three revolutions and innumerable treasons, it had maintained
its purpose, and at last it reached its goal.

     "_Tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem_."


The other day as I was going out upon my travels, I came upon a plain so
broad that it greatly wearied me. This plain was grown in parts with
barley, but as it stood high in foreign mountains and was arid, very
little was grown. Small runnels, long run dry under the heat, made the
place look like a desert--almost like Africa; nor was there anything to
relieve my gaze except a huddle of small grey houses far away; but when
I reached them I found, to my inexpressible joy, a railway running by
and a station to receive me.

For those who complain of railways talk folly, and prove themselves
either rich or, more probably, the hangers-on of the rich. A railway is
an excellent thing; it takes one quickly through the world for next to
nothing, and if in many countries the people it takes are brutes, and
disfigure all they visit, that is not the fault of the railway, but of
the Government and religion of these people, which, between them, have
ruined the citizens of the State.

So was it not in this place of which I speak, for all the people were
industrious, wealthy, kind, amenable, and free.

I took a ticket for the only town on the railway list whose history I
knew, and then in a third-class carriage made entirely of wood I settled
down to a conversation with my kind; for though these people were not of
my blood--indeed, I am certain that for some hundreds of years not a
drop of their blood has mingled with my own--yet we understood each
other by a common tongue called Lingua Franca, of which I have spoken in
another place and am a past master.

As all the people round began their talk of cattle, land, and weather,
two men next me, or rather the one next me and the other opposite me,
began to talk of the election which had been held in that delightful
plain: by which, as I learnt, a dealer in herds had been defeated by a
somewhat usurious and perhaps insignificant attorney. In this election
more than half the voters--that is, a good third of the families in the
plain--had gone up to the little huts of wood and had made a mark upon a
bit of paper, some on one part, some on the other. About a sixth of the
families had desired the dealer in herds to make their laws, and about a
sixth the attorney. Of the rest some could not, some would not, go and
make the little mark of which I speak. Many more could by law make it,
and would have made it, if they had thought it useful to any possible
purpose under the sun. One-sixth, I say, had made their mark for the
aged and money-lending attorney, and one-sixth for the venerable but
avaricious dealer in herds, and since the first sixth was imperceptibly
larger than the second it was the lawyer, not the merchant, who stood to
make the laws for the people. But not only to make laws: he was also in
some mystic way the Persona and Representative of all the plain. The
long sun-lit fields; the infinite past--Carolingian, enormous; the
delicate fronds of young trees; the distant sight of the mountains,
which is the note of all that land; the invasions it had suffered, the
conquests it might yet achieve; its soul and its material self, were all
summed up in the solicitor, not in the farmer, and he was to vote on
peace or war, on wine or water, on God or no God in the schools. For the
people of the plain were self-governing; they had no lords.

Of my two companions, the one had voted for the cow-buyer, but the other
for the scribbler upon parchment, and they discussed their action
without heat, gently and with many reasons.

The one said: "It cannot be doubted that the solidarity of society
demands that the homogeneity of economic interests should be recognised
by the magistrate." The other said: "The first need is rather that the
historic continuity of society should be affirmed by the momentary
depositaries of the executive."

For these two men were of some education, and saw things from a higher
standpoint than the peasants around us, who continued to discourse, now
angrily, now merrily, but always loudly and rapidly, upon the
insignificant matter of their lives: that is, strong, red, bubbling
wine, healthy and well-fed beef, rich land and housing, the marriage of
daughters, and the putting forward of sons.

Then one of the two, who had long guessed by my dress and face from what
country I came, said to me: "And you, how is it in your country?" I told
him we met from time to time, upon occasions not less often than seven
years apart, and did just as they had done. That one-sixth of us voted
one way and one-sixth the other; the first, let us say, for a
moneylender, and the second for a man remarkable for motor-cars or
famous for the wealth of his mother; and whichever sixth was
imperceptibly larger than the other, that sixth carried its man, and he
stood for the flats of the Wash or for the clear hills of Cumberland, or
for Devon, which is all one great and lonely hill.

"This man," said I, "in some very mystic way is _Ourselves_--he is our
past and our great national memory. By his vote he decides what shall be
done; but he is controlled."

"By what is he controlled?" said my companions eagerly. Evidently they
had a sneaking love of seeing representatives controlled.

"By a committee of the rich," said I promptly.

At this they shrugged their shoulders and said: "It is a bad system!"

"And by what are yours?" said I.

At this the gravest and oldest of them, looking as it were far away with
his eyes, answered: "By the name of our country and a wholesome terror
of the people."

"Your system," said I, shrugging my shoulders in turn, but a little
awkwardly, "is different from ours."

After this, we were silent all three. We remembered, all three of us,
the times when no such things were done in Europe, and yet men hung
well together, and a nation was vaguer and yet more instinctive and
ready. We remembered also--for it was in our common faith--the gross,
permanent, and irremediable imperfection of human affairs. There arose
perhaps in their minds a sight of the man they had sent to be the spirit
and spokesman, or rather the very self, of that golden plateau which the
train was crawling through, and certainly in my mind there rose the
picture of a man--small, false, and vile--who was, by some fiction, the
voice of a certain valley in my own land.

Then I said to them as I left the train at the town I spoke of: "Days,
knights!"--for so one addresses strangers in that country. And they
answered: "Your grace, we commend you to God."


The use and the pleasure of travel are closely mingled, because the use
of it is fulfilment, and in fulfilling oneself a great pleasure is
enjoyed. Every man bears within him not only his own direct experience,
but all the past of his blood: the things his own race has done are part
of himself, and in him also is what his race will do when he is dead.
This is why men will always read _records_, and why, even when letters
are at their lowest, _records_ still remain. Thus, if a diary be known
to be true, then it seems vivid and becomes famous where if it were
fiction no one would find any merit in it. History, therefore, once a
man has begun to know it, becomes a necessary food for the mind, without
which it cannot sustain its new dimension. It is an aggregate of
universal experience, nor, other things being equal, is any man's
judgment so thin and weak as the judgment of a man who knows nothing of
the past. But history, if it is to be kept just and true and not to
become a set of airy scenes, fantastically coloured by our later time,
must be continually corrected and moderated by the seeing and handling
of _things_.

If the West of Europe be one place and one people separate from all the
rest of the world, then that unity is of the last importance to us; and
that it is so, the wider our learning the more certain we are. All our
religion and custom and mode of thought are European. A European State
is only a State because it is a State of Europe; and the demarcations
between the ever-shifting States of Europe are only dotted lines, but
between the Christian and the non-Christian the boundary is hard and

Now, a man who recognises this truth will ask, "Where could I find a
model of the past of that Europe? In what place could I find the best
single collection of all the forms which European energy has created,
and of all the outward symbols in which its soul has been made manifest?
To such a man the answer should be given, 'You will find these things
better in the town of _Arles_ than in any other place.'" A man asking
such a question would mean to travel. He ought to travel to _Arles_.

Long before men could write, this hill (which was the first dry land at
the head of the Rhone delta, beyond the early mud-flats which the river
was pushing out into the sea) was inhabited by our ancestors. Their
barbaric huts were grouped round the shelving shore; their axes and
their spindles remain.

When thousands of years later the Greeks pushed northward from Massilia,
Arles was the first great corner in their road and the first
halting-place after the useless deserts that separated their port from
the highway of the Rhone valley.

At the close of Antiquity Rome came to Arles in the beginning of her
expansion, and the strong memories of Rome which Arles still holds are
famous. Every traveller has heard of the vast unbroken amphitheatre and
the ruined temple in a market square that is still called the Forum;
they are famous--but when you see them it seems to you that they should
be more famous still. They have something about them so familiar and yet
so unexpected that the centuries in which they were built come actively
before you.

       *       *       *       *       *

The city of Arles is small and packed. A man may spend an hour in it
instead of a day or a year, but in that hour he can receive full
communion with antiquity. For as you walk along the tortuous lane
between high houses, passing on either hand as you go the ornaments of
every age, you turn some dirty little corner or other and come suddenly
upon the titanic arches of Rome. There are the huge stones which appal
you with the Roman weight and perpetuate in their arrangement an order
that has modelled the world. They lie exact and mighty; they are
unmoved, clamped with metal, a little worn, enduring. They are none the
less a domestic and native part of the living town in which they stand.
You pass from the garden of a house that was built in your grandfather's
time, and you see familiarly before you in the street a pedestal and a
column. They are two thousand years old. You read a placard idly upon
the wall; the placard interests you; it deals with the politics of the
place or with the army, but the wall might be meaningless. You look more
closely, and you see that that wall was raised in a fashion that has
been forgotten since the Antonines, and these realities still press upon
you, revealed and lost again with every few steps you walk within the
limited circuit of the town.

Rome slowly fell asleep. The sculpture lost its power; something
barbaric returned. You may see that decline in capitals and masks still
embedded in buildings of the fifth century. The sleep grew deeper. There
came five hundred years of which so little is left in Europe that Paris
has but one doubtful tower and London nothing. Arles still preserves its
relics. When Charlemagne was dead and Christendom almost extinguished
the barbarian and the Saracen alternately built, and broke against, a
keep that still stands and that is still so strong that one might still
defend it. It is unlit. It is a dungeon; a ponderous menace above the
main street of the city, blind and enormous. It is the very time it
comes from.

When all that fear and anarchy of the mind had passed, and when it was
discovered that the West still lived, a dawn broke. The medieval
civilisation began to sprout vigorously through the eleventh and twelfth
centuries, as an old tree sprouts before March is out. The memorials of
that transition are common enough. We have them here in England in great
quantity; we call them the "Norman" architecture. A peculiarly vivid
relic of that springtime remains at Arles. It is the door of what was
then the cathedral--the door of St. Trophimus. It perpetuates the
beginning of the civilisation of the Middle Ages. And of that
civilisation an accident which has all the force of a particular design
has preserved here, attached to this same church, another complete type.
The cloisters of this same Church of St. Trophimus are not only the
Middle Ages caught and made eternal, they are also a progression of that
great experiment from its youth to its sharp close.

You come into these cloisters from a little side street and a neglected
yard, which give you no hint of what you are going to see. You find
yourself cut off at once and put separately by. Silence inhabits the
place; you see nothing but the sky beyond the border of the low roofs.
One old man there, who cannot read or write and is all but blind, will
talk to you of the Rhone. Then as you go round the arches, "withershins"
against the sun (in which way lucky progression has always been made in
sacred places), there pass you one after the other the epochs of the
Middle Ages. For each group of arches come later than the last in the
order of sculpture, and the sculptors during those 300 years went
withershins as should you.

You have first the solemn purpose of the early work. This takes on
neatness of detail, then fineness; a great maturity dignifies all the
northern side. Upon the western you already see that spell beneath which
the Middle Ages died. The mystery of the fifteenth century; none of its
wickedness but all its final vitality is there. You see in fifty details
the last attempt of our race to grasp and permanently to retain the

When the circuit is completed the series ends abruptly--as the medieval
story itself ended.

There is no way of writing or of telling history which could be so true
as these visions are. Arles, at a corner of the great main road of the
Empire, never so strong as to destroy nor so insignificant as to cease
from building, catching the earliest Roman march into the north, the
Christian advance, the full experience of the invasions; retaining in a
vague legend the memory of St. Paul; drawing in, after the long trouble,
the new life that followed the Crusades, can show such visions better, I
think, than Rome herself can show them.


A specialist told me once in Ealing that no inn could compare with the
Griffin, a Fenland inn. "It is painted green" he said, "and stands in
the town of March. If you would enjoy the Griffin, you must ask your way
to that town, and as you go ask also for the Griffin, for many who may
not have heard of March will certainly have heard of the Griffin."

So I set out at once for the Fens and came at the very beginning of them
to a great ditch, which barred all further progress. I wandered up and
down the banks for an hour thinking of the inn, when I met a man who was
sadder and more silent even than the vast level and lonely land in which
he lived. I asked him how I should cross the great dyke. He shook his
head, and said he did not know. I asked him if he had heard of the
Griffin, but he said no. I broke away from him and went for miles along
the bank eastward, seeing the rare trees of the marshes dwindling in the
distance, and up against the horizon a distant spire, which I thought
might be the Spire of March. For March and the Griffin were not twenty
miles away. And still the great ditch stood between me and my

       *       *       *       *       *

These dykes of the Fens are accursed things: they are the separation of
friends and lovers. Here is a man whose crony would come and sit by his
fireside at evening and drink with him, a custom perhaps of twenty
years' standing, when there comes another man from another part armed
with public power, and digs between them a trench too wide to leap and
too soft to ford. The Fens are full of such tragedies.

One may march up and down the banks all day without finding a boat, and
as for bridges there are none, except, indeed, the bridges which the
railway makes; for the railways have grown to be as powerful as the
landlords or the brewers, and can go across this country where they
choose. And here the Fens are typical, for it may be said that these
three monopolies--the landlords, the railways, and the brewers--govern

       *       *       *       *       *

But at last, at a place called Oxlode, I found a boat, and the news that
just beyond lay another dyke. I asked where that could be crossed, but
the ferryman of Oxlode did not know. He pointed two houses out, however,
standing close together out of the plain, and said they were called
"Purles' Bridge," and that I would do well to try there. But when I
reached them I found that the water was between me and them and, what is
more, that there was no bridge there and never had been one since the
beginning of time. Of these jests the Fens are full.

In half an hour a man came out of one of the houses and ferried me
across in silence. I asked him also if he had heard of the Griffin. He
laughed and shook his head as the first one had done, but he showed me a
little way off the village of Monea, saying that the people of that
place knew every house for a day's walk around. So I trudged to Monea,
which is a village on one of the old dry islands of the marsh; but no
one at Monea knew. There was, none the less, one old man who told me he
had heard the name, and his advice to me was to go to the cross roads
and past them towards March, and then to ask again. So I went outwards
to the cross roads, and from the cross roads outward again it seemed
without end, a similar land repeating itself for ever. There was the
same silence, the same completely even soil, the same deep little
trenches, the same rare distant and regular rows of trees.

       *       *       *       *       *

Since it was useless to continue thus for you--one yard was as good as
twenty miles--and since you could know nothing more of these silences,
even if I were to give you every inch of the road, I will pass at once
to the moment in which I saw a baker's cart catching me up at great
speed. The man inside had an expression of irritable poverty. I did not
promise him money, but gave it him. Then he took me aboard and rattled
on, with me by his side.

I had by this time a suspicion that the Griffin was a claustral thing
and a mystery not to be blurted out. I knew that all the secrets of
Hermes may be reached by careful and long-drawn words, and that the
simplest of things will not be told one if one asks too precipitately;
so I began to lay siege to his mind by the method of dialogue. The words
were these:--

MYSELF: This land wanted draining, didn't it?


MYSELF: It seems to be pretty well drained now.


MYSELF: I mean it seems dry enough.

THE OTHER MAN: It was drownded only last winter.

MYSELF: It looks to be good land.

THE OTHER MAN: It's lousy land; it's worth nowt.

MYSELF: Still, there are dark bits--black, you may say--and thereabouts
it will be good.

THE OTHER MAN: That's where you're wrong; the lighter it is the better
it is ... ah! that's where many of 'em go wrong. (_Short silence_.)

MYSELF: (_cheerfully_): A sort of loam?

THE OTHER MAN (_calvinistically_): Ugh!--sand!... (_shaking his head_).
It blaws away with a blast of wind. (_A longer silence_.)

MYSELF (_as though full of interest_): Then you set your drills to sow
deep about here?

THE OTHER MAN (_with a gesture of fatigue_): Shoal. (_Here he sighed

After this we ceased to speak to each other for several miles. Then:

MYSELF: Who owns the land about here?

THE OTHER MAN: Some owns parts and some others.

MYSELF (_angrily pointing to an enormous field with a little new house
in the middle_): Who owns that?

THE OTHER MAN (_startled by my tone_): A Frenchman. He grows onions.

Now if you know little of England and of the temper of the English (I
mean of 0.999 of the English people and not of the 0.001 with which you
associate), if, I say, you know little or nothing of your
fellow-countrymen, you may imagine that all this conversation was
wasted. "It was not to the point," you say. "You got no nearer the
Griffin." You are wrong. Such conversation is like the kneading of dough
or the mixing of mortar; it mollifies and makes ready; it is
three-quarters of the work; for if you will let your fellow-citizen
curse you and grunt at you, and if you will but talk to him on matters
which he knows far better than you, then you have him ready at the end.

So had I this man, for I asked him point-blank at the end of all this:
"_What about the Griffin?_" He looked at me for a moment almost with
intelligence, and told me that he would hand me over in the next village
to a man who was going through March. So he did, and the horse of this
second man was even faster than that of the baker. The horses of the
Fens are like no horses in the world for speed.

       *       *       *       *       *

This horse was twenty-three years old, yet it went as fast as though all
that tomfoolery men talk about progress were true, and as though things
got better by the process of time. It went so fast that one might
imagine it at forty-six winning many races, and at eighty standing
beyond all comparison or competition; and because it went so fast I went
hammering right through the town of March before I had time to learn its
name or to know whither I was driving; it whirled me past the houses and
out into the country beyond; only when I had pulled up two miles beyond
did I know what I had done and did I realise that I had missed for ever
one of those pleasures which, fleeting as they are, are all that is to
be discovered in human life. It went so fast, that before I knew what
had happened the Griffin had flashed by me and was gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet I will affirm with the tongue of faith that it is the noblest house
of call in the Fens.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is better to believe than to handle or to see. I will affirm with the
tongue of faith that the Griffin is, as it were, the captain and chief
of these plains, and has just managed to touch perfection in all the
qualities that an inn should achieve. I am speaking not of what I know
by the doubtful light of physical experience, but of what I have seen
with the inward eye and felt by something that transcends gross taste
and touch.

Low rooms of my repose! Beams of comfort and great age; drowsy and
inhabiting fires; ingle-nooks made for companionship. You also, beer
much better, much more soft, than the beer of lesser towns; beans,
bacon, and chicken cooked to the very limit of excellence; port drawn
from barrels which the simple Portuguese had sent to Lynn over the
cloud-shadowed sea, and honourable Lynn without admixture had sent upon
a cart to you, port undefined, port homogeneous, entirely made of wine:
you also beds! Wooden beds with curtains around them, feathers for
sleeping on, and every decent thing which the accursed would attempt to
destroy; candles (I trust)--and trust is more perfect than proof--bread
made (if it be possible) out of English wheat; milk drawn most certainly
from English cows, and butter worthy of the pastures of England all
around. Oh, glory to the Fens, Griffin, it shall not be said that I have
not enjoyed you!

       *       *       *       *       *

There is a modern habit, I know, of gloom, and men without faith upon
every side recount the things that they have not enjoyed. For my part I
will yield to no such habit. I will consider that I have more perfectly
tasted in the mind that which may have been denied to my mere body, and
I will produce for myself and others a greater pleasure than any
pleasure of the sense. I will do what the poets and the prophets have
always done, and satisfy myself with vision, and (who knows?) perhaps by
this the Griffin of the Idea has been made a better thing (if that were
possible!) than the Griffin as it is--as it materially stands in this
evil and uncertain world.

So let the old horse go by and snatch me from this chance of joy: he has
not taken everything in his flight, and there remains something in spite
of time, which eats us all up.

And yet ... what is that in me which makes me regret the Griffin, the
real Griffin at which they would not let me stay? The Griffin painted
green: the real rooms, the real fire ... the material beer? Alas for
mortality! Something in me still clings to affections temporal and
mundane. England, my desire, what have you not refused me!


I very well remember the spring breaking ten years ago in Lorraine. I
remember it better far than I shall ever remember another spring,
because one of those petty summits of emotion that seem in boyhood like
the peaks of the world was before me. We were going off to camp.

Since every man that fires guns or drives them in France--that is, some
hundred thousand and more at any one time, and taking in reserves, half
a million--must go to camp in his time, and that more than once, it
seems monstrous that a boy should make so much of it; but then to a boy
six months is a little lifetime, and for six months I had passed through
that great annealing fire of drill which stamps and moulds the French
people to-day, putting too much knowledge and bitterness into their
eyes, but a great determination into their gestures and a trained
tenacity into the methods of their thought.

To me also this fire seemed fiercer and more transforming because, until
the day when they had marched me up to barracks in the dark and the rain
with a batch of recruits, I had known nothing but the easy illusions and
the comfort of an English village, and had had but journeys or short
visits to teach me that enduring mystery of Europe, the French temper:
whose aims and reticence, whose hidden enthusiasms, great range of
effort, divisions, defeats, and resurrections must now remain the
principal problem before my mind; for the few who have seen this sight
know that the French mind is the pivot on which Europe turns.

I had come into the regiment faulty in my grammar and doubtful in
accent, ignorant especially of those things which in every civilisation
are taken for granted but never explained in full; I was ignorant,
therefore, of the key which alone can open that civilisation to a
stranger. Things irksome or a heavy burden to the young men of my age,
born and brought up in the French air, were to me, brought up with
Englishmen an Englishman, odious and bewildering. Orders that I but half
comprehended; simple phrases that seemed charged with menace; boasting
(a habit of which I knew little), coupled with a fierce and, as it were,
expected courage that seemed ill suited to boasting--and certainly
unknown outside this army; enormous powers of endurance in men whose
stature my English training had taught me to despise; a habit of
fighting with the fists, coupled with a curious contempt for the
accident of individual superiority--all these things amazed me and put
me into a topsy-turvy world where I was weeks in finding my feet.

But strangest of all, and (as I now especially believe) most pregnant
with meaning for the future, was to find the inherited experience in me
of so much teaching and careful habit--instinct of command, if you
will--all that goes to make what we call in Western Europe a
"gentleman," put at the orders and the occasional insult of a hierarchy
of office, many of whose functionaries were peasants and artisans.
Stripes on the arm, symbols, suddenly became of overwhelming value; what
I had been made with so much care in an English public school was here
thought nothing but a hindrance and an absurdity. This had seemed to me
first a miracle, then a grievous injustice, then most unpractical, and
at last, like one that sees the answer to a riddle, I saw (when I had
long lost my manners and ceased to care for refinements) that the French
were attempting, a generation before any others in the world, to
establish an army that should be a mere army, and in which a living man
counted only as one numbered man.

Whether that experiment will hold or not I cannot tell; it shocks the
refinement of the whole West of Europe; it seems monstrous to the
aristocratic organisation of Germany; it jars in France also with the
traditions of that decent elder class of whom so many still remain to
guide the Republic, and in whose social philosophy the segregation of a
"directing class" has been hitherto a dogma. But soon I cared little
whether that experiment was to succeed or no in its final effort, or
whether the French were to perfect a democracy where wealth has one vast
experience of its own artificiality, or to fail. The intellectual
interest of such an experiment, when once I seized it, drove out every
other feeling.

I became like a man who has thoroughly awaked from a long sleep and
finds that in sleep he has been taken overseas. I merged into the great
system whose wheels and grindings had at first astonished or disgusted
me, and I found that they had made of me what they meant to make. I
cared more for guns than for books; I now obeyed by instinct not men,
but symbols of authority. No comfortable fallacy remained; it no longer
seemed strange that my captain was a man promoted from the ranks; that
one of my lieutenants was an Alsatian charity boy and the other a rich
fellow mixed up with sugar-broking; that the sergeant of my piece should
be a poor young noble, the wheeler of No. 5 a wealthy and very vulgar
chemist's son, the man in the next bed ("my ancient," as they say in
that service) a cook of some skill, and my bombardier a mild young
farmer. I thought only in terms of the artillery: I could judge men from
their aptitude alone, and in me, I suppose, were accomplished many
things--one of Danton's dreams, one of St. Just's prophecies, the
fulfilment also of what a hundred brains had silently determined twenty
years before when the staff gave up their swords outside Metz; the army
and the kind of army of which Chanzy had said in the first breath of the
armistice, "A man who forgets it should be hanged, but a man who speaks
of it before its time should be shot with the honours of his rank."

All this had happened to me in especial in that melting-pot up in the
eastern hills, and to thirty thousand others that year in their separate

In the process things had passed which would seem to you incredible if I
wrote them all down. I cared little in what vessel I ate, or whether I
had to tear meat with my fingers. I could march in reserve more than
twenty miles a day for day upon day. I knew all about my horses; I could
sweep, wash, make a bed, clean kit, cook a little, tidy a stable, turn
to entrenching for emplacement, take a place at lifting a gun or
changing a wheel. I took change with a gunner, and could point well. And
all this was not learnt save under a grinding pressure of authority and
harshness, without which in one's whole life I suppose one would never
properly have learnt a half of these things--at least, not to do them so
readily, or in such unison, or on so definite a plan. But (what will
seem astonishing to our critics and verbalists), with all this there
increased the power, or perhaps it was but the desire, to express the
greatest thoughts--newer and keener things. I began to understand De
Vigny when he wrote, "If a man despairs of becoming a poet, let him
carry his pack and march in the ranks."

Thus the great hills that border the Moselle, the distant frontier, the
vast plain which is (they say) to be a battlefield, and which lay five
hundred feet sheer below me, the far guns when they were practising at
Metz, the awful strength of columns on the march moved me. The sky also
grew more wonderful, and I noticed living things. The Middle Ages, of
which till then I had had but troubling visions, rose up and took flesh
in the old town, on the rare winter evenings when I had purchased the
leisure to leave quarters by some excessive toil. A man could feel
France going by.

It was at the end of these six months, when there was no more darkness
at roll-call, and when the bitter cold (that had frozen us all winter)
was half forgotten, that the spring brought me this excellent news,
earlier than I had dared to expect it--the news that sounds to a recruit
half as good as active service. We were going to march and go off right
away westward over half a dozen horizons, till we could see the real
thing at Chalons, and with this news the world seemed recreated.

Seven times that winter we had been mobilised: four times in the dead of
the night; once at midday, once at evening, and once at dawn. Seven
times we had started down the wide Metz road, hoping in some vague way
that they would do something with us and give us at least some
manoeuvres, and seven times we had marched back to barracks to undo all
that serious packing and to return to routine.

Once, for a week in February, the French and German Governments, or,
more probably, two minor permanent officials, took it into their silly
heads that there was some danger of war. We packed our campaign saddles
every night and put them on the pegs behind the stalls; we had the
emergency rations served out, and for two days in the middle of that
time we had slept ready. But nothing came of it. Now at least we were
off to play a little at the game whose theory we had learnt so wearily.

And the way I first knew it would easily fill a book if it were told as
it should be, with every detail and its meaning unrolled and with every
joy described: as it is, I must put it in ten lines. Garnon (a
sergeant), three others, and I were sent out (one patrol out of fifty)
to go round and see the reserve horses on the farms. That was delight
enough, to have a vigorous windy morning with the clouds large and white
and in a clear sky, and to mix with the first grain of the year, "out of
the loose-box."

We took the round they gave us along the base of the high hills, we got
our papers signed at the different stables, we noted the hoofs of the
horses and their numbers; a good woman at a large farm gave us food of
eggs and onions, and at noon we turned to get back to quarters for the
grooming. Everything then was very well--to have ridden out alone
without the second horse and with no horrible great pole to crush one's
leg, and be free--though we missed it--of the clank of the guns. We felt
like gentlemen at ease, and were speaking grandly to each other, when I
heard Garnon say to the senior of us a word that made things seem better
still, for he pointed out to a long blue line beyond Domremy and
overhanging the house of Joan of Arc, saying that the town lay there.
"What town?" said I to my Ancient; and my Ancient, instead of answering
simply, took five minutes to explain to me how a recruit could not know
that the round of the reserve horses came next before camp, and that
this town away on the western ridge was the first halting-place upon the
road. Then my mind filled with distances, and I was overjoyed, saving
for this one thing, that I had but two francs and a few coppers left,
and that I was not in reach of more.

When we had ridden in, saluted, and reported at the guard, we saw the
guns drawn up in line at the end of the yard, and we went into grooming
and ate and slept, hardly waiting for the morning and the long
regimental call before the réveillé; the notes that always mean the high
road for an army, and that are as old as Fontenoy.

       *       *       *       *       *

That next morning they woke us all before dawn--long before dawn. The
sky was still keen, and there was not even a promise of morning in the
air, nor the least faintness in the eastern stars. They twinkled right
on the edges of the world over the far woods of Lorraine, beyond the
hollow wherein lay the town; it was even cold like winter as we
harnessed; and I remember the night air catching me in the face as I
staggered from the harness-room, with my campaign saddle and the traces
and the girths and the saddle cloth, and all the great weight that I had
to put upon my horses.

We stood in the long stables all together, very hurriedly saddling and
bridling and knotting up the traces behind. A few lanterns gave us an
imperfect light. We hurried because it was a pride to be the first
battery, and in the French service, rightly or wrongly, everything in
the artillery is made for speed, and to speed everything is sacrificed.
So we made ready in the stable and brought our horses out in order
before the guns in the open square of quarters. The high plateau on
which the barracks stood was touched with a last late frost, and the
horses coming out of the warm stables bore the change ill, lifting their
heads and stamping. A man could not leave the leaders for a moment, and,
while the chains were hooked on, even my middle horses were restive and
had to be held. My hands stiffened at the reins, and I tried to soothe
both my beasts, as the lantern went up and down wherever the work was
being done. They quieted when the light was taken round behind by the
tumbrils, where two men were tying on the great sack of oats exactly as
though we were going on campaign.

These two horses of mine were called Pacte and Basilique. Basilique was
saddled; a slow beast, full of strength and sympathy, but stupid and
given to sudden fears. Pacte was the led horse, and had never heard
guns. It was prophesied that when first I should have to hold him in
camp when we were practising he would break everything near him, and
either kill me or get me cells. But I did not believe these prophecies,
having found my Ancient and all third-year men too often to be liars,
fond of frightening the younger recruits. Meanwhile Pacte stood in the
sharp night, impatient, and shook his harness. Everything had been
quickly ordered.

We filed out of quarters, passed the lamp of the guard, and saw huddled
there the dozen or so that were left behind while we were off to better
things. Then a drawn-out cry at the head of the column was caught up all
along its length, and we trotted; the metal of shoes and wheel-rims rang
upon the road, and I felt as a man feels on a ship when it leaves
harbour for great discoveries.

We had climbed the steep bank above St. Martin, and were on the highest
ridge of land dominating the plain, when the sky first felt the approach
of the sun. Our backs were to the east, but the horizon before us caught
a reflection of the dawn; the woods lost their mystery, and one found
oneself marching in a partly cultivated open space with a forest all
around. The road ran straight for miles like an arrow, and stretched
swarmingly along it was the interminable line of guns. But with the full
daylight, and after the sun had risen in a mist, they deployed us out of
column into a wide front on a great heath in the forest, and we halted.
There we brewed coffee, not by batteries, but gun by gun.

Warmed by this little meal, mere coffee without sugar or milk, but with
a hunk left over from yesterday's bread and drawn stale from one's
haversack (the armies of the Republic and of Napoleon often fought all
day upon such sustenance, and even now, as you will see, the French do
not really eat till a march is over--and this may be a great advantage
in warfare)--warmed, I say, by this little meal, and very much refreshed
by the sun and the increasing merriment of morning, we heard the first
trumpet-call and then the shouted order to mount.

We did not form one column again. We went off at intervals, by
batteries; and the reason of this was soon clear, for on getting to a
place where four roads met, some took one and some took another, the
object being to split up the unwieldy train of thirty-six guns, with all
their waggons and forges, into a number of smaller groups, marching by
ways more or less parallel towards the same goal; and my battery was
left separate, and went at last along a lane that ran through pasture
land in a valley.

The villages were already awake, and the mist was all but lifted from
the meadows when we heard men singing in chorus in front of us some way
off. These were the gunners that had left long before us and had gone on
forward afoot. For in the French artillery it is a maxim (for all I
know, common to all others--if other artilleries are wise) that you
should weight your limber (and therefore your horses) with useful things
alone; and as gunners are useful only to fire guns, they are not
carried, save into action or when some great rapidity of movement is
desired. I do, indeed, remember one case when it was thought necessary
to send a group of batteries during the manoeuvres right over from the
left to the right of a very long position which our division was
occupying on the crest of the Argonne. There was the greatest need for
haste, and we packed the gunners on to the limber (there were no seats
on the gun in the old type--there are now) and galloped all the way down
the road, and put the guns in action with the horses still panting and
exhausted by that extra weight carried at such a speed and for such a
distance. But on the march, I say again, we send the gunners forward,
and not only the gunners, but as you shall hear when we come to
Commercy, a reserve of drivers also. We send them forward an hour or
two before the guns start; we catch them up with the guns on the road;
they file up to let us pass, and commonly salute us by way of formality
and ceremony. Then they come into the town of the halt an hour or two
after we have reached it.

So here in this silent and delightful valley, through which ran a river,
which may have been the Meuse or may have been a tributary only, we
caught up our gunners. Their song ceased, they were lined up along the
road, and not till we were passed were they given a little halt and
repose. But when we had gone past with a huge clattering and dust, the
bombardier of my piece, who was a very kindly man, a young farmer, and
who happened to be riding abreast of my horses, pointed them out to me
behind us at a turning in the road. They were taking that five minutes'
rest which the French have borrowed from the Germans, and which comes at
the end of every hour on the march. They had thrown down their knapsacks
and were lying flat taking their ease, I could not long look backwards,
but a very little time after, when we had already gained nearly half a
mile upon them, we again heard the noise of their singing, and knew that
they had reshouldered their heavy packs. And this pack is the same in
every unmounted branch of the service, and is the heaviest thing, I
believe, that has been carried by infantry since the Romans.

It was not yet noon, and extremely hot for the time of year and for the
coldness of the preceding night, when they halted us at a place where
the road bent round in a curve and went down a little hollow. There we
dismounted and cleaned things up a little before getting into the town,
where we were to find what the French call an _étape_; that is, the town
at which one halts at the end of one's march, and the word is also used
for the length of a march itself. It is not in general orders to clean
up in this way before coming in, and there were some commanders who were
never more pleased than when they could bring their battery into town
covered with dust and the horses steaming and the men haggard, for this
they thought to be evidence of a workmanlike spirit. But our colonel had
given very contrary orders, to the annoyance of our captain, a man
risen from the ranks who loved the guns and hated finery.

Then we went at a walk, the two trumpets of the battery sounding the
call which is known among French gunners as "the eighty hunters,"
because the words to it are, "_quatre-vingt, quatre-vingt, quatre-vingt,
quatre-vingt, quatre-vingt, quatre-vingt, quatre-vingt, chasseurs_,"
which words, by their metallic noise and monotony, exactly express the
long call that announces the approach of guns. We went right through the
town, the name of which is Commercy, and the boys looked at us with
pride, not knowing how hateful they would find the service when once
they were in for its grind and hopelessness. But then, for that matter,
I did not know myself with what great pleasure I should look back upon
it ten years after. Moreover, nobody knows beforehand whether he will
like a thing or not; and there is the end of it.

We formed a park in the principal place of the town; there were
appointed two sentinels to do duty until the arrival of the gunners who
should relieve them and mount a proper guard, and then we were marched
off to be shown our various quarters. For before a French regiment
arrives at a town others have ridden forward and have marked in chalk
upon the doors how many men and how many horses are to be quartered here
or there, and my quarters were in a great barn with a very high roof;
but my Ancient, upon whom I depended for advice, was quartered in a
house, and I was therefore lonely.

We groomed our horses, ate our great midday meal, and were free for a
couple of hours to wander about the place. It is a garrison, and, at
that time, it was full of cavalry, with whom we fraternised; but the
experiment was a trifle dangerous, for there is always a risk of a
quarrel when regiments meet as there is with two dogs, or two of any
other kind of lively things.

Then came the evening, and very early, before it was dark, I was asleep
in my clothes in some straw, very warm; but I was so lazy that I had not
even taken off my belt or sword. And that was the end of the first day's


The town of Wisbeach is very like the town of Boston. It stands upon a
river which is very narrow and which curves, and in which there rises
and falls a most considerable tide, and which is bounded by slimy wooden
sides. Here, as at Boston, the boats cannot turn round; if they come in
frontways they have to go out backwards, like Mevagissey bees: an
awkward harbour.

As I sat there in the White Hart, waiting for steak and onions, I read
in a book descriptive of the place that a whale had come to Wisbeach
once, and I considered that a whale coming up to Wisbeach on a tide
would certainly stay there; not indeed for the delights of the town (of
which I say nothing), but because there would be no room to turn round;
and a whale cannot swim backwards. The only fish that can swim backwards
is an eel. This I have proved by observation, and I challenge any
fisherman to deny it.

So much for Wisbeach, which stands upon the River Nene or Nen, which is
the last of the towns defended by the old sea-wall--which is the third
of the Fen ports--the other two being Boston and Lynn, which is served
by two lines of railway and which has two stations.

Very early next morning, and by one of these stations, another man and I
took train to a bridge called Sutton Bridge, where one can cross the
River Nen, and where (according to the map) one can see both the
sea-walls, the old and the new. It was my plan to walk along the shore
of the Wash right across the flats to Lynn, and so at last perhaps
comprehend the nature of this curious land.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I got to Sutton Bridge I discovered it to be a monstrous thing of
iron standing poised upon a huge pivot in mid-stream. It bore the
railway and the road together. It was that kind of triumphant
engineering which once you saw only in England, but which now you will
see all over the world. It was designed to swing open on its central
pivot to let boats go up the River Nen, and then to come back exactly to
its place with a clang; but when we got to it we found it neither one
thing nor the other. It was twisted just so much that the two parts of
the roads (the road on the bridge and the road on land) did not join.

Was a boat about to pass? No. Why was it open thus? A man was cleaning
it. The bridge is not as big as the Tower Bridge, but it is very big,
and the man was cleaning it with a little rag. He was cleaning the under
part, the mechanisms and contraptions that can only be got at when the
bridge is thus ajar. He cleaned without haste and without exertion, and
as I watched him I considered the mightiness of the works of Man
contrasted with His Puny Frame. I also asked him when I should pass, but
he answered nothing.

As we thus waited men gathered upon either side--men of all characters
and kinds, men holding bicycles, men in carts, afoot, on horseback,
vigorous men and feeble, old men, women also and little children, and
youths witless of life, and innocent young girls; they gathered and
increased, they became as numerous as leaves, they stretched out their
hands in a desire for the further shore: but the river ran between.

Then, as being next the gate, I again called out: When might we pass? A
Fenland man who was on duty there doing nothing said, I could pass when
the bridge was shut again. I said: When would that be? He said: Could I
not see that the man was cleaning the bridge? I said that, contrasting
the bridge with him and his little rag, he might go on from now to the
Disestablishment of the English Church before he had done; but as for
me, I desired to cross, and so did all that multitude.

Without grace they shut the bridge for us, the gate opened of itself,
and in a great clamorous flood, like an army released from a siege, we
poured over, all of us, rejoicing into Wringland; for so is called this
flat, reclaimed land, which stands isolated between the Nen and the

       *       *       *       *       *

Was I not right in saying when I wrote about Ely that the corner of a
corner of England is infinite, and can never be exhausted?

Along the cut which takes the Nen out to sea, then across some level
fields, and jumping a ditch or two, one gets to the straight, steep, and
high dyke which protects the dry land and cuts off the plough from the
sea marshes. When I had climbed it and looked out over endless flats to
the sails under the brune of the horizon I understood the Fens.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nowhere that I have been to in the world does the land fade into the sea
so inconspicuously.

The coasts of western England are like the death of a western man in
battle--violent and heroic. The land dares all, and plunges into a noisy
sea. This coast of Eastern England is like the death of one of these
eastern merchants here--lethargic, ill-contented, drugged with ease. The
dry land slips, and wallows into a quiet, very shallow water, confused
with a yellow thickness and brackish with the weight of inland water

I have heard of the great lakes, especially of the marshes at the mouth
of the Volga, in the Caspian, where the two elements are for miles
indistinguishable, and where no one can speak of a shore; but here the
thing is more marvellous, because it is the true sea. You have, I say,
the true sea, with great tides, and bearing ships, and seaports to which
the ships can go; and on the other side you have, inhabited, an ancient
land. There should be a demarcation between them, a tide mark or limit.
There is nothing. You cannot say where one begins and the other ends.
One does not understand the Fens until one has seen that shore.

The sand and the mud commingle. The mud takes on little tufts of salt
grass barely growing under the harsh wind. The marsh is cut and wasted
into little islands covered at every high tide, except, perhaps, the
extreme of the neaps. Down on that level, out from the dyke to the
uncertain line of the water, you cannot walk a hundred yards without
having to cross a channel more or less deep, a channel which the working
of the muddy tides has scoured up into the silt and ooze of the sodden
land. These channels are yards deep in slime, and they ramify like the
twisted shoots of an old vine. Were you to make a map of them as they
engrave this desolate waste it would look like the fine tortuous cracks
that show upon antique enamel, or the wandering of threads blown at
random on a woman's work-table by the wind.

There are miles and miles of it right up to the EMBANKMENT, the great
and old SEA-WALL, which protects the houses of men. You have but to
eliminate that embankment to imagine what the whole countryside must
have been like before it was raised, and the meaning of the Fens becomes
clear to you. The Fens were long ago but the continuation inland of this
sea-morass. The tide channels of the marsh were all of one kind, though
they differed so much in size. Some of these channels were small without
name; some a little larger, and these had a local name; others were a
little larger again, and worthy to be called rivers--the Ouse, the Nen,
the Welland, the Glen, the Witham. But, large or small, they were
nothing, all of them, but the scouring of tide-channels in the light and
sodden slime. It was the high tide that drowned all this land, the low
tide that drained it; and wherever a patch could be found just above the
influence of the tide or near enough to some main channel for the rush
and swirl of the water to drain the island, there the villages grew.
Wherever such a patch could be found men built their first homes.
Sometimes, before men civic, came the holy hermits. But man, religious,
or greedy, or just wandering, crept in after each inundation and began
to tame the water and spread out even here his slow, interminable
conquest. So Wisbeach, so March, so Boston grew, and so--the oldest of
them all--the Isle of Ely.

The nature of the country (a nature at which I had but guessed whenever
before this I had wandered through it, and which I had puzzled at as I
viewed its mere history) was quite clear, now that I stood upon the wall
that fenced it in from the salt water. It was easy to see not only what
judgments had been mistaken, but also in what way they had erred. One
could see why and how the homelessness of the place had been
exaggerated. One could see how the level was just above (not, as in
Holland, below) the mean of the tides. One could discover the manner in
which communication from the open sea was possible. The deeps lead out
through the sand; they are but continuations under water of that
tide-scouring which is the note of all the place inland, and out, far
out, we could see the continuation of the river-beds, and at their
mouths far into the sea, the sails.

A man sounding as he went before the north-east wind was led by force
into the main channels. He was "shepherded" into Lynn River or Wisbeach
River or Boston River, according as he found the water shoaler to one
side or other of his boat. So must have come the first Saxon pirates
from the mainland: so (hundreds of years later) came here our portion of
that swarm of Pagans, which all but destroyed Europe; so centuries
before either of them, in a time of which there is no record, the
ignorant seafaring men from the east and the north must have come right
up into our island, as the sea itself creeps right up into the land
through these curious crevices and draughts in the Fenland wall.

Men--at least the men of our race--have made everything for themselves;
and they will never cease. They continue to extend and possess. It is
not only the architecture; it is the very landscape of Europe which has
been made by Europeans. In what way did we begin to form this difficult
place, which is neither earth nor water, and in which we might have
despaired? It was conquered by human artifice, of course, somewhat as
Frisia and the Netherlands, and, as we may believe, the great bay of the
Cotentin were conquered; but it has certain special characters of its
own, and these again are due to the value in this place of the tides,
and to the absence of those natural dykes of sand which were, a thousand
years ago, the beginnings of Holland.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two methods, working side by side, have from the beginning of human
habitation reclaimed the Fens. The first has been the canalisation, the
fencing in of the tideways; the second has been the banking out of the
general sea. The spring tides covered much of this land, and when they
retired left it drowned. Against their universal advancing sheet of
water a bank could be made. Such a bank cut off the invasion of the
hundreds of runnels, small and great, by which the more ordinary tides
that could not cover the surface had yet crept into the soil and soaked
it through.

When such a bank had been built, gates, as it were, permitted the water
to spend its force and also to use its ebb and flow for the draining of
the land beyond. The gates which let the tide pour up and down the main
ways became the new mouths of the main rivers; inland the courses of the
rivers (which now took all the sea and thus became prodigious) were
carefully guarded. Even before trenches were dug to drain the fields
around, earth was thrown up on either side of the rivers to confine them
each to one permanent channel; nor did the level of the rivers rise, or
their beds gets clogged; the strength of the tide sufficed for the
deepening of their channels. Into the rivers so fortified the other
waterways of the Fens were conducted.

By these methods alone much of the land was rendered habitable and
subject to the plough. Probably these methods were enough to make it all
it was in the Middle Ages. It was only far later, almost in our own
time, that water was gathered by trenches in the lowland beneath the
rivers and pumped out artificially with mills; nor is it quite certain
even now that this method (borrowed from Holland) is the best; for the
land, as I have said, is above and not below the sea.

Of these words, whose tradition is immemorial, the greatest, of course,
are the sea-walls.

Perhaps the river-walls came first, but the great bank which limited
and protected the land against the sea is also older than any history.

It is called Roman, and relics of Rome have been found in it, but it has
not the characteristic of Roman work. It runs upon no regular lines; its
contour is curved and variable. It is surely far older than the Roman
occupation. Earth, heaped and beaten hard, is the most enduring of
things; the tumuli all over England have outlasted even the monoliths,
and the great defensive mounds at Norwich and at Oxford are stronger and
clearer cut than anything that the Middle Ages have left. This bank,
which first made Fenland, still stands most conspicuous. You may follow
it from the Nene above Sutton Bridge right over to Lynn River, and again
northward from Sutton Bridge (or rather, from the ferry above it) right
round _outside_ Long Sutton and Holbeach, and by Forsdyke Bridge and
_outside_ Swyneshead; everywhere it encloses and protects the old
parishes, and everywhere seaward of it the names of the fields mark the
newest of endeavours.

       *       *       *       *       *

We returned from a long wandering upon the desolate edges of the sea to
the bank which we proposed to follow right round to the mouth of the
Ouse: a bank that runs not straight, but in great broken lines, as in
old-fashioned fortification, and from which far off upon the right one
sees the famous churches of the Wringland, far off upon the left a hint
beyond the marshes and the sands of the very distant open sea.

A gale had risen with the morning, and while it invigorated the
travellers in these wastes it seemed to increase their loneliness, for
it broke upon nothing, and it removed the interest of the eye from the
monotonous sad land to the charge and change of the torn sky above, but
in a sense also it impelled us, as though we were sailing before it as
it swept along the edge of the bank and helped us to forget the
interminable hours.

The birds for whom this estuary is a kind of sanctuary and a place of
secure food in all weathers, the birds swept out in great flocks over
the flats towards the sea. They were the only companionship afforded to
us upon this long day, and they had, or I fancied they had, in their
demeanour a kind of contempt for the rare human beings they might see,
as though knowing how little man could do upon those sands. They fed all
together upon the edge of the water, upon the edge of the falling tide,
very far off, making long bands of white that mixed with the tiny
breaking wavelets. Now and then they rose in bodies, and so rising
disappeared; but as they would turn and wheel against the wind, seeking
some other ground, they sent from moment to moment flashes of delicate
and rare light from the great multitude of their wings. I know of
nothing to which one may compare these glimpses of evanescent shining
but these two things--the flash of a sword edge and the rapid turning in
human hands of a diaphanous veil held in the light. It shone or glinted
for a moment, then they would all wheel together and it disappeared.

So, watching them as a kind of marvel, we saw distant across the sea a
faint blue tower, and recognised it for Boston Stump, so many, many
miles away.

But for the birds and this landmark, which never left us, all the length
of the dyke was empty of any sight save the mixing of the sea and the
land. Then gradually the heights in Norfolk beyond grew clearer, a
further shore narrowed the expanse of waters, and we came to the river
mouth of the Ouse, and caught sight, up the stream, of the houses of a


There is a part of Europe of which for the moment most people have not
heard, but which in a few years everybody will know; so it is well worth
telling before it is changed what it is like to-day. It is called the
Cerdagne. It is a very broad valley, stretching out between hills whose
height is so incredible--or at least, whose appearance of height is so
incredible--that when they are properly painted no one will believe them
to be true. Indeed, I know a man who painted them just as they are, and
those who saw the picture said it was fantastic and out of Nature, like
Turner's drawings. But those who had been with him and had seen the
place, said that somehow he had just missed the effect of height.

It is remarkable that in any country, even if one does not know that
country well, what is unusual to the country strikes the traveller at
once. And so it is with the Cerdagne. For all the valleys of the
Pyrenees except this one are built upon the same plan. They are deep
gorges, narrowing in two places to gates or profound corridors, one of
these places being near the crest and one near the plain; and down these
valleys fall violent torrents, and in them there is only room for tiny
villages or very little towns, squeezed in between the sheer surfaces of
the rock or the steep forests.

So it is with the Valley of Laruns, and with that of Meuléon, and with
that of Luz, and with those of the two Bagnères, and with the Val
d'Aran, and with the Val d'Esera, and with the very famous Valley of

With valleys so made the mountains are indeed more awful than they might
be in the Alps: but you never see them standing out and apart, and the
mastering elevation of the Pyrenees is not apprehended until you come to
the cirque or hollow at the end of each valley just underneath the main
ridge; by that time you have climbed so far that you have halved the
height of the barrier.

But the Cerdagne, unlike all the other valleys, is as broad as half a
county, and is full of towns and fields and men and mules and slow
rivulets and corn; so, standing upon either side and looking to the
other, you see all together and in the large its mountain boundaries. It
is like the sight of the Grampians from beyond Strathmore, but very much
more grand. Moreover, as no one has written sufficiently about it to
prepare the traveller for what he is to see (and in attempting to do so
here I am probably doing wrong, but a man must write down what he has
seen), the Cerdagne breaks upon him quite unexpectedly, and his descent
into that wealthy plain is the entry into a new world. He may have
learnt the mountains by heart, as we had, in many stumbling marches and
many nights slept out beneath the trees, and many crossings of the main
chain by those precipitous cols which make the ridge of the Pyrenees
more like a paling than a mountain crest, but though he should know them
thoroughly all the way from the Atlantic for two hundred miles, the
Cerdagne will only appear to him the more astonishing. It renews in any
man however familiar he may be with great mountains, the impressions of
that day when he first saw the distant summits and thought them to be

Apart from all this, the Cerdagne is full of a lively interest, because
it preserves far better than any other Pyrenean valley those two
Pyrenean things--the memory of European history and the intense local
spirit of the Vals.

The memory of European history is to be seen in the odd tricks which the
frontier plays. It was laid down by the commissioners of Mazarin two
hundred and fifty years ago, and instead of following the watershed
(which would leave the Cerdagne all Spanish politically as it is Catalan
by language and position) it crosses the valley from one side to
another, leaving the top end of it and the sources of its rivers under
French control.

That endless debate as to whether race or government will most affect a
people can here be tested, though hardly decided. The villages are
Spanish, the hour of meals is Spanish, and the wine is Spanish wine. But
the clocks keep time, and the streets are swept, and, oddest of all, the
cooking is French cooking. The people are Spanish in that they are slow
to serve you or to find you a mount or to show you the way, but they are
French in that they are punctual in the hour at which they have promised
to do these things; and they are Spanish in the shapes of their ricks
and the nature of their implements, but French in the aspect of their
fields. One might also discuss--it would be most profitable of
all--where they are Spanish and where they are French in their
observance of religion.

This freak which the frontier plays in cutting so united a countryside
into two by an imaginary line is further emphasised by an island of
Spanish territory which has been left stranded, as it were, in the midst
of the valley. It is called Llivia, and is about as large as a large
English country parish, with a small country town in the middle.

One comes across the fields from villages where the signs and villagers
and the very look of the surface of the road are French; one suddenly
notices Spanish soldiers, Spanish signs, and Spanish prices in the
streets of the little place; one leaves it, and in five minutes one is
in France again. It is connected with its own country by a neutral road,
but it is an island of territory all the same, and the reason that it
was so left isolated is very typical of the old regime, with its solemn
legal pedantry, which we in England alone preserve in all Western
Europe. For the treaty which marked the limits here ceded to the French
"the valley and all its villages." The Spaniards pleaded that Llivia was
not a village but a town, and their plea was admitted.

I began by saying that this wide basin of land, with its strong people
and its isolated traditions, though it was so little known to-day, would
soon be too well known. So it will be, and the reason is this, that the
very low pass at one end of it will soon be crossed by a railway. It is
the only low pass in the Pyrenees, and it is so gradual and even (upon
the Spanish side) that the railway will everywhere be above ground.
Within perhaps five years it will be for the Pyrenees what the Brenner
is for the Alps, and when that is done any one who has read this may go
and see for himself whether it is not true that from that plain at
evening the frontier ridge of Andorra seems to be the highest thing in
the world.


Carcassonne differs from other monumental towns in this: that it
preserves exactly the aspect of many centuries up to a certain moment,
and from that moment has "set," and has suffered no further change. You
see and touch, as you walk along its ramparts, all the generations from
that crisis in the fifth century when the public power was finally
despaired of--and after which each group of the Western Empire began to
see to its own preservation--down to that last achievement of the
thirteenth, when medieval civilisation had reached its full flower and
was ready for the decline that followed the death of St. Louis and the
extinction of the German phantasy of empire.

No other town can present so vivid and clean-cut a fossil of the seven
hundred years into which poured and melted all the dissolution of
antiquity, and out of which was formed or chrystallised the highly
specialised diversity of our modern Europe.

In the fascination of extreme age many English sites are richer;
Winchester and Canterbury may be quoted from among a hundred. In the
superimposition of age upon age of human history, Arles and Rome are far
more surprising. In historic continuity most European towns surpass it,
from Paris, whose public justice, worship, and market have kept to the
same site for quite sixteen centuries, to London, of which the city at
least preserves upon three sides the Roman limit. But no town can of its
nature give as does Carcassonne this overwhelming impression of survival
or resurrection.

       *       *       *       *       *

The attitude and position of Carcassonne enforce its character. Up
above the river, but a little set back from the valley, right against
the dawn as you come to it from Toulouse through the morning, stands a
long, steep, and isolated rock, the whole summit of which from the sharp
cliff on the north to that other on the south is doubled in height by
what seems one vast wall--and more than twenty towers. Indeed, it is at
such a time, in early morning, and best in winter when the frost defines
and chisels every outline, that Carcassonne should be drawn. You then
see it in a band of dark blue-grey, all even in texture, serrated and
battlemented and towered, with the metallic shining of the dawn behind

So to have seen it makes it very difficult to write of it or even to
paint; what one wishes to do is rather to work it out in enamel upon a
surface of bronze. This rock, wholly covered with the works of the city,
stands looking at the Pyrenees and holding the only level valley between
the Mediterranean and the Garonne, and even if one had read nothing
concerning it one would understand why it has filled all the legends of
the return of armies from Spain, why Victor Hugo could not rest from the
memory of it, and why it is so strongly woven in with the story of

There is another and better reason for the quality of Carcassonne, and
that is the act, to which I can recall no perfect parallel in Christian
history, by which St. Louis turned what had been a living town into a
mere stronghold. Every inhabitant of Carcassonne was transferred, not to
suburbs, but right beyond the river, a mile and more away, to the site
of that delightful town which is the Carcassonne of maps and railways,
the place where the seventeenth century meets you in graceful ornaments,
and where is, to my certain knowledge, the best inn south of parallel
45. St. Louis turned the rock into a mere stronghold, strengthened it,
built new towers, and curtained them into that unsurpassable masonry of
the central Middle Ages which you may yet admire in Aigues-Mortes and in

This political act, the removal of a whole city, may have been
accomplished in many other places; it is certainly recorded of many:
but, for the moment at least, I can remember none except Carcassonne in
which its consequences have remained. To this many causes have
contributed, but chiefly this, that the new town was transferred to the
open plain from the trammels of a narrow plateau, just at the moment
when all the towns of Western Europe were growing and breaking their
bonds; just after the principal cities of north-western Europe had got
their charters, and when Paris (the typical municipality of that age as
of our own) was trebling its area and its population.

The transference of the population once accomplished, the rock and
towers of Carcassonne ceased to change and to grow. Humanity was gone.
The fortress was still of great value in war; the Black Prince attempted
its destruction, and it is only within living memory that it ceased to
be set down on maps (and in Government offices!) as a fortified place:
but the necessity for immediate defence, and the labour which would have
remodelled it, had disappeared. There had disappeared also that eager
and destructive activity which accompanies any permanent gathering of
French families. The new town on the plain changed perpetually, and is
changing still. It has lost almost everything of the Middle Ages; it
carries, by a sort of momentum, a flavour of Louis XIV, but the masons
are at it as they are everywhere, from the Channel to the Mediterranean;
for to pull down and rebuild is the permanent recreation of the French.
The rock remains. It is put in order whenever a stone falls out of
place--no one of weight has talked nonsense here against restoration,
for the sense of the past is too strong--but though it is minutely and
continually repaired, Old Carcassonne does not change. There is no other
set of walls in Europe of which this is true.

       *       *       *       *       *

Walking round the circuit of these walls and watching from their height
the long line of the mountains, one is first held by that modern
subject, the landscape, or that still more modern fascination of great
hills. Next one feels what the Middle Ages designed of mass and weight
and height, and wonders by what accident of the mind they so succeeded
in suggesting infinity: one remembers Beauvais, which is infinitely high
at evening, and the tower of Portrut, which seems bigger than any hill.

But when these commoner emotions are passed, one comes upon a very
different thing. A little tower there, jutting out perilously from the
wall, shows three courses of a _small red brick_ set in a mortar-like
stone. When I saw this kind of building I went close up and touched it
with my hand. It was Roman. I knew the signal well. I had seen that
brick, and picked it loose from an Arab stable on the edge of the
Sahara, and I had seen it jutting through moss on the high moors of
Northumberland. I know a man who reverently brought home to Sussex such
another, which he had found unbroken far beyond Damascus upon the Syrian

It is easy to speak of the Empire and to say that it established its
order from the Tyne to the Euphrates; but when one has travelled alone
and on foot up and down the world and seen its vastness and its
complexity, and yet everywhere the unity even of bricks in their
courses, then one begins to understand the name of Rome.


Every man that lands in Lynn feels all through him the antiquity and the
call of the town; but especially if he comes, as I came in with another
man in springtime, from the miles and miles of emptiness and miles of
bending grass and the shouting of the wind. After that morning, in which
one had been a little point on an immense plane, with the gale not only
above one, as it commonly is, but all around one as it is at sea; and
after having steeped one's mind in the peculiar loneliness which haunts
a stretch of ill-defined and wasted shore, the narrow, varied, and
unordered streets of the port enhance the creations of man and emphasise
his presence.

Words so few are necessarily obscure. Let me expand them. I mean that
the unexpected turning of the ways in such a port is perpetually
revealing something new; that the little spaces frame, as it were, each
unexpected sight: thus at the end of a street one will catch a patch of
the Fens beyond the river, a great moving sail, a cloud, or the
sculptured corner of an excellent house.

The same history also that permitted continual encroachment upon the
public thoroughfares and that built up a gradual High Street upon the
line of some cow-track leading from the fields to the ferry, the spirit
that everywhere permitted the powerful or the cunning to withstand
authority--that history (which is the history of all our little English
towns) has endowed Lynn with an endless diversity.

It is not only that the separate things in such towns are delightful,
nor only that one comes upon them suddenly, but also that these separate
things are so many. They have characters as men have. There is nothing
of that repetition which must accompany the love of order and the
presence of strong laws. The similar insistent forms which go with a
strong civilisation, as they give it majesty, so they give it also
gloom, and a heavy feeling of finality: these are quite lacking here in
England, where the poor have for so long submitted to the domination of
the rich, and the rich have dreaded and refused a central government.
Everything that goes with the power of individuals has added peculiarity
and meaning to all the stones of Lynn. Moreover, a quality whose absence
all men now deplore was once higher in England than anywhere else, save,
perhaps, in the northern Italian hills. I mean ownership, and what comes
from ownership--the love of home.

You can see the past effect of ownership and individuality in Lynn as
clearly as you can catch affection or menace in a human voice. The
outward expression is most manifest, and to pass in and out along the
lanes in front of the old houses inspires in one precisely those
emotions which are aroused by a human crowd.

All the roofs of Lynn and all its pavements are worthy (as though they
were living beings) of individual names.

Along the river shore, from the race of the ebb that had so nearly
drowned me many years before, I watched the walls that mark the edge of
the town against the Ouse, and especially that group towards which the
ferry-boat was struggling against the eddy and tumble of the tide.

They were walls of every age, not high, brick of a dozen harmonious
tones, with the accidents, corners, and breaches of perhaps seven
hundred years. Beyond, to the left, down the river, stood the masts in
the new docks that were built to preserve the trade of this difficult
port. Up-river, great new works of I know not what kind stood like a
bastion against the plain; and in between ran these oldest bits of Lynn,
somnolescent and refreshing--permanent.

The lanes up from the Ouse when I landed I found to be of a slow and
natural growth, with that slight bend to them that comes, I believe,
from the drying of fishing-nets. For it is said that courts of this
kind grew up in our sea-towns all round our eastern and the southern
coast in such a manner. It happened thus.

The town would begin upon the highest of the bank, for it was flatter
for building, drier and easier to defend than that part next to the
water. Down from the town to the shore the fishermen would lay out their
nets to dry. How nets look when they are so laid, their narrowness and
the curve they take, everybody knows. Then on the spaces between the
nets shanties would be built, or old boats turned upside down for
shelter, so that the curing of fish and the boiling of tar and the
serving and parcelling of ropes could be done under cover. Then as the
number of people grew, the squatters' land got value, and houses were
raised (you will find many small freeholds in such rows to this day),
but the lines of the net remained in the alley-ways between the houses.

All this I was once told by an old man who helped me to take my boat
down Breydon. He wore trousers of a brick red, and the stuff of them as
thick as boards, and had on also a very thick jersey and a cap of fur.
He was shaved upon his lips and chin, but all round the rest of his face
was a beard. He smoked a tiny pipe, quite black, and upon matters within
his own experience he was a great liar; but upon matters of tradition I
was willing to believe him.

Within the town, when I had gained it from that lane which has been the
ferry-lane, I suppose, since the ferry began, age and distinction were

Where else, thought I, in England could you say that nine years would
make no change? Whether, indeed, the Globe had that same wine of the
nineties I could not tell, for the hour was not congenial to wine; but
if it has some store of its Burgundy left from those days it must be
better still by now, for Burgundy wine takes nine years to mature, for
nine years remains in the plenitude of its powers, and for nine years
more declines into an honourable age; and this is also true of claret,
but in claret it goes by sevens.

       *       *       *       *       *

The open square of the town, which one looks at from the Globe, gives
one a mingled pleasure of reminiscence and discovery. It breaks on one
abruptly. It is as wide as the pasture field, and all the houses are
ample and largely founded. Indeed, throughout this country,
elbow-room--the sense that there is space enough and to spare in such
flats and under an open sky--has filled the minds of builders. You may
see it in all the inland towns of the Fens; and one found it again here
upon the further bank, upon the edge of the Fens; for though Lynn is
just off the Fens, yet it looks upon their horizon and their sky, and
belongs to them in spirit.

In this large and comfortable square a very steadfast and most
considerable English bank is to be discovered. It is of honest brown
brick! its architecture is of the plainest; its appearance is such that
its credit could never fail, and that the house alone by its presence
could conduct a dignified business for ever. The rooms in it are so many
and so great that the owners of such a bank (having become princes by
its success) could inhabit them with a majesty worthy of their new
title. But who lives above his shop since Richardson died? And did old
Richardson? Lord knows!... Anyhow, the bank is glorious, and it is but
one of the fifty houses that I saw in Lynn.

Thus, in the same street as the Globe, was a façade of stone. If it was
Georgian, it was very early Georgian, for it was relieved with ornaments
of a delicate and accurate sort, and the proportions were exactly
satisfying to the eye that looked on it. The stone also was of that kind
(Portland stone, I think) which goes black and white with age, and which
is better suited than any other to the English climate.

In another house near the church I saw a roof that might have been a
roof for a town. It covered the living part and the stables, and the
outhouse and the brewhouse, and the barns, and for all I know the
pig-pens and the pigeons' as well. It was a benediction of a roof--a
roof traditional, a roof patriarchal, a roof customary, a roof of
permanence and unity, a roof that physically sheltered and spiritually
sustained, a roof majestic, a roof eternal. In a word, it was a roof

And what, thought I, is paid yearly in this town for such a roof as
that? I do not know; but I know of another roof at Goudhurst, in Kent,
which would have cost me less than £100 a year, only I could not get it
for love or money.

Then is also in Lynn a Custom House not very English, but very
beautiful. The faces carved upon it were so vivid that I could not but
believe them to have been carved in the Netherlands, and from this
Custom House looks down the pinched, unhappy face of that narrow
gentleman whom the great families destroyed--James II.

There is also in Lynn what I did not know was to be seen out of
Sussex--a Tudor building of chipped flints, and on it the mouldering
arms of Elizabeth.

The last Gothic of this Bishop's borough which the King seized from the
Church clings to chance houses in little carven masks and occasional
ogives: there is everywhere a feast for whatever in the mind is curious,
searching, and reverent, and over the town, as over all the failing
ports of our silting eastern seaboard, hangs the air of a great past
time, the influence of the Baltic and the Lowlands.

       *       *       *       *       *

For these ancient places do not change, they permit themselves to stand
apart and to repose and--by paying that price--almost alone of all
things in England they preserve some historic continuity, and satisfy
the memories in one's blood.

       *       *       *       *       *

So having come round to the Ouse again, and to the edge of the Fens at
Lynn, I went off at random whither next it pleased me to go.


I had slept perhaps seven hours when a lantern woke me, flashed in my
face, and I wondered confusedly why there was straw in my bed; then I
remembered that I was not in bed at all, but on manoeuvres. I looked up
and saw a sergeant with a bit of paper in his hand. He was giving out
orders, and the little light he carried sparkled on the gold of his
great dark-blue coat.

"You, the Englishman," he said (for that was what they called me as a
nickname), "go with the gunners to-day. Where is Labbé?"

Labbé (that man by profession a cook, by inclination a marquis, and now
by destiny a very good driver of guns) the day before had gone on foot.
To-day he was to ride. I pointed him out where he still lay sleeping.
The sergeant stirred him about with his foot, and said, "Pacte and
Basilique"; and Labbé grunted. In this simple way every one knew his
duty--Labbé that he had another hour's sleep and more, and that he was
to take my horses: I, that I must rise and get off to the square.

Then the sergeant went out of the barn, cursing the straw on his spurs,
and I lit a match and brushed down my clothes and ran off to the square.
It was not yet two in the morning.

The gunners were drawn up in a double line, and we reserve drivers stood
separate (there were only a dozen of us), and when they formed fours we
were at the tail. There was a lieutenant with us and a sergeant, also
two bombardiers--all mounted; and so we went off, keeping step till we
were out of the town, and then marching as we chose and thanking God for
the change. For it is no easy matter for drivers to march with gunners;
their swords impede them, and though the French drivers have not the
ridiculous top-boots that theatricalise other armies, yet even their
simple boots are not well suited for the road.

This custom of sending forward reserve drivers on foot, in rotation, has
a fine name to it. It is called "Haut-le-pied," "High-the-foot," and
must therefore be old.

A little way out of the town we had leave to sing, and we began, all
together, one of those long and charming songs with which the French
soldiery make-believe to forget the tedium of the road and the hardship
of arms.

Now, if a man desired to answer once and for all those pedants who
refuse to understand the nature of military training (both those who
make a silly theatre-show of it and those who make it hideous and
diabolical), there could be no better way than to let him hear the songs
of soldiers. In the French service, at least, these songs are a whole
expression of the barrack-room; its extreme coarseness, its steady and
perpetual humour, its hatred of the hard conditions of discipline; and
also these songs continually portray the distant but delightful picture
of things--I mean of things rare and far off--which must lie at the back
of men's minds when they have much work to do with their hands and much
living in the open air and no women to pour out their wine.

Moreover, these songs have another excellent quality. They show all
through that splendid unconsciousness of the soldier, that inability in
him to see himself from without, or to pose as civilians always think
and say he poses.

We sang that morning first, the chief and oldest of the songs. It dates
from the Flemish wars of Louis XIV, and is called "Auprès de ma Blonde."
Every one knows the tune. Then we sang "The Song of the Miller," and
then many other songs, each longer than the last. For these songs, like
other lyrics, have it for an object to string out as many verses as
possible in order to kill the endless straight roads and the weariness.

We had need to sing. No sun rose, but the day broke over an ugly plain
with hardly any trees, and that grey and wretched dawn came in with a
cold and dispiriting rain unrefreshed by wind. Colson, who was a foolish
little man (the son of a squire), marching by my side, wondered where
and how we should be dried that day. The army was for ever producing
problems for Colson, and I was often his comforter. He liked to talk to
me and hear about England, and the rich people and their security, and
how they never served as soldiers (from luxury), and how (what he could
not understand) the poor had a bargain struck with them by the rich
whereby they also need not serve. I could learn from him the meaning of
many French words which I did not yet know. He had some little
education; had I asked the more ignorant men of my battery, they would
only have laughed, but he had read, in common books, of the differences
between nations, and could explain many things to me.

Colson, then, complaining of the rain, and wondering where he should get
dried, I told him to consider not so much the happy English, but rather
his poor scabbard and how he should clean it after the march, and his
poor clothes, all coated with mud, and needing an hour's brushing, and
his poor temper, which, if he did not take great care, would make him
grow up to be an anti-militarist and a byword.

So we wrangled, and it still rained. Our songs grew rarer, and there was
at last no noise but the slush of all those feet beating the muddy road,
and the occasional clank of metal as a scabbard touched some other
steel, or a slung carbine struck the hilt of a bayonet. It was well on
in the morning when the guns caught us up and passed us; the drivers all
shrouded in their coats and bending forward in the rain; the guns coated
and splashed with thick mud, and the horses also threatened hours of
grooming. I looked mine up and down as Labbé passed on them, and I
groaned, for it is a rule that a man grooms his own horses whether he
has ridden them or no, and after all, day in and day out, it works fair.
The guns disappeared into the mist of rain, and we went on through more
hours of miserable tramping, seeing no spire ahead of us, and unable to
count on a long halt.

Still, as we went, I noticed that we were on some great division,
between provinces perhaps, or between river valleys, for in France there
are many bare upland plateaus dividing separate districts; and it is a
feature of the country that the districts so divided have either formed
separate provinces in the past or, at any rate (even if they have not
had political recognition), have stood, and do still stand, for separate
units in French society. It was more apparent with every mile as we went
on that we were approaching new things. The plain was naked save for
rare planted trees, and here and there, a long way off (on the horizon,
it seemed) a farm or two, unprotected and alone.

The rain ceased, and the steady grey sky broke a little as we marched
on, still in silence, and by this time thirsty and a little dazed. A
ravine opened in a bare plateau, and we saw that it held a little
village. They led us into it, down a short steep bit of road, and lined
us up by a great basin of sparkling water, and every man was mad to
break ranks and drink; but no one dared. The children of the village
gathered in a little group and looked at us, and we envied their
freedom. When we had stood thus for a quarter of an hour or so, an
orderly came riding in all splashed, and his horse's coat rough with the
rain and steaming up into the air. He came up to the lieutenant in
command and delivered an order; then he rode away fast northward along
the ravine and out of the village. The lieutenant, when he had gone,
formed us into a little column, and we, who had expected to dismiss at
any moment, were full of anger, and were sullen to find that by some
wretched order or other we had to take another hour of the road: first
we had to go back four miles along the road we had already come, and
then to branch off perpendicular to our general line of march, and (as
it seemed to us) quite out of our way.

It is a difficult thing to move a great mass of men through a desolate
country by small units and leave them dependent on the country, and it
is rather wonderful that they do it so neatly and effect the junctions
so well; but the private soldier, who stands for those little black
blocks on the military map, has a boy's impatience in him; and a very
wise man, if he wishes to keep an army in spirit, will avoid
counter-marching as much as he can, for--I cannot tell why--nothing
takes the heart out of a man like having to plod over again the very way
he has just come. So, when we had come to a very small village in the
waste and halted there, finding our guns and drivers already long
arrived, we made an end of a dull and meaningless day--very difficult to
tell of, because the story is merely a record of fatigue. But in a diary
of route everything must be set down faithfully; and so I have set down
all this sodden and empty day.

That night I sat at a peasant's table and heard my four
stable-companions understanding everything, and evidently in their world
and at home, although they were conscripts. This turned me silent, and I
sat away from the light, looking at the fire and drying myself by its
logs. As I heard their laughter I remembered Sussex and the woods above
Arun, and I felt myself to be in exile. Then we slept in beds, and the
goodwife had our tunics dry by morning, for she also had a son in the
service, who was a long way off at Lyons, and was not to return for two

       *       *       *       *       *

There are days in a long march when a man is made to do too much, and
others when he is made to do what seems meaningless, doubling backward
on his road, as we had done; there are days when he seems to advance
very little; but they are not days of repose, for they are full of
halting and doubts and special bits of work. Such a day had come to us
with the next dawn.

The reason of all these things--I mean, of the over-long marches, of the
counter-marches, and of the short days--was the complexity of the only
plan by which a great number of men and guns can be taken from one large
place to another without confusion by the way--living, as they must do,
upon the country, and finding at the end of every march water and hay
for the horses, food and some kind of shelter for the men. And this
plan, as I have said before, consists (in a European country) in
dividing your force, marching by roads more or less parallel, and
converging, after some days, on the object of the march.

It is evident that in a somewhat desolate region of small and distant
hamlets the front will be broader and the columns smaller, but when a
large town stands in the line of march, advantage will be taken of it to
mass one's men.

Such a town was Bar-le-Duc, and it was because our battery was so near
to it that this fourth day was a short march of less than eight miles.

They sent the gunners in early; we drivers started later than usual, and
the pace was smart at first under a happy morning sun, but still around
us were the bare fields, all but treeless, and the road was part of the
plain, not divided by hedges. The bombardier trotted by my side and told
me of the glories of Rheims, which was his native town. He was a mild
man, genial and good, and little apt for promotion. He interlarded his
conversation with official remarks to show a zeal he never felt, telling
one man that his tracks were slack, and another that his led-horse was
shirking, and after each official remark he returned up abeam of me to
tell me more of the riches and splendour of Rheims. He chose me out for
this favour because I already knew the countryside of the upper
Champagne, and had twice seen his city. He promised me that when we got
our first leave from camp he would show me many sights in the town; but
this he said hoping that I would pay for the entertainment, as indeed I

We did not halt, nor did we pass the gunners that morning; but when we
had gone about four miles or so the road began to descend through a wide
gully, and we saw before us the secluded and fruitful valley of the
Meuse. It is here of an even width for miles, bounded by regular low
hills. We were coming down the eastern wall of that valley, and on the
parallel western side a similar height, with similar ravines and
gullies leading down to the river, bounded our narrow view. I caught the
distant sound of trumpets up there beyond us, and nearer was the
unmistakable rumble of the guns. The clatter of horses below in the
valley road and the shouting of commands were the signs that the
regiment was meeting. The road turned. On a kind of platform, just
before it joined the main highway, a few feet above it, we halted to
wait our order--and we saw the guns go by!

Only half the regiment was to halt at Bar-le-Duc. But six batteries,
thirty-six guns, their men, horses, apparatus, forges, and waggons
occupying and advancing in streams over a valley are a wonderful sight.
Clouds of dust and the noise of the metal woke the silent places of the
Meuse, and sometimes river birds would rise and wheel in the air as the
clamour neared them. Far off a lonely battery was coming down the
western slope to join the throng in its order, and for some reason their
two trumpets were still playing the march and lending to this great
display the unity of music. We dismounted and watched from the turf of
the roadside a pageant which the accident of an ordered and servile life
afforded us; for it is true of armies that the compensation of their
drudgery and miserable subjection is the continual opportunity of these
large emotions; and not only by their vastness and arrangement, but by
the very fact that they merge us into themselves, do armies widen the
spirit of a man and give it communion with the majesty of great numbers.
One becomes a part of many men.

The seventh battery, with which we had little to do (for in quarters
they belonged to the furthest corner from our own), first came by and
passed us, with that interminable repetition of similar things which is
the note of a force on the march, and makes it seem like a river
flowing. We recognised it by the figure of one Chevalier, a major
attached to them. He was an absent-minded man of whom many stories were
told--kindly, with a round face; and he wore eyeglasses, either for the
distinction they afforded or because he was short of sight. The seventh
passed us, and their forge and waggon ended the long train. A
regulation space between them and the next allowed the dust to lie a
little, and then the ninth came by; we knew them well, because in
quarters they were our neighbours. At their head was their captain,
whose name was Levy. He was a Jew, small, very sharp-featured, and a man
who worked astonishingly hard. He was very popular with his men, and his
battery was happy and boasted. He cared especially for their food, and
would go into their kitchen daily to taste the soup. He was also a
silent man. He sat his horse badly, bent and crouched, but his eyes were
very keen; and he again was a character of whom the men talked and told
stories. I believe he was something of a mathematician; but we knew
little of such things where our superiors were concerned.

As the ninth battery passed us we were given the order to mount, and
knew that our place came next. The long-drawn _Ha-a-lte!_ and the lifted
swords down the road contained for a while the batteries that were to
follow, and we filed out of our side road into the long gap they had
left us. Then, taking up the trot, ourselves, we heard the order passing
down infinitely till it was lost in the length of the road; the trumpets
galloped past us and formed at the head of the column; a much more
triumphant noise of brass than we had yet heard heralded us with a kind
of insolence, and the whole train with its two miles and more of noisy
power gloried into the old town of Bar-le-Duc, to the great joy of its
young men and women at the windows, to the annoyance of the
householders, to the stupefaction of the old, and doubtless to the
ultimate advantage of the Republic.

When we had formed park in the grey market-square, ridden our horses off
to water at the river and to their quarters, cleaned kit and harness,
and at last were free--that is, when it was already evening--Matthieu, a
friend of mine who had come by another road with his battery, met me
strolling on the bridge. Matthieu was of my kind, he had such a lineage
as I had and such an education. We were glad to meet. He told me of his
last halting-place--Pagny--hidden on the upper river. It is the place
where the houses of Luxembourg were buried, and some also of the great
men who fell when Henry V of England was fighting in the North, and when
on this flank the Eastern dukes were waging the Burgundian wars. It was
not the first time that the tumult of men in arms had made echoes along
the valley. Matthieu and I went off together to dine. He lent me a pin
of his, a pin with a worked head, to pin my tunic with where it was
torn, and he begged me to give it back to him. But I have it still, for
I have never seen him since; nor shall I see him, nor he me, till the
Great Day.


Of the complexity of the sea, and of how it is manifold, and of how it
mixes up with a man, and may broaden or perfect him, it would be very
tempting to write; but if one once began on this, one would be immeshed
and drowned in the metaphysic, which never yet did good to man nor
beast. For no one can eat or drink the metaphysic, or take any
sustenance out of it, and it has no movement or colour, and it does not
give one joy or sorrow; one cannot paint it or hear it, and it is too
thin to swim about in. Leaving, then, all these general things, though
they haunt me and tempt me, at least I can deal little by little and
picture by picture with that sea which is perpetually in my mind, and
let those who will draw what philosophies they choose. And the first
thing I would like to describe is that of a place called the Looe
Stream, through which in a boat only the other day I sailed for the
first time, noticing many things. When St. Wilfrid went through those
bare heaths and coppices, which were called the forest of Anderida, and
which lay all along under the Surrey Downs, and through which there was
a long, deserted Roman road, and on this road a number of little brutish
farms and settlements (for this was twelve hundred years ago), he came
out into the open under the South Downs, and crossed my hills and came
to the sea plain, and there he found a kind of Englishman more savage
than the rest, though Heaven knows there were none of them particularly
refined or gay. From these Englishmen the noble people of Sussex are

Already the rest of England had been Christian a hundred years when St.
Wilfrid came down into the sea plain, and found, to his astonishment,
this sparse and ignorant tribe. They were living in the ruins of the
Roman palaces; they were too stupid to be able to use any one of the
Roman things they had destroyed. They had kept, perhaps, some few of the
Roman women, certainly all the Roman slaves. They had, therefore, vague
memories of how the Romans tilled the land.

But those memories were getting worse and worse, for it was nearly two
hundred years since the ships of Aella had sailed into Shoreham (which
showed him to be a man of immense determination, for it is a most
difficult harbour, and there were then no piers and lights)--it was
nearly two hundred years, and there was only the least little glimmering
twilight left of the old day. These barbarians were going utterly to
pieces, as barbarians ever will when they are cut off from the life and
splendour of the south. They had become so cretinous and idiotic, that
when St. Wilfrid came wandering among them they did not know how to get
food. There was a famine, and as their miserable religion, such as it
was (probably it was very like these little twopenny-halfpenny modern
heresies of their cousins, the German pessimists)--their religion, I
say, not giving them the jolly energy which all decent Western religion
gives a man, they being also by the wrath of God deprived of the use of
wine (though tuns upon tuns of it were waiting for them over the sea a
little way off, but probably they thought their horizon was the end of
the world)--their religion, I say, being of this nature, they had
determined, under the pressure of that famine which drove them so hard,
to put an end to themselves, and St. Wilfrid saw them tying themselves
together in bands (which shows that they knew at least how to make rope)
and jumping off the cliffs into the sea. This practice he determined to

He went to their King--who lived in Chichester, I suppose, or possibly
at Bramber--and asked him why the people were going on in this fashion,
who said to him: "It is because of the famine."

St. Wilfrid, shrugging his shoulders, said: "Why do they not eat fish?"

"Because," said the King, "fish, swimming about in the water, are
almost impossible to catch. We have tried it in our hunger a hundred
times, but even when we had the good luck to grasp one of them, the
slippery thing would glide from our fingers."

St. Wilfrid then in some contempt said again:

"Why do you not make nets?"

And he explained the use of nets to the whole Court, preaching, as it
were, a sermon upon nets to them, and craftily introducing St. Peter and
that great net which they hang outside his tomb in Rome upon his feast
day--which is the 29th of June. The King and his Court made a net and
threw it into the sea, and brought out a great mass of fish. They were
so pleased that they told St. Wilfrid they would do anything he asked.
He baptised them and they made him their first bishop; and he took up
his residence in Selsey, and since then the people of Sussex have gone
steadily forward, increasing in every good thing, until they are now by
far the first and most noble of all the people in the world.

There is I know not what in history, or in the way in which it is
taught, which makes people imagine that it is something separate from
the life they are living, and because of this modern error, you may very
well be wondering what on earth this true story of the foundation of our
country has to do with the Looe Stream. It has everything to do with it.
The sea, being governed by a pagan god, made war at once, and began
eating up all those fields which had specially been consecrated to the
Church, civilisation, common sense, and human happiness. It is still
doing so, and I know an old man who can remember a forty-acre field all
along by Clymping having been eaten up by the sea; and out along past
Rustington there is, about a quarter of a mile from the shore, a rock,
called the Church Rock, the remains of a church which quite a little
time ago people used for all the ordinary purposes of a church.

The sea then began to eat up Selsey. Before the Conquest--though I
cannot remember exactly when--the whole town had gone, and they had to
remove the cathedral to Chichester. In Henry VIII's time there was still
a park left out of the old estates, a park with trees in it; but this
also the sea has eaten up; and here it is that I come to the Looe
Stream. The Looe Stream is a little dell that used to run through the
park, and which to-day,--right out at sea, furnishes the only gate by
which ships can pass through the great maze of banks and rocks which go
right out to sea from Selsey Bill, miles and miles, and are called the

On the chart that district is still called "The Park," and at very low
tides stumps of the old trees can be seen; and for myself I believe,
though I don't think it can be proved, that in among the masses of sand
and shingle which go together to make the confused dangers of the Owers,
you would find the walls of Roman palaces, and heads of bronze and
marble, and fragments of mosaic and coins of gold.

The tide coming up from the Channel finds, rising straight out of the
bottom of the sea, the shelf of this old land, and it has no avenue by
which to pour through save this Looe Stream, which therefore bubbles and
runs like a mill-race, though it is in the middle of the sea.

If you did not know what was underneath you, you could not understand
why this river should run separate from the sea all round, but when you
have noticed the depths on the chart, you see a kind of picture in your
mind: the wall of that old mass of land standing feet above the floor of
the Channel, and the top of what was once its fields and its villas, and
its great church almost awash at low tides, and through it a cleft,
which was, I say, a dell in the old park, but is now that Looe Stream
buoyed up on either side, and making a river by itself running in the

Sailing over it, and remembering all these things at evening, I got out
of the boil and tumble into deep water. It got darker, and the light on
the _Nab_ ship showed clearly a long way off, and purple against the
west stood the solemn height of the island. I set a course for this
light, being alone at the tiller, while my two companions slept down
below. When the night was full the little variable air freshened into a
breeze from the south-east; it grew stronger and stronger, and lifted
little hearty following seas, and blowing on my quarter drove me
quickly to the west, whither I was bound. The night was very warm and
very silent, although little patches of foam murmured perpetually, and
though the wind could be heard lightly in the weather shrouds.

The star Jupiter shone brightly just above my wake, and over Selsey
Bill, through a flat band of mist, the red moon rose slowly, enormous.


Sitting one day in Pampeluna, which occupies the plain just below the
southern and Spanish escarpment of the Pyrenees, I and another
remembered with an equal desire that we had all our lives desired to see
Roncesvalles and the place where Roland died. This town (we said) was
that which Charlemagne destroyed upon his march to the Pass, and I, for
my part, desired here, as in every other part of Europe where I had been
able to find his footsteps, to follow them, and so to re-create his

The road leads slantwise through the upper valleys of Navarre, crossing
by passes the various spurs of the mountains, but each pass higher than
the last and less frequented, for each is nearer the main range. As you
leave Pampeluna the road grows more and more deserted, and the country
through which it cuts more wild. The advantages of wealth which are
conferred by the neighbourhood of the capital of Navarre are rapidly
lost as one proceeds; the houses grow rarer, the shrines more ruinous
and more aged, until one comes at last upon the bleak valley which
introduces the final approach to Roncesvalles.

The wealth and order everywhere associated with the Basque blood have
wholly disappeared. This people is not receding--it holds its own, as it
deserves to do; but as there are new fields which it has occupied within
the present century upon the more western hills, so there are others to
the east, and this valley among them, from whence it has disappeared.
The Basque names remain, but the people are no longer of the Basque
type, and the tongue is forgotten.

So gradual is the ascent and so continual the little cols which have to
be surmounted, that a man does not notice how much upward he is being
led towards the crest of the ridge. And when he comes at last upon the
grove from which he sees the plateau of Roncesvalles spread before him,
he wonders that the chain of the Pyrenees (which here lie out along in
cliffs like sharp sunward walls, stretching in a strict perspective to
the distant horizon) should seem so low. The reason that this white wall
of cliffs seems so low is that the traveller is standing upon the last
of a series of great steps which have led him up towards the frontier,
much as the prairie leads one up towards the Rockies in Colorado. When
he has passed through the very pleasant wood which lies directly beneath
the cliffs, and reaches the little village of Roncesvalles itself, he
wonders still more that so famous a pass should be so small a thing. The
pass from this side is so broad, with so low a saddle of grass, that it
seems more like the crossing of the Sussex Downs than the crossing of an
awful range of mountains. It is a rounded gap, up to which there lifts a
pretty little wooded combe; and no one could be certain, during the
half-hour spent in climbing such a petty summit, that he was, in so
climbing, conquering Los Altos, the high Pyrenees.

But when the summit is reached, then the meaning of the "_Imus
Pyrenaeus_," and the place that passage has taken in history, is
comprehended in a moment. One sees at what a height one was in that
plain of Roncesvalles, and one sees how the main range dominates the
world; for down below one an enormous cleft into the stuff of the
mountains falls suddenly and almost sheer, and you see unexpectedly
beneath you the approach from France into Spain. The gulf at its
narrowest is tremendous; but, more than that, when the floor of the
valley is reached, that floor itself slopes away down and down by runs
and by cascades towards the very distant plains of the north, upon which
the funnel debouches. Moreover, it was up this gulf, and from the north,
that the armies came; it was this vision of a precipice that seized them
when their leaders had determined to invade the Peninsula. This also
was what, for so many generations, so many wanderers must have seen who
came to wonder at the place where the rearguard of Charlemagne had been

The whole of the slope is covered with an ancient wood, and this wood is
so steep that it would be impossible or dangerous to venture down it.
The old Carolingian road skirts the mountain-side with difficulty,
clinging well up upon its flank; the great modern road, which is
excellent and made for artillery, has to go even nearer the summit;
below them there falls away a slant or edge to which the huge beech
trees cling almost parallel to the steep earth, running their
perpendicular lines so high and close against the hill that they look
like pines. As you peer down in among the trunks, you see the darkness
increasing until the eye can penetrate no more, and dead, enormous trees
that have lived their centuries, and have fallen perhaps for decades,
lie across the aisles of the wood, propped up against their living
fellows; for, by one of those political accidents which are common
throughout the whole length of the Pyrenees, both sides of the watershed
belong to Spain, so that no Government or modern energy has come to
disturb the silence. One would swear that the last to order this wood
were the Romans.

I had thought to find so famous a valley peopled, or at least visited. I
found it utterly alone, and even free from travellers, as though the
wealthier part of Europe had forgotten the most famous of Christian
epics. I saw no motor-cars, nor any women--only at last, in the very
depths of the valley, a boy cutting grass in a tiny patch of open land.
And it was hereabouts, so far as I could make out, that the Peers were

The song, of course, makes them fall on the far side of the summit, upon
the fields of Roncesvalles, with the sun setting right at them along the
hills. And that is as it should be, for it is evident that (in a poem)
the hero fighting among hills should die upon the enemy's side of the
hills. But that is not the place where Roland really died. The place
where he really died, he and Oliver and Turpin and all the others, was
here in the very recess of the Northern Valley. It was here only that
rocks could have been rolled down upon an army, and here is that narrow,
strangling gorge where the line of march could most easily have been cut
in two by the fury of the mountaineers. Also Eginhard says very clearly
that they had already passed the hills and seen France, and that is
final. It was from these cliffs, then, that such an echo was made by the
horn of Roland, and it was down that funnel of a valley that the noise
grew until it filled Christendom; and it was up that gorge that there
came, as it says in the song--

     The host in a tide returning:
     Charles the King and his Barony.

This was the place. And any man who may yet believe (I know such a
discussion is pedantry)--any man who may yet believe the song of Roland
to have been a Northern legend had better come to this place and drink
the mountains in. For whoever to-day

     High are the hills and huge and dim with cloud,
     Down in the deeps, the living streams are loud,

had certainly himself stood in the silence and majesty of this valley.

It was already nearly dark when we two men had clambered down to that
place, and up between the walls of the valley we had already seen the
early stars. We pushed on to the French frontier in an eager appetite
for cleanliness and human food.

The last Spanish town is called Val Carlos, as it ought to be,
considering that Charlemagne himself had once come roaring by. When we
reached it in the darkness we had completed a forced march of forty-two
miles, going light, it is true, and carrying nothing each of us but a
gourd of wine and a sack, but we were very tired. There, at the goal of
our effort, one faint sign of Government and of men at last appeared. It
was in character with all the rest. One might not cross the frontier
upon the road without a written leave. The written leave was given us,
and in half an hour Spain was free.


We live a very little time. Before we have reached the middle of our
time perhaps, but not long before, we discover the magnitude of our
inheritance. Consider England. How many men, I should like to know, have
discovered before thirty what treasures they may work in her air? She
magnifies us inwards and outwards; her fields can lead the mind down
towards the subtle beginning of things; the tiny irridescence of
insects; the play of light upon the facets of a blade of grass. Her
skies can lead the mind up infinitely into regions where it seems to
expand and fill, no matter what immensities.

It was the wind off the land that made me think of all this possession
in which I am to enjoy so short a usufruct. I sat in my boat holding
that tiller of mine, which is not over firm, and is but a rough bar of
iron. There was no breeze in the air, and the little deep vessel swung
slightly to the breathing of the sea. Her great mainsail and her
baloon-jib came over lazily as she swung, and filled themselves with the
cheating semblance of a wind. The boom creaked in the goose-neck, and at
every roll the slack of the mainsheet tautened with a kind of little
thud which thrilled the deck behind me. I saw under the curve of my
headsail the long and hazy line, which is the only frontier of England;
the plain that rather marries with than defies her peculiar seas. For it
was in the Channel, and not ten miles from the coastline of my own
country, that these thoughts rose in me during the calm at the end of
winter, and the boat was drifting down more swiftly than I knew upon the
ebb of the outer tide. Far off to the south sunlight played upon the
water, and was gone again. The great ships did not pass near me, and so
I sat under a hazy sky restraining the slight vibration of the helm and
waiting for the wind.

In whatever place a man may be the spring will come to him. I have heard
of men in prison who would note the day when its influence passed
through the narrow window that was their only communion with their kind.
It comes even to men in cities; men of the stupid political sort, who
think in maps and whose interest is in the addition of numbers. Indeed,
I have heard such men in London itself expressing pleasure when a
south-west gale came up in April from over the pines of Hampshire and of
Surrey and mixed the Atlantic with the air of the fields. To me this
year the spring came suddenly, like a voice speaking, though a low
one--the voice of a person subtle, remembered, little known, and always
desired. For a wind blew off the land.

The surface of the sea northward between me and the coast of Sussex had
been for so many hours elastic, smooth, and dull, that I had come to
forget the indications of a change. But here and there, a long way off,
little lines began to show, which were indeed broad spaces of ruffled
water, seen edgeways from the low free-board of my boat. These joined
and made a surface all the way out towards me, but a surface not yet
revealed for what it was, nor showing the movement and life and grace of
waves. For no light shone upon it, and it was not yet near enough to be
distinguished. It grew rapidly, but the haze and silence had put me into
so dreamy a state that I had forgotten the ordinary anxiety and
irritation of a calm, nor had I at the moment that eager expectancy of
movement which should accompany the sight of that dark line upon the

Other things possessed me, the memory of home and of the Downs. There
went before this breeze, as it were, attendant servants, outriders who
brought with them the scent of those first flowers in the North Wood or
beyond Gumber Corner, and the fragrance of our grass, the savour which
the sheep know at least, however much the visitors to my dear home
ignore it. A deeper sympathy even than that of the senses came with
those messengers and brought me the beeches and the yew trees also,
although I was so far out at sea, for the loneliness of this great water
recalled the loneliness of the woods, and both those solitudes--the real
and the imaginary--mixed in my mind together as they might in the mind
of a sleeping man.

Before this wind as it approached, the sky also cleared: not of clouds,
for there were none, but of that impalpable and warm mist which seems to
us, who know the south country and the Channel, to be so often part of
the sky, and to shroud without obscuring the empty distances of our
seas. There was a hard clear light to the north; and even over the
Downs, low as they were upon the horizon, there was a sharp belt of
blue. I saw the sun strike the white walls of Lady Newburgh's Folly, and
I saw, what had hitherto been all confused, the long line of the Arundel
Woods contrasting with the plain. Then the boom went over to port, the
jib filled, I felt the helm pulling steadily for the first time in so
many hours, and the boat responded. The wind was on me; and though it
was from the north, that wind was warm, for it came from the sheltered

Then, indeed, I quite forgot those first few moments, which had so
little to do with the art of sailing, and which were perhaps unworthy of
the full life that goes with the governing of sails and rudders. For one
thing, I was no longer alone; a man is never alone with the wind--and
the boat made three. There was work to be done in pressing against the
tiller and in bringing her up to meet the seas, small though they were,
for my boat was also small. Life came into everything; the Channel leapt
and (because the wind was across the tide) the little waves broke in
small white tips: in their movement and my own, in the dance of the boat
and the noise of the shrouds, in the curtsy of the long sprit that
caught the ridges of foam and lifted them in spray, even in the free
streaming of that loose untidy end of line which played in the air from
the leach, as young things play from wantonness, in the rush of the
water, just up to and sometimes through the lee scuppers, and in the
humming tautness of the sheet, in everything about me there was
exuberance and joy. The sun upon the twenty million faces of the waves
made, music rather than laughter, and the energy which this first warmth
of the year had spread all over the Channel and shore, while it made
life one, seemed also to make it innumerable. We were now not only
three, the wind and my boat and I; we were all part (and masters for the
moment) of a great throng. I knew them all by their names, which I had
learnt a long time ago, and had sung of them in the North Sea. I have
often written them down. I will not be ashamed to repeat them here, for
good things never grow old. There was the Wave that brings good tidings,
and the Wave that breaks on the shore, and the Wave of the island, and
the Wave that helps, and the Wave that lifts forrard, the kindly Wave
and the youngest Wave, and Amathea the Wave with bright hair, all the
waves that come up round Thetis in her train when she rises from the
side of the old man, her father, where he sits on his throne in the
depth of the sea; when she comes up cleaving the water and appears to
her sons in the upper world.

The Wight showed clear before me. I was certain with the tide of making
the Horse Buoy and Spithead while it was yet afternoon, and before the
plenitude of that light and movement should have left me. I settled down
to so much and such exalted delight as to a settled task. I lit my pipe
for a further companion (since it was good to add even to so many). I
kept my right shoulder only against the tiller, for the pressure was now
steady and sound. I felt the wind grow heavy and equable, and I caught
over my shoulder the merry wake of this very honest moving home of mine
as she breasted and hissed through the sea.

Here, then, was the proper end of a long cruise. It was springtime, and
the season for work on land. I had been told so by the heartening wind.
And as I went still westward, remembering the duties of the land, the
sails still held full, the sheets and the weather shrouds still stood
taut and straining, and the little clatter of the broken water spoke
along the lee rail. And so the ship sailed on.

     [Greek: 'En d thnemos prêsen mxson istion, thmphi de kuma]
     [Greek: Sseirê porphureon megal' iache, nêos iousês.]


A man might discuss with himself what it was that made certain great
sights of the world famous, and what it is that keeps others hidden.
This would be especially interesting in the case of mountains. For there
is no doubt that there is a modern attraction in mountains which may not
endure, but which is almost as intense in our generation as it was in
that of our fathers. The emotion produced by great height and by the
something unique and inspiring which distinguishes a mountain from a
hill has bitten deeply into the modern mind. Yet there are some of the
most astounding visions of this sort in Europe which are, and will
probably remain, unemphasised for travellers.

The vision of the Berenese Oberland when it breaks upon one from the
crest of Jura has been impressed--upon English people, at least--in two
fine passages: the one written by Ruskin, the other, if I remember
right, in a book called _A Cruise upon Wheels_. The French have, I
believe, no classical presentment of that view, nor perhaps have the
Germans. The line of the Alps as one sees it upon very clear days from
the last of the Apennines--this, I think, has never been properly
praised in any modern book--not even an Italian. The great red
mountain-face which St. Bruno called "the desert" I do not remember to
have read of anywhere nor to have heard described; for it stands above
an unfrequented valley, and the regular approach to the Chartreuse is
from the other side. Yet it is something which remains as vivid to those
few who have suddenly caught sight of it from a turn of the Old Lyons
road as though they had seen it in a fantastic dream. That astonishing
circle of cliffs which surrounds Bourg d'Oisans, though it has been
written of now and then, has not, so to speak, taken root in people's

Even in this country there are twenty great effects which, though they
have, of course, suffered record, are still secure from general praise;
for instance, that awful trench which opens under your feet, as it were,
up north and beyond Plynlimmon. It is a valley as unexpected and as
incredible in its steepness and complete isolation as any one may see in
the drawings of the romantic generation of English water-colour, yet
perhaps no one has drawn it; there is certainly no familiar picture of
it anywhere.

When one comes to think of it, the reason of such exceptions to fame as
are these is usually that such and such an unknown but great sight lies
off the few general roads of travel. It is a vulgar reason, but the true
one. Unless men go to a mountain to climb because it is difficult to
climb, or unless it often appears before them along one of their main
journeys, it will remain quiet. Among such masses is the Canigou.

Here is a mountain which may be compared to Etna. It is lower, indeed,
in the proportion of nine to eleven; but when great isolated heights of
this sort are in question, such a difference hardly counts. It can be
seen, as Etna can, from the sea, though it stands a good deal more
inland; it dominates, as Etna does, a very famous plain, but modern
travel does nothing to bring it into the general consciousness of the
world. If Spain were wealthy, or if the Spanish harbours naturally led
to any place which all the rich desired to visit, the name of the
Canigou would begin to grow. Where the railway skirts the sea from
Narbonne to Barcelona, it is your permanent companion for a good hour in
the express, and for any time you like in the ordinary trains. During at
least three months in the year, its isolation is peculiarly relieved and
marked by the snow, which lies above an even line all along its vast
bulk. It is also one of those mountains in which one can recognise the
curious regularity of the "belts" which text-books talk of. There are
great forests at the base of it, just above the hot Mediterranean
plain; the beech comes higher than the olive, the pines last of all;
after them the pastures and the rocks. In the end of February a man
climbs up from a spring that is as southern as Africa to a winter that
is as northern as the highlands of Scotland, and all the while he feels
that he is climbing nothing confused or vague, but one individual peak
which is the genius of the whole countryside.

This countryside is the Roussillon, a lordship as united as the
Cerdagne; it speaks one language, shows one type of face, and is
approached by but a small group of roads, and each road passes through a
mountain gap. For centuries it went with Barcelona. It needed the
Revolution to make it French, and it is full of Spanish memories to this

For the Roussillon depends upon the Canigou just as the Bay of Syracuse
depends upon Etna, or that of Naples upon Vesuvius, and its familiar
presence has sunk into the patriotism of the Roussillon people, as those
more famous mountains have into the art and legends of their neighbours.
There are I know not how many monographs upon the Canigou, but not one
has been translated, I would wager, into any foreign language.

Yet it is the mountain which very many men who have hardly heard its
name have been looking for all their lives. It gives as good camping as
is to be had in the whole of the Pyrenees. I believe there is fishing,
and perhaps one can shoot. Properly speaking, there is no climbing in
it; at least, one can walk up it all the way if one chooses the right
path, but there is everything else men look for when they escape from
cities. It is so big that you would never learn it in any number of
camps, and the change of its impressions is perpetual. From the summit
the view has two interests--of colour and of the past. You have below
you a plain like an inlaid work of chosen stones: the whole field is an
arrangement of different culture and of bright rocks and sand; and below
you, also, in a curve, is all that coast which at the close of the Roman
Empire was, perhaps, the wealthiest in Europe. In the extreme north a
man might make out upon a clear day the bulk of Narbonne. Perpignan is
close by; the little rock harbour of Venus, Port Vendres, is to the
south. From the plain below one, which has always been crammed with
riches, sprang the chief influences of Southern Gaul. It was here that
the family of Charlemagne took its origin, and it was perhaps from here
that he saw, through the windows of a palace, that fleet of pirates
which moved him to his sad prophecy. That plain, moreover, will
re-arise; it is still rich, and all the Catalan province of Spain below
it, of which it is the highway and the approach, must increase in value
before Europe from year to year. The vast development of the French
African territory is reacting upon that coast: all it needs is a central
harbour, and if that harbour were formed it would do what Narbo did for
the Romans at the end of their occupation;--it would tap, much better
than does Cette, the wealth of Gascony, perhaps, also, an Atlantic
trade, and its exchanges towards Africa and the Levant. The
Mediterranean, which is perpetually increasing in wealth and in
importance to-day, would have a second Marseilles, and should such a
port arise--then, when our ships and our travellers are familiar with
it, the Canigou (if it cares for that sort of thing) will be as happy as
the Matterhorn. For the present it is all alone.


I knew a man once that was a territorial magnate and had an estate in
the county of Berkshire. I will not conceal his name. It was William
Frederick Charles Hermann-Postlethwaite.

On his estate was a large family mansion, surrounded by tasteful gardens
of a charming old kind, and next outside these a great park, well
timbered. But the thing I am going to talk about was a certain wood of
which he was rightly very proud. It stood on the slope of a grass down,
just above the valley, and beneath it was a clean white road, and a
little way along that a town, part of which belonged to Mr.
Hermann-Postlethwaite, part to a local solicitor and moneylender,
several bits to a brewer in Reading, and a few houses to the
inhabitants. The people in the town were also fond of the wood, and
called it "The Old Wood." It was not very large, but, as I have said
before, it was very beautiful, and contained all manner of trees, but
especially beeches, under which nothing will grow--as the poet puts it
in Sussex:

     Unner t' beech and t' yow Nowt 'll grow.

Well, as years passed, Mr. Hermann-Postlethwaite became fonder and
fonder of the wood. He began towards 1885 to think it the nicest thing
on his estate--which it was; and he would often ride out to look at it
of a morning on his grey mare "Betsy." When he rode out like this of a
morning his mount was well groomed, and so was he, however early it
might be, and he would carry a little cane to hit the mare with and also
as a symbol of authority. The people who met him would touch their
foreheads, and he would wave his hand genially in reply. He was a good
fellow. But the principal thing about him was his care for the old wood;
and when he rode out to look at it, as I say, he would speak to any one
around so early--his bailiff, as might be, or sometimes his agent, or
even the foreman of the workshop or the carpenter, or any hedger or
ditcher that might be there, and point out bits of the wood, and say,
"That branch looks pretty dicky. No harm to cut that off short and
parcel and serve the end and cap it with a zinc cap;" or, "Better be
cutting the Yartle Bush for the next fallow, it chokes the gammon-rings,
and I don't like to see so much standard ivy about, it's the death of
trees." I am not sure that I have got the technical words right, but at
any rate they were more or less like that, for I have heard him myself
time and again. I often used to go out with him on another horse, called
Sultan, which he lent me to ride upon.

Well, he got fonder and fonder of this wood, and kept on asking people
what he should do, and how one could make most use of it, and he worried
a good deal about it. He reads books about woods, and in the opening of
1891 he had down to stay with him for a few days a man called Churt, who
had made a great success with woods on the Warra-Warra. But Churt was a
vulgar fellow, and so Hermann-Postlethwaite's wife, Lady Gywnnys
Hermann-Postlethwaite, would not have him in the house again, which was
a bother. Her husband then rode over to see another man, and the upshot
of it was that he put up a great board saying "Trespassers in this wood
will be prosecuted," and it might as well not have been put up, for no
one ever went into the wood, not even from the little town, because it
was too far for them to walk, and, anyhow, they did not care for
walking. And as for the doctor's son, a boy of thirteen, who went in
there with an air-gun to shoot things, he paid no attention to the

The next thing my friend did was to have a fine strong paling put all
round the wood in March, 1894. This paling was of oak; it was seven feet
high; it had iron spikes along the top. There were six gates in it, and
stout posts at intervals of ten yards. The boards overlapped very
exactly. It was as good a bit of work as ever I saw. He had it
varnished, and it looked splendid. All this took two years.

Just then he was elected to Parliament, not for Berkshire, as you might
have imagined, but for a slum division of Birmingham. He was very proud
of this, and quite rightly too. He said: "I am the one Conservative
member in the Midlands." It almost made him forget about his wood. He
shut up the Berkshire place and took a house in town, and as he could
not afford Mayfair, and did not understand such things very well, the
house he took was an enormous empty house in Bayswater, and he had no
peace until he gave it up for a set of rooms off Piccadilly; and then
his mother thought that looked so odd that he did the right thing, and
got into a nice old-fashioned furnished house in Westminster,
overlooking the Green Park.

But all this cost him a mint of money, and politics made him angrier and
angrier. They never let him speak, and they made him vote for things he
thought perfectly detestable. Then he did speak, and as he was an honest
English gentleman the papers called him ridiculous names and said he had
no brains. So he just jolly well threw the whole thing up and went back
to Berkshire, and everybody welcomed him, and he did a thing he had
never done before: he put a flag up over his house to show he was at
home. Then he began to think of his wood again.

The very first time he rode out to look at it he found the paling had
given way in places from the fall of trees, and that some leaned inwards
and some outwards, and that one of the gates was off its hinges. There
were also two cows walking about in the wood, and what annoyed him most
of all, the iron spikes were rusty and the varnish had all gone rotten
and white and streaky on the palings. He spoke to the bailiff about
this, and hauled him out to look at it. The bailiff rubbed the varnish
with his finger, smelt it, and said that it had perished. He also said
there was no such thing as good varnish nowadays, and he added there
wasn't any varnish, not the very best, but wouldn't go like that with
rain and all. Mr. Hermann-Postlethwaite grumbled a good deal, but he
supposed the bailiff knew best; so he told him to see what could be
done, and for several weeks he heard no more about it.

I forgot to tell you that about this time the South African War
had broken out, and as things were getting pretty tangled,
Hermann-Postlethwaite went out with his regiment, the eighth battalion,
not of the Berkshire, but of the Orkney regiment. While he was out
there, his brother, in Dr. Charlbury's home, died, and he succeeded to
the baronetcy. As he already had a V.C. and was now given a D.S.O., as
well as being one of the people mentioned in dispatches, he was pretty
important by the time he came home, when the war was over, just before
the elections of 1900.

When he got home he had a splendid welcome, both from his tenants in
Berkshire in passing through and from those of his late brother in the
big place in Worcestershire. He preferred his Berkshire place, however,
and, letting the big place to an American of the name of Hendrik K.
Boulge, he went back to his first home. When he got there he thought of
the old wood, and went out to look at it. The palings were mended, but
they were covered all over with tar! He was exceedingly angry, and
ordered them to be painted at once; but the bailiff assured him one
could not paint over tar, and so did the carpenter and the foreman. At
this he had a fit of rage, and ordered the whole damned thing to be
pulled down, and swore he would be damned if he ever had a damned stick
or a rail round the damned wood again. He was no longer young; he was
getting stout and rather puffy; he was not so reasonable as of old.
Anyhow, he had the whole thing pulled down. Next year (that is, in 1901)
his wife died.

I wish I had the space to tell you all the other things he did to the
wood. How a friend of his having sold a similar wood on the Thames in
building lots at £500 an acre, he put up the whole wood at the same
rate. How, the whole wood being 200 acres in extent, he hoped to make
£100,000 out of it. How he thought this a tidy sum. How he got no offers
at this price, nor at £100, nor at £50. How an artist offered him £20
for half an acre to put up a red tin bungalow upon. How he lost his
temper with the artist. How at last he left the whole thing alone and
tried to forget all about it.

       *       *       *       *       *

The old wood to-day is just like what it was when I wandered in it as a
boy. The doctor's son is a man now, and is keeping a bar in Sydney; so
he is gone. The townspeople don't come any more than before. I am the
only person who goes near the place. The trees are a trifle grander. I
happen now and then, when I visit this Berkshire parish, upon a stump of
a post or an old spike in the grass of this wood, but otherwise it is as
though all this had not been.

A solemn thought: How enduring are the works of Nature--how perishable
those of Man!


Friends of mine, friends all, and you also, publishers, colonials and
critics, do you know that particular experience for which I am trying to
find words? Do you know that glamour in the mind which arises and
transforms our thought when we see the things that the men who made us
saw--the things of a long time ago, the origins? I think everybody knows
that glamour, but very few people know where to find it.

Every man knows that he has in him the power for such revelations, and
every man wonders in what strange place he may come upon them. There are
men also (very rich) who have considered all the world and wandered over
it, seeking those first experiences and trying to feel as felt the
earlier men in a happier time--yet these few rich men have not felt and
have not so found the things which they desire. I have known men who
have thought to find them in the mountains, but would not climb them
simply enough and refused to leave their luxuries behind, and so lost
everything, and might as well have been walking in a dirty town at home
for all the little good that the mountains did to them. And I know men
who have thought to find this memory and desire in foreign countries, in
Africa, hunting great beasts such as our fathers hunted; yet even these
have not relit those old embers, which if they lie dead and dark in a
man make his whole soul dusty and useless, but which if they be once
rekindled can make him part of all the centuries.

Yet there is a simple and an easy way to find what the men who made us
found, and to see the world as they saw it, and to take a bath, as it
were, in the freshness of beginnings; and that is to go to work as
cheaply and as hardly as you can, and only as much away from men as they
were away from men, and not to read or to write or to think, but to eat
and drink and use the body in many immediate ways, which are at the feet
of every man. Every man who will walk for some days carelessly,
sleeping, rough when he must, or in poor inns, and making for some one
place direct because he desires to see it, will know the thing I mean.
And there is a better way still of which I shall now speak: I mean, to
try the seas in a little boat not more than twenty-five feet long,
preferably decked, of shallow draught, such as can enter into all creeks
and havens, and so simply rigged that by oneself, or with a friend at
most, one can wander all over the world.

Certainly every man that goes to sea in a little boat of this kind
learns terror and salvation, happy living, air, danger, exultation,
glory, and repose at the end; and they are not words to him, but, on the
contrary, realities which will afterwards throughout his life give the
mere words a full meaning. And for this experiment there lies at our
feet, I say, the Channel.

It is the most marvellous sea in the world--the most suited for these
little adventures; it is crammed with strange towns, differing one from
the other; it has two opposite people upon either side, and hills and
varying climates, and the hundred shapes and colours of the earth, here
rocks, there sand, there cliffs, and there marshy shores. It is a little
world. And what is more, it is a kind of inland sea.

People will not understand how narrow it is, crossing it hurriedly in
great steamships; nor will they make it a home for pleasure unless they
are rich and can have great boats; yet they should, for on its water
lies the best stage for playing out the old drama by which the soul of a
healthy man is kept alive. For instance, listen to this story:--

The sea being calm, and the wind hot, uncertain, and light from the
east, leaving oily gaps on the water, and continually dying down, I
drifted one morning in the strong ebb to the South Goodwin Lightship,
wondering what to do. There was a haze over the land and over the sea,
and through the haze great ships a long way off showed, one or two of
them, like oblong targets which one fires at with guns. They hardly
moved in spite of all their canvas set, there was so little breeze. So I
drifted in the slow ebb past the South Goodwin, and I thought: "What is
all this drifting and doing nothing? Let us play the fool, and see if
there are no adventures left."

So I put my little boat about until the wind took her from forward, such
as it was, and she crawled out to sea.

It was a dull, uneasy morning, hot and silent, and the wind, I say, was
hardly a wind, and most of the time the sails flapped uselessly.

But after eleven o'clock the wind first rose, and then shifted a little,
and then blew light but steady; and then at last she heeled and the
water spoke under her bows, and still she heeled and ran, until in the
haze I could see no more land; but ever so far out there were no seas,
for the light full breeze was with the tide, the tide ebbing out as a
strong, and silent as a man in anger, down the hidden parallel valleys
of the narrow sea. And I held this little wind till about two o'clock,
when I drank wine and ate bread and meat at the tiller, for I had them
by me, and just afterwards, still through a thick haze of heat, I saw
Gris-nez, a huge ghost, right up against and above me; and I wondered,
for I had crossed the Channel, now for the first time, and knew now what
it felt like to see new land.

Though I knew nothing of the place, I had this much sense, that I said
to myself: "The tide is right-down Channel, racing through the hidden
valleys under the narrow sea, so it will all go down together and all
come up together, and the flood will come on this foreign side much at
the same hour that it does on the home side." My boat lay to the east
and the ebb tide held her down, and I lit a pipe and looked at the
French hills and thought about them and the people in them, and England
which I had left behind, and I was delighted with the loneliness of the
sea; and still I waited for the flood.

But in a little while the chain made a rattling noise, and she lay
quite slack and swung oddly; and then there were little boiling and
eddying places in the water, and the water seemed to come up from
underneath sometimes, and altogether it behaved very strangely, and this
was the turn of the tide. Then the wind dropped also, and for a moment
she lollopped about, till at last, after I had gone below and
straightened things, I came on deck to see that she had turned
completely round, and that the tide at last was making up my way,
towards Calais, and her chain was taut and her nose pointed down
Channel, and a little westerly breeze, a little draught of air, came up
cool along the tide.

When this came I was very glad, for I saw that I could end my adventure
before night. So I pulled up the anchor and fished it, and then turned
with the tide under me, and the slight half-felt breeze just barely
filling the mainsail (the sheet was slack, so powerless was the wind),
and I ran up along that high coast, watching eagerly every new thing;
but I kept some way out for fear of shoals, till after three good hours
under the reclining sun of afternoon, which glorified the mist, I saw,
far off, the roofs and spires of a town, and a low pier running well out
to sea, and I knew that it must be Calais. And I ran for these piers,
careless of how I went, for it was already half of the spring flood
tide, and everything was surely well covered for so small a boat, and I
ran up the fairway in between the piers, and saw Frenchmen walking about
and a great gun peeping up over its earthwork, and plenty of clean new
masonry. And a man came along and showed me where I could lie; but I was
so strange to the place that I would not take a berth, but lay that
night moored to an English ship.

And when I had eaten and drunk and everything was stowed away and
darkness had fallen, I went on deck, and for a long time sat silent,
smoking a pipe and watching the enormous lighthouse of Calais, which is
built right in the town, and which turns round and round above one all
night long.

And I thought: "Here is a wonderful thing! I have crossed the Channel in
this little boat, and I know now what the sea means that separates
France from England. I have strained my eyes for shore through a haze. I
have seen new lands, and I feel as men do who have dreamt dreams."

But in reality I had had very great luck indeed, and had had no right to
cross, for my coming back was to be far more difficult and dreadful, and
I was to suffer many things before again I could see tall England, close
by me, out of the sea.

But how I came back, and of the storm, and of its majesty, and of how
the boat and I survived, I will tell you another time, only imploring
you to do the same; not to tell of it, I mean, but to sail it in a
little boat.


There is a valley in South England remote from ambition and from fear,
where the passage of strangers is rare and unperceived, and where the
scent of the grass in summer is breathed only by those who are native to
that unvisited land. The roads to the Channel do not traverse it; they
choose upon either side easier passes over the range. One track alone
leads up through it to the hills, and this is changeable: now green
where men have little occasion to go, now a good road where it nears the
homesteads and the barns. The woods grow steep above the slopes; they
reach sometimes the very summit of the heights, or, when they cannot
attain them, fill in and clothe the coombes. And, in between, along the
floor of the valley, deep pastures and their silence are bordered by
lawns of chalky grass and the small yew trees of the Downs.

The clouds that visit its sky reveal themselves beyond the one great
rise, and sail, white and enormous, to the other, and sink beyond that
other. But the plains above which they have travelled and the Weald to
which they go, the people of the valley cannot see and hardly recall.
The wind, when it reaches such fields, is no longer a gale from the
salt, but fruitful and soft, an inland breeze; and those whose blood was
nourished here, feel in that wind the fruitfulness of our orchards and
all the life that all things draw from the air.

In this place, when I was a boy, I pushed through a fringe of beeches
that made a complete screen between me and the world, and I came to a
glade called No Man's Land. I climbed beyond it, and I was surprised and
glad, because from the ridge of that glade I saw the sea. To this place
very lately I returned.

The many things that I recovered as I came up the countryside were not
less charming than when a distant memory had enshrined them, but much
more. Whatever veil is thrown by a longing recollection had not
intensified nor even made more mysterious the beauty of that happy
ground; not in my very dreams of morning had I, in exile, seen it more
beloved or more rare. Much also that I had forgotten now returned to me
as I approached--a group of elms, a little turn of the parson's wall, a
small paddock beyond the graveyard close, cherished by one man, with a
low wall of very old stone guarding it all round. And all these things
fulfilled and amplified my delight, till even the good vision of the
place, which I had kept so many years, left me and was replaced by its
better reality. "Here," I said to myself, "is a symbol of what some say
is reserved for the soul: pleasure of a kind which cannot be imagined
save in a moment when at last it is attained."

When I came to my own gate and my own field, and had before me the house
I knew, I looked around a little (though it was already evening), and I
saw that the grass was standing as it should stand when it is ready for
the scythe. For in this, as in everything that a man can do--of those
things at least which are very old--there is an exact moment when they
are done best. And it has been remarked of whatever rules us that it
works blunderingly, seeing that the good things given to a man are not
given at the precise moment when they would have filled him with
delight. But, whether this be true or false, we can choose the just turn
of the seasons in everything we do of our own will, and especially in
the making of hay. Many think that hay is best made when the grass is
thickest; and so they delay until it is rank and in flower, and has
already heavily pulled the ground. And there is another false reason for
delay, which is wet weather. For very few will understand (though it
comes year after year) that we have rain always in South England between
the sickle and the scythe, or say just after the weeks of east wind are
over. First we have a week of sudden warmth, as though the south had
come to see us all; then we have the weeks of east and south-east wind;
and then we have more or less of that rain of which I spoke, and which
always astonishes the world. Now it is just before, or during, or at the
very end of that rain--but not later--that grass should be cut for hay.
True, upland grass, which is always thin, should be cut earlier than the
grass in the bottoms and along the water meadows; but not even the
latest, even in the wettest seasons, should be left (as it is) to flower
and even to seed. For what we get when we store our grass is not a
harvest of something ripe, but a thing just caught in its prime before
maturity: as witness that our corn and straw are best yellow, but our
hay is best green. So also Death should be represented with a scythe and
Time with a sickle; for Time can take only what is ripe, but Death comes
always too soon. In a word, then, it is always much easier to cut grass
too late than too early; and I, under that evening and come back to
these pleasant fields, looked at the grass and knew that it was time.
June was in full advance: it was the beginning of that season when the
night has already lost her foothold of the earth and hovers over it,
never quite descending, but mixing sunset with the dawn.

Next morning, before it was yet broad day, I awoke, and thought of the
mowing. The birds were already chattering in the trees beside my window,
all except the nightingale, which had left and flown away to the Weald,
where he sings all summer by day as well as by night in the oaks and the
hazel spinneys, and especially along the little river Adur, one of the
rivers of the Weald. The birds and the thought of the mowing had
awakened me, and I went down the stairs and along the stone floors to
where I could find a scythe; and when I took it from its nail, I
remembered how, fourteen years ago, I had last gone out with my scythe,
just so, into the fields at morning. In between that day and this were
many things, cities and armies, and a confusion of books, mountains and
the desert, and horrible great breadths of sea.

When I got out into the long grass the sun was not yet risen, but there
were already many colours in the eastern sky, and I made haste to
sharpen my scythe, so that I might get to the cutting before the dew
should dry. Some say that it is best to wait till all the dew has risen,
so as to get the grass quite dry from the very first. But, though it is
an advantage to get the grass quite dry, yet it is not worth while to
wait till the dew has risen. For, in the first place, you lose many
hours of work (and those the coolest), and next--which is more
important--you lose that great ease and thickness in cutting which comes
of the dew. So I at once began to sharpen my scythe.

There is an art also in the sharpening of a scythe, and it is worth
describing carefully. Your blade must be dry, and that is why you will
see men rubbing the scythe-blade with grass before they whet it. Then
also your rubber must be quite dry, and on this account it is a good
thing to lay it on your coat and keep it there during all your day's
mowing. The scythe you stand upright, with the blade pointing away from
you, and you put your left hand firmly on the back of the blade,
grasping it: then you pass the rubber first down one side of the
blade-edge and then down the other, beginning near the handle and going
on to the point and working quickly and hard. When you first do this you
will, perhaps, cut your hand; but it is only at first that such an
accident will happen to you.

To tell when the scythe is sharp enough this is the rule. First the
stone clangs and grinds against the iron harshly; then it rings
musically to one note; then, at last, it purrs as though the iron and
stone were exactly suited. When you hear this, your scythe is sharp
enough; and I, when I heard it that June dawn, with everything quite
silent except the birds, let down the scythe and bent myself to mow.

When one does anything anew, after so many years, one fears very much
for one's trick or habit. But all things once learnt are easily
recoverable, and I very soon recovered the swing and power of the mower.
Mowing well and mowing badly--or rather not mowing at all--are separated
by very little; as is also true of writing verse, of playing the
fiddle, and of dozens of other things, but of nothing more than of
believing. For the bad or young or untaught mower without tradition, the
mower Promethean, the mower original and contemptuous of the past, does
all these things: He leaves great crescents of grass uncut. He digs the
point of the scythe hard into the ground with a jerk. He loosens the
handles and even the fastening of the blade. He twists the blade with
his blunders, he blunts the blade, he chips it, dulls it, or breaks it
clean off at the tip. If any one is standing by he cuts him in the
ankle. He sweeps up into the air wildly, with nothing to resist his
stroke. He drags up earth with the grass, which is like making the
meadow bleed. But the good mower who does things just as they should be
done and have been for a hundred thousand years, falls into none of
these fooleries. He goes forward very steadily, his scythe-blade just
barely missing the ground, every grass falling; the swish and rhythm of
his mowing are always the same.

So great an art can only be learnt by continual practice; but this much
is worth writing down, that, as in all good work, to know the thing with
which you work is the core of the affair. Good verse is best written on
good paper with an easy pen, not with a lump of coal on a whitewashed
wall. The pen thinks for you; and so does the scythe mow for you if you
treat it honourably and in a manner that makes it recognise its service.
The manner is this. You must regard the scythe as a pendulum that
swings, not as a knife that cuts. A good mower puts no more strength
into his stroke than into his lifting. Again, stand up to your work. The
bad mower, eager and full of pain, leans forward and tries to force the
scythe through the grass. The good mower, serene and able, stands as
nearly straight as the shape of the scythe will let him, and follows up
every stroke closely, moving his left foot forward. Then also let every
stroke get well away. Mowing is a thing of ample gestures, like drawing
a cartoon. Then, again, get yourself into a mechanical and repetitive
mood: be thinking of anything at all but your mowing, and be anxious
only when there seems some interruption to the monotony of the sound.
In this mowing should be like one's prayers--all of a sort and always
the same, and so made that you can establish a monotony and work them,
as it were, with half your mind: that happier half, the half that does
not bother.

In this way, when I had recovered the art after so many years, I went
forward over the field, cutting lane after lane through the grass, and
bringing out its most secret essences with the sweep of the scythe until
the air was full of odours. At the end of every lane I sharpened my
scythe and looked back at the work done, and then carried my scythe down
again upon my shoulder to begin another. So, long before the bell rang
in the chapel above me--that is, long before six o'clock, which is the
time for the _Angelus_--I had many swathes already lying in order
parallel like soldiery; and the high grass yet standing, making a great
contrast with the shaven part, looked dense and high. As it says in the
_Ballad of Val-ès-Dunes,_ where--

     The tall son of the Seven Winds
     Came riding out of Hither-hythe,

and his horse-hoofs (you will remember) trampled into the press and made
a gap in it, and his sword (as you know)

       ... was like a scythe
     In Arcus when the grass is high
     And all the swathes in order lie,
     And there's the bailiff standing by
       A-gathering of the tithe.

So I mowed all that morning, till the houses awoke in the valley, and
from some of them rose a little fragrant smoke, and men began to be

I stood still and rested on my scythe to watch the awakening of the
village, when I saw coming up to my field a man whom I had known in
older times, before I had left the Valley.

He was of that dark silent race upon which all the learned quarrel, but
which, by whatever meaningless name it may be called--Iberian, or
Celtic, or what you will--is the permanent root of all England, and
makes England wealthy and preserves it everywhere, except perhaps in
the Fens and in a part of Yorkshire. Everywhere else you will find it
active and strong. These people are intensive; their thoughts and their
labours turn inward. It is on account of their presence in these islands
that our gardens are the richest in the world. They also love low rooms
and ample fires and great warm slopes of thatch. They have, as I
believe, an older acquaintance with the English air than any other of
all the strains that make up England. They hunted in the Weald with
stones, and camped in the pines of the green-sand. They lurked under the
oaks of the upper rivers, and saw the legionaries go up, up the straight
paved road from the sea. They helped the few pirates to destroy the
towns, and mixed with those pirates and shared the spoils of the Roman
villas, and were glad to see the captains and the priests destroyed.
They remain; and no admixture of the Frisian pirates, or the Breton, or
the Angevin and Norman conquerors, has very much affected their cunning

To this race, I say, belonged the man who now approached me. And he said
to me, "Mowing?" And I answered, "Ar." Then he also said "Ar," as in
duty bound; for so we speak to each other in the Stenes of the Downs.

Next he told me that, as he had nothing to do, he would lend me a hand;
and I thanked him warmly, or, as we say, "kindly." For it is a good
custom of ours always to treat bargaining as though it were a courteous
pastime; and though what he was after was money, and what I wanted was
his labour at the least pay, yet we both played the comedy that we were
free men, the one granting a grace and the other accepting it. For the
dry bones of commerce, avarice and method and need, are odious to the
Valley; and we cover them up with a pretty body of fiction and
observances. Thus, when it comes to buying pigs, the buyer does not
begin to decry the pig and the vendor to praise it, as is the custom
with lesser men; but tradition makes them do business in this fashion:--

First the buyer will go up to the seller when he sees him in his own
steading, and, looking at the pig with admiration, the buyer will say
that rain may or may not fall, or that we shall have snow or thunder,
according to the time of year. Then the seller, looking critically at
the pig, will agree that the weather is as his friend maintains. There
is no haste at all; great leisure marks the dignity of their exchange.
And the next step is, that the buyer says: "That's a fine pig you have
there, Mr. ----" (giving the seller's name). "Ar, powerful fine pig."
Then the seller, saying also "Mr." (for twin brothers rocked in one
cradle give each other ceremonious observance here), the seller, I say,
admits, as though with reluctance, the strength and beauty of the pig,
and falls into deep thought. Then the buyer says, as though moved by a
great desire, that he is ready to give so much for the pig, naming half
the proper price, or a little less. Then the seller remains in silence
for some moments; and at last begins to shake his head slowly, till he
says: "I don't be thinking of selling the pig, anyways." He will also
add that a party only Wednesday offered him so much for the pig--and he
names about double the proper price. Thus all ritual is duly
accomplished; and the solemn act is entered upon with reverence and in a
spirit of truth. For when the buyer uses this phrase: "I'll tell you
what I _will_ do," and offers within half a crown of the pig's value,
the seller replies that he can refuse him nothing, and names half a
crown above its value; the difference is split, the pig is sold, and in
the quiet soul of each runs the peace of something accomplished.

Thus do we buy a pig or land or labour or malt or lime, always with
elaboration and set forms; and many a London man has paid double and
more for his violence and his greedy haste and very unchivalrous
higgling. As happened with the land at Underwaltham, which the
mortgagees had begged and implored the estate to take at twelve hundred,
and had privately offered to all the world at a thousand, but which a
sharp direct man, of the kind that makes great fortunes, a man in a
motor-car, a man in a fur coat, a man of few words, bought for two
thousand three hundred before my very eyes, protesting that they might
take his offer or leave it; and all because he did not begin by praising
the land.

Well then, this man I spoke of offered to help me, and he went to get
his scythe. But I went into the house and brought out a gallon jar of
small ale for him and for me; for the sun was now very warm, and small
ale goes well with mowing. When we had drunk some of this ale in mugs
called "I see you," we took each a swathe, he a little behind me because
he was the better mower; and so for many hours we swung, one before the
other, mowing and mowing at the tall grass of the field. And the sun
rose to noon and we were still at our mowing; and we ate food, but only
for a little while, and we took again to our mowing. And at last there
was nothing left but a small square of grass, standing like a square of
linesmen who keep their formation, tall and unbroken, with all the dead
lying around them when the battle is over and done.

Then for some little time I rested after all those hours; and the man
and I talked together, and a long way off we heard in another field the
musical sharpening of a scythe.

The sunlight slanted powdered and mellow over the breadth of the valley;
for day was nearing its end. I went to fetch rakes from the steading;
and when I had come back the last of the grass had fallen, and all the
field lay flat and smooth, with the very green short grass in lanes
between the dead and yellow swathes.

These swathes we raked into cocks to keep them from the dew against our
return at daybreak; and we made the cocks as tall and steep as we could,
for in that shape they best keep off the dew, and it is easier also to
spread them after the sun has risen. Then we raked up every straggling
blade, till the whole field was a clean floor for the tedding and the
carrying of the hay next morning. The grass we had mown was but a little
over two acres; for that is all the pasture on my little tiny farm.

When we had done all this, there fell upon us the beneficent and
deliberate evening; so that as we sat a little while together near the
rakes, we saw the valley more solemn and dim around us, and all the
trees and hedgerows quite still, and held by a complete silence. Then I
paid my companion his wage, and bade him a good night, till we should
meet in the same place before sunrise.

He went off with a slow and steady progress, as all our peasants do,
making their walking a part of the easy but continual labour of their
lives. But I sat on, watching the light creep around towards the north
and change, and the waning moon coming up as though by stealth behind
the woods of No Man's Land.


The other day (it was Wednesday, and the air was very pure) I went into
the stable upon my way toward the wood, and there I saw my horse Monster
standing by himself, regarding nothingness. And when I had considered
what a shame it was to take one's pleasure in a wood and leave one's
helpless horse at home, I bridled him and saddled him and took him out,
and rode him the way that I had meant to go alone. So we went together
along the Stene under the North Wood until we got to the edge of the
forest, and then we took the green Ride to the right, for it was my
intention to go and look at the Roman road.

Behind my house, behind my little farm, there are as many miles of turf
as one cares to count, and then behind it also, but the other way, there
goes this deep and lonely forest. It is principally of beech, which is
the tree of the chalk, and no one has cut it or fenced it or thought
about it (except to love it), since the parts about my village took
their names: Gumber and Fairmile Bay Combe, the Nore, and the stretch
called No Man's Land.

Into the darkness of these trees I rode very quietly with Monster, my
horse, but whether the autumn air were pleasanter to him or to me
neither of us could decide, for there is no bridge between two souls.
That is, if horses have a soul, which I suppose they have, for they are
both stupid and kindly, and they fear death as though a part, and but a
part, of them were immortal. Also they see things in the dark and are
cognisant of evil.

When I had gone some hundred yards towards the Roman road I saw, bending
lower than the rest on the tree from which it hung, a golden bough, and
I said to myself that I had had good luck, for such a thing has always
been the sign of an unusual experience and of a voyage among the dead.
All the other leaves of the tree were green, but the turn of the year,
which sends out foragers just as the spring does, marking the way it is
to go, had come and touched this bough and changed it, so that it shone
out by itself in the recesses of the forest and gleamed before and
behind. I did not ask what way it led me, for I knew; and so I went
onwards, riding my horse, until I came to that long bank of earth which
runs like a sort of challenge through this ancient land to prove what
our origins were, and who first brought us merry people into the circuit
of the world.

When I saw the Roman road the sharper influence which it had had upon my
boyhood returned to me, and I got off my horse and took his bit out of
his mouth so that he could play the fool with the grass and leaves
(which are bad for him), and I hitched the snaffle to a little broken
peg of bough so that he could not wander. And then I looked up and down
along the boles of the great North Wood, taking in the straight line of
the way.

I have heard it said that certain professors, the most learned of their
day, did once deny that this was a Roman road. I can well believe it,
and it is delightful to believe that they did. For this road startles
and controls a true man, presenting an eternal example of what Rome
could do. The peasants around have always called it the "Street." It
leads from what was certainly one Roman town to what was certainly
another. That sign of Roman occupation, the modern word "Cold Harbour,"
is scattered up and down it. There are Roman pavements on it. It goes
plumb straight for miles, and at times, wherever it crosses undisturbed
land, it is three or four feet above the level of the down. Here, then,
was a feast for the learned: since certainly the more obvious a thing
is, the more glory there must be in denying it. And deny it they did (or
at least, so I am told), just as they will deny that Thomas à Becket was
a Papist, or that Austerlitz was fought in spite of Trafalgar, or that
the Gospel of St. John is the Gospel of St. John.

Here then, sitting upon this Roman road I considered the nature of such
men, and when I had thought out carefully where the nearest Don might be
at that moment, I decided that he was at least twenty-three miles away,
and I was very glad: for it permitted me to contemplate the road with
common sense and with Faith, which is Common Sense transfigured; and I
could see the Legionaries climbing the hill. I remembered also what a
sight there was upon the down above, and I got upon my horse again to go
and see it.

When one has pushed one's way through the brambles and the rounded great
roots which have grown upon this street--where no man has walked perhaps
for about a thousand years--one gets to the place where it tops the
hill, and here one sees the way in which the line of it was first struck
out. From where one stands, right away like a beam, leading from rise to
rise, it runs to the cathedral town. You see the spot where it enters
the eastern gate of the Roman walls; you see at the end of it, like the
dot upon an "i," the mass of the cathedral. Then, if you turn and look
northward, you see from point to point its taut stretch across the weald
to where, at the very limit of the horizon, there is a gap in the chain
of hills that bars your view.

The strict design of such a thing weighs upon one as might weigh upon
one four great lines of Virgil, or the sight of those enormous stones
which one comes upon, Roman also, in the Algerian sands. The plan of
such an avenue by which to lead great armies and along which to drive
commands argues a mixture of unity and of power as intimate as the lime
and the sand of which these conquerors welded their imperishable cement.
And it does more than this. It suggests swiftness and certitude of aim
and a sort of eager determination which we are slow to connect with
Government, but which certainly underlay the triumph of this people. A
road will give one less trouble if it winds about and feels the contours
of the land. It will pay better if it is of earth and broken stones
instead of being paved, nor would any one aiming at wealth or comfort
alone laboriously raise its level, as the level of this road is raised.
But in all that the Romans did there was something of a monument. Where
they might have taken pipes down a valley and up the opposing side they
preferred the broad shoulders of an arcade, and where a seven-foot door
would have done well enough to enter their houses by they were content
with nothing less than an arch of fifty. In all their work they were
conscious of some business other than that immediately to hand, and
therefore it is possible that their ruins will survive the establishment
of our own time as they have survived that of the Middle Ages. In this
wild place, at least, nothing remained of all that was done between
their time and ours.

These things did the sight on either side of the summit suggest to me,
but chiefly there returned as I gazed the delicious thought that learned
men, laborious and heavily endowed, had denied the _existence_ of this
Roman road.

See with what manifold uses every accident of human life is crammed!
Here was a piece of pedantry and scepticism, which might make some men
weep and some men stamp with irritation, and some men, from sheer
boredom, fall asleep, but which fed in my own spirit a fountain of pure
joy, as I considered carefully what kind of man it is who denies these
things; the kind of way he walks; the kind of face he has; the kind of
book he writes; the kind of publisher who chisels him; and the kind of
way in which his works are bound. With every moment my elation grew
greater and more impetuous, until at last I could not bear to sit any
longer still, even upon so admirable a beast, nor to look down even at
so rich a plain (though that was seen through the air of Southern
England), but turning over the downs I galloped home, and came in
straight from the turf to my own ground--for what man would live upon a
high road who could go through a gate right off the turf to his own
steading and let the world go hang?

And so did I. But as they brought me beer and bacon at evening, and I
toasted the memory of things past, I said to myself: "Oxford,
Cambridge, Dublin, Durham--you four great universities--you terrors of
Europe--that road is older than you: and meanwhile I drink to your
continued healths, but let us have a little room ... air, there, give us
air, good people. I stifle when I think of you."


There is a hill not far from my home whence it is possible to see
northward and southward such a stretch of land as is not to be seen from
any eminence among those I know in Western Europe. Southward the
sea-plain and the sea standing up in a belt of light against the sky,
and northward all the weald.

From this summit the eye is disturbed by no great cities of the modern
sort, but a dozen at least of those small market towns which are the
delight of South England hold the view from point to point, from the
pale blue downs of the island over, eastward, to the Kentish hills.

A very long way off, and near the sea-line, the high faint spire of that
cathedral which was once the mother of all my county goes up without
weight into the air and gathers round it the delicate and distant
outlines of the landscape--as, indeed, its builders meant that it should
do. In such a spot, on such a high watch-tower of England, I met, three
days ago, a man.

I had been riding my kind and honourable horse for two hours, broken,
indeed, by a long rest in a deserted barn.

I had been his companion, I say, for two hours, and had told him a
hundred interesting things--to which he had answered nothing at
all--when I took him along a path that neither of us yet had trod. I had
not, I know; he had not (I think), for he went snorting and doubtfully.
This path broke up from the kennels near Waltham, and made for the High
Wood between Gumber and No Man's Land. It went over dead leaves and
quite lonely to the thick of the forest; there it died out into a
vaguer and a vaguer trail. At last it ceased altogether, and for half an
hour or so I pushed carefully, always climbing upwards, through the
branches, and picked my way along the bramble-shoots, until at last I
came out upon that open space of which I had spoken, and which I have
known since my childhood. As I came out of the wood the south-west wind
met me, full of the Atlantic, and it seemed to me to blow from Paradise.

I remembered, as I halted and so gazed north and south to the weald
below me, and then again to the sea, the story of that Sultan who
publicly proclaimed that he had possessed all power on earth, and had
numbered on a tablet with his own hand each of his happy days, and had
found them, when he came to die, to be seventeen. I knew what that
heathen had meant, and I looked into my heart as I remembered the story,
but I came back from the examination satisfied, for "So far," I said to
myself, "this day is among my number, and the light is falling. I will
count it for one." It was then that I saw before me, going easily and
slowly across the downs, the figure of a man.

He was powerful, full of health and easy; his clothes were rags; his
face was open and bronzed. I came at once off my horse to speak with
him, and, holding my horse by the bridle, I led it forward till we met.
Then I asked him whither he was going, and whether, as I knew these open
hills by heart, I could not help him on his way.

He answered me that he was in no need of help, for he was bound nowhere,
but that he had come up off the high road on to the hills in order to
get his pleasure and also to see what there was on the other side. He
said to me also, with evident enjoyment (and in the accent of a lettered
man), "This is indeed a day to be alive!"

I saw that I had here some chance of an adventure, since it is not every
day that one meets upon a lonely down a man of culture, in rags and
happy. I therefore took the bridle right off my horse and let him
nibble, and I sat down on the bank of the Roman road holding the
leather of the bridle in my hand, and wiping the bit with plucked grass.
The stranger sat down beside me, and drew from his pocket a piece of
bread and a large onion. We then talked of those things which should
chiefly occupy mankind: I mean, of happiness and of the destiny of the
soul. Upon these matters I found him to be exact, thoughtful, and just.

First, then, I said to him: "I also have been full of gladness all this
day, and, what is more, as I came up the hill from Waltham I was
inspired to verse, and wrote it inside my mind, completing a passage I
had been working at for two years, upon joy. But it was easy for me to
be happy, since I was on a horse and warm and well fed; yet even for me
such days are capricious. I have known but few in my life. They are each
of them distinct and clear, so rare are they, and (what is more) so
different are they in their very quality from all other days."

"You are right," he said, "in this last phrase of yours.... They are
indeed quite other from all the common days of our lives. But you were
wrong, I think, in saying that your horse and clothes and good feeding
and the rest had to do with these curious intervals of content. Wealth
makes the run of our days somewhat more easy, poverty makes them more
hard--or very hard. But no poverty has ever yet brought of itself
despair into the soul--the men who kill themselves are neither rich nor
poor. Still less has wealth ever purchased those peculiar hours. I also
am filled with their spirit to-day, and God knows," said he, cutting his
onion in two, so that it gave out a strong savour, "God knows I can
purchase nothing."

"Then tell me," I said, "whence do you believe these moments come? And
will you give me half your onion?"

"With pleasure," he replied, "for no man can eat a whole onion; and as
for that other matter, why I think the door of heaven is ajar from time
to time, and that light shines out upon us for a moment between its
opening and closing." He said this in a merry, sober manner; his black
eyes sparkled, and his large beard was blown about a little by the
wind. Then he added: "If a man is a slave to the rich in the great
cities (the most miserable of mankind), yet these days come to him. To
the vicious wealthy and privileged men, whose faces are stamped hard
with degradation, these days come; they come to you, you say, working (I
suppose) in anxiety like most of men. They come to me who neither work
nor am anxious so long as South England may freely import onions."

"I believe you are right," I said. "And I especially commend you for
eating onions; they contain all health; they induce sleep; they may be
called the apples of content, or, again, the companion fruits of

"I have always said," he answered gravely, "that when the couple of them
left Eden they hid and took away with them an onion. I am moved in my
soul to have known a man who reveres and loves them in the due measure,
for such men are rare."

Then he asked, with evident anxiety: "Is there no inn about here where a
man like me will be taken in?"

"Yes," I told him. "Down under the Combe at Duncton is a very good inn.
Have you money to pay? Will you take some of my money?"

"I will take all you can possibly afford me," he answered in a cheerful,
manly fashion. I counted out my money and found I had on me but 3s.7d.
"Here is 3s. 7d.," I said.

"Thank you, indeed," he answered, taking the coins and wrapping them in
a little rag (for he had no pockets, but only holes).

"I wish," I said with regret, "we might meet and talk more often of many
things. So much do we agree, and men like you and me are often lonely."

He shrugged his shoulders and put his head on one side, quizzing at me
with his eyes. Then he shook his head decidedly, and said: "No, no--it
is certain that we shall never meet again." And thanking me with great
fervour, but briefly, he went largely and strongly down the escarpment
of the Combe to Duncton and the weald; and I shall never see him again
till the Great Day....


In Calais harbour, it being still very early in the morning, about
half-past five, I peered out to see how things were looking, for if that
coast corresponded at all to ours, the tide should be making westerly by
six o'clock that day--the ebb tide--and it was on the first of that tide
that I should make the passage to England, for at sea you never can
tell. At sea you never can tell, and you must take every inch the gods
allow you. You will need that and more very often before evening. Now,
as I put my head out I saw that I could not yet start, for there was a
thick white mist over everything, so that I could not even see the
bowsprit of my own boat. Everything was damp: the decks smelt of fog,
and from the shore came sounds whose cause I could not see. Looking over
the iron bulwarks of the big English cargo ship, alongside of which I
was moored, was a man with his head upon his folded arms. He told me
that he thought the fog would lift; and so I waited, seeking no more
sleep, but sitting up there in the drifting fog, and taking pleasure in
a bugle call which the French call "La Diane," and which they play to
wake the soldiers. But in summer it wakes nobody, for all the world is
waking long before.

Towards six the mist blew clean away before a little air from the
north-east; it had come sharp over those miles and miles of sand dunes
and flats which stretched away from Gris-nez on to Denmark. From
Gris-nez all the way to the Sound there is no other hill; but coarse
grass, wind-swept and flying sand. Finding this wind, I very quickly set
sail, and as I did not know the harbour I let down the peak of the
mainsail that she might sail slowly, and crept along close to the
eastern pier, for fear that when I got to the open work the westerly
tide should drive me against the western pier; but there was no need for
all this caution, since the tide was not yet making strongly. Yet was I
wise to beware, for if you give the strange gods of the sea one little
chance they will take a hundred, and drown you for their pleasure. And
sailing, if you sail in all weathers, is a perpetual game of skill
against them, the heartiest and most hazardous game in the world.

So then, when I had got well outside, I found what is called "a lump."
The sea was jumbling up and down irregularly, as though great animals
had just stopped fighting there. But whatever was the cause of it, this
lump made it difficult to manage the boat I was in, for the air was
still light and somewhat unsteady; sometimes within a point of north,
and then again dropping and rising free within a point of east: on the
whole, north-east. To windward the sea was very clear, but down towards
the land there was a haze, and when I got to the black buoy which is
three miles from Calais, and marks the place where you should turn to go
into the harbour, I could barely see the high land glooming through the
weather, and Calais belfry and lighthouse tower I could not see at all.
I looked at my watch and saw it was seven, and immediately afterwards
the wind became steady and true, and somewhat stronger, and work began.

She would point very nearly north, and so I laid her for that course,
though that would have taken me right outside the Goodwins, for I knew
that the tide was making westerly down the Channel, ebbing away faster
and faster, and that, like a man crossing a rapid river in a ferry-boat,
I had to point up far above where I wanted to land, which was at Dover,
the nearest harbour. I sailed her, therefore, I say, as close as she
would lie, and the wind rose.

The wind rose, and for half an hour I kept her to it. She had no more
sail than she needed; she heeled beautifully and strongly to the wind;
she took the seas, as they ran more regular, with a motion of mastery.
It was like the gesture of a horse when he bends his head back to his
chest, arching his neck with pride as he springs upon our Downs at
morning. So set had the surging of the sea become that she rose and fell
to it with rhythm, and the helm could be kept quite steady, and the
regular splash of the rising bows and the little wisps of foam came in
ceaseless exactitude like the marching of men, and in all this one mixed
with the life of the sea.

But before it was eight o'clock (and I had eaten nothing) the wind got
stronger still, and I was anxious and gazed continuously into it, up to
windward, seeing the white caps beginning on the tops of the seas,
although the wind and tide were together. She heeled also much more, and
my anxiety hardened with the wind, for the wind had strengthened by
about half-past eight, so that it was very strong indeed, and she was
plainly over-canvased, her lee rail under all the time and all the
cordage humming; there it stood, and by the grace and mercy of God the
wind increased no more, for its caprice might have been very different.

Then began that excellent game which it is so hard to play, but so good
to remember, and in which all men, whether they admit it or not, are
full of fear, but it is a fear so steeped in exhilaration that one would
think the personal spirit of the sea was mingled with the noise of the

For a whole great hour she roared and lifted through it still, taking
the larger seas grandly, with disdain, as she had taken the smaller, and
still over the buried lee rail the stream of the sea went by rejoicing
and pouring, and the sheets and the weather runner trembled with the
vigour of the charge, and on she went, and on. I was weary of the seas
ahead (for each and individually they struck my soul as they came, even
more strongly than they struck the bows--steep, curling, unintermittent,
rank upon rank upon rank, as innumerable cavalry); still watching them,
I say, I groped round with my hand behind the cabin door and pulled out
brandy and bread, and drank brandy and ate bread, still watching the
seas. And, as men are proud of their companions in danger, so I was
proud to see the admirable lift and swing of that good boat, and to note
how, if she slowed for a moment under the pounding, she recovered with
a stride, rejoicing; and as for my fears, which were now fixed and
considerable, I found this argument against them: that, though I could
see nothing round me but the sea, yet soon I should be under the lee of
the Goodwins, for, though I could not exactly calculate my speed, and
though in the haze beyond nothing appeared, it was certain that I was
roaring very quickly towards the further shore.

When, later, the sea grew confused and full of swirls and boiling, I
said to myself: "This must be the tail of the Goodwins." But it was,
not. For, though I did not know it, the ebb of the great spring tide had
carried me right away down Channel, and there was not twelve feet of
water under the keel, for the seething of the sea that I noticed came
from the Varne--the Varne, that curious, long, steep hill, with its twin
ridge close by, the Colbert; they stand right up in the Channel between
France and England; they very nearly lift their heads above the waves. I
passed over the crest of them, unknowing, into the deep beyond, and
still the ship raced on. Then, somewhat suddenly, so suddenly that I
gave a cry, I saw right up above me, through what was now a thick haze,
the cliffs of England, perhaps two miles away, and showing very faintly
indeed, a bare outline upon the white weather. A thought ran into my
mind with violence, how, one behind the other, beyond known things,
beyond history, the men from whom I came had greeted this sight after
winds like these and danger and the crossing of the narrow seas. I
looked at my watch; it was ten o'clock, so that this crossing had taken
three hours, and to see the land again like that was better than any
harbour, and I knew that all those hours my mind had been at strain. I
looked again at the vague cliffs narrowly, thinking them the South
Foreland, but as they cleared I saw to my astonishment that I had blown
all down the Straits, and that Folkestone and the last walls of the
chalk were before me.'

The wind dropped; the sea went on uneasily, tumbling and rolling, but
within a very little while--before eleven, I think--there was no breeze
at all; and there I lay, with Folkestone harbour not a mile away, but
never any chance of getting there; and I whistled, but no wind came. I
sat idle and admired the loneliness of the sea. Till, towards one, a
little draught of air blew slantwise from the land, and under it I crept
to the smooth water within the stone arm of the breakwater, and here I
let the anchor go, and settling everything, I slept.

It is pleasant to remember these things.


There is in that part of England which is very properly called her Eden
(that centre of all good things and home of happy men, the county of
Sussex), there is, I say, in that exalted county a valley which I shall
praise for your greater pleasure, because I know that it is too
jealously guarded for any run of strangers to make it common, and
because I am very sure that you may go and only make it the more
delightful by your presence. It is the valley of the River Rother; the
sacred and fruitful river between the downs and the weald.

Now, here many travelling men, bicyclists even and some who visit for a
livelihood, will think I mean the famous River Rother that almost
reaches the sea. The Rother into which the foreigners sailed for so many
hundred years, the River of the Marshes, the river on which stands Rye;
the easy Rother along whose deep meadows are the sloping kilns, the
bright-tilted towns and the steep roads; the red Rother that is fed by
streams from the ironstone. This Rother also all good men know and love,
both those that come in for pleasure, strangers of Kent, and those that
have a distant birthright in East Sussex, being born beyond Ouse in the
Rape of Bramber.

But it is not this Rother that I am telling of, though I would love to
tell of it also--as indeed I would love to tell at length of all the
rivers of Sussex--the Brede, the Ouse, the Adur, the Cuckmere; all the
streams that cut the chalk hills. But for this I have no space and you
no patience. Neither can I tell you of a thousand adventures and
wonderful hazards along the hills and valley of this eastern Rother; of
how I once through a telescope on Brightling Hill saw the meet at
Battle, and of how it looked quite near; of how I leapt the River Rother
once, landing on the far side safely (which argues the river narrow or
the leap tremendous); of how I poached in the wood of a friend who is
still my friend; of how I rode a horse into Robertsbridge; of the inn.
All these things could I tell with growing fervour, and to all these
would you listen with an increasing delight. But I must write of the
River Rother under Petworth, the other Rother in the West. Why? Because
I started out so to do, and no man should let himself be led away by a
word, or by any such little thing.

Let me therefore have done with this eastern river, far away from my
home, a river at the end of long journeys, and speak of that other noble
Rother, the Rother of quiet men, the valley that is like a shrine in

Many famous towns and villages stand in the valley of this river and
even (some of them) upon its very banks. Thus there are the three
principal towns of this part, Midhurst and Petworth and Pulborough: but
these have been dealt with and written of in so many great books and by
such a swarm of new men that I have no business further to describe
their merits and antiquity. But this I will add to all that is known of
them. Midhurst takes its name from standing in the middle, for it is
half-way between the open downs and the thick woods on the borders of
Surrey. Petworth has a steeple that slopes to one side; not so much as
Chesterfield, but somewhat more than most steeples. Pulborough stands
upon a hill, and is famous for its corn-market, to which people come
from far and near, from as far off as Burpham or as close by as Bury.
All these noble towns have (as I said before) been written of in books,
only no book that I know puts them all together and calls them "the
Valley of the Rother." That is the title that such a book should have if
it is to treat of the heart of West Sussex, and I make no doubt that
such a book would be read lovingly by many men.

For the Valley of the Rother breeds men and is the cause of many
delightful villages, all the homes of men. I know that Cobden was born
there, the last of the yeomen: I hope that Cobbett lived here too.
Manning was here in his short married life; he lived at Barlton (which
foolish men call Barlavington), under the old Downs, where the steep
woods make a hollow. In this valley also are Fittleworth (the only place
in England that rhymes with Little Worth); Duncton, about which there is
nothing to be said; Burton, which is very old and has its church right
in the grounds of the house; Westburton, where the racehorses were;
Graffham, Bignor, Sutton, and I know not how many delightful hamlets.

In the Valley of the River Rother no hurried men ever come, for it leads
nowhere. They cross it now and then, and they forget it; but who, unless
he be a son or a lover, has really known that plain? It leads nowhere:
to the no man's land, the broken country by Liss. It has in it no
curious sight, but only beauty. The rich men in it (and thank Heaven
they are few) are of a reticent and homing kind, or (when the worst
comes to the worst) they have estates elsewhere, and go north for their

Foxes are hunted in the Valley of the Rother, but there are not very
many. Pheasants and partridges are shot, but I never heard of great
bags; one animal indeed there is in profusion. The rabbit swarms and
exults in this life of Southern England. Do you stalk him? He sits and
watches you. Do you hunt him with dogs? He thinks it a vast bother about
a very little matter. Do you ferret him? He dies, and rejoices to know
that so many more will take his place. The rabbit is the sacred emblem
of my river, and when we have a symbol, he shall be our symbol. He loves
men and eats the things they plant, especially the tender shoots of
young trees, wheat, and the choice roots in gardens. He only remains,
and is happy all his little life in the valley from which we depart when
our boyhood ends.

The Valley of the Rother is made of many parts. There is the chalk of
the Southern Down-land, the belt of the loam beneath it; then the
curious country of sand, full of dells and dark with pine woods; then
the luxurious meadows, which are open and full of cattle, colts, and
even sheep; then the woods. It is, in a few miles, a little England.
There are also large heaths--larger, you would think, than such a corner
of the earth could contain; old elms and oaks; many wide parks; fish
ponds; one trout stream and half a score of mills. There are men of many
characters, but all happy, honest, good, witty, and hale. And when I
have said all I could say of this delightful place (which indeed I think
is set apart for the reward of virtue) I should not have given you a
tithe of its prosperity and peace and beneficence. There is the picture
of the Valley of the River Rother. It flows in a short and happy murmur
from the confined hills by Hindhead to the Arun itself; but of the Arun
no one could write with any justice except at the expense of far more
space and time than I have given me.

If ever again we have a religion in the South Country, we will have a
temple to my darling valley. It shall be round, with columns and a wall,
and there I will hang a wreath in thanksgiving for having known the


My companion said to me that there was a doom over the day and the reign
and the times, and that the turn of the nation had come. He felt it in
the sky.

The day had been troubled: from the forest ridge to the sea there was
neither wind nor sun, but a dull, even heat oppressed the fields and the
high downs under the uncertain, half-luminous confusion of grey clouds.
It was as though a relief was being denied, and as though something
inexorable had come into that air which is normally the softest and most
tender in the world. The hours of the low tide were too silent. The
little inland river was quite dead, the reeds beside it dry and
motionless; even in the trees about it no leaves stirred.

In the late afternoon, as the heat grew more masterful, a slight wind
came out of the east. It was so faint and doubtful in quantity that one
could not be certain, as one stood on the deserted shore, whether it
blew from just off the land or from the sullen level of the sea. It
followed along the line of the coast without refreshment and without
vigour, even hotter than had been the still air out of which it was
engendered. It did not do more than ruffle here and there the uneasy
surface of our sea; that surface moved a little, but with a motion
borrowed from nothing so living or so natural as the wind. It was a dull
memory of past storms, or perhaps that mysterious heaving from the lower
sands which sailors know, but which no silence has yet explained.

In such an influence of expectation and of presage--an influence having
in it that quality which seemed to the ancients only Fate, but to us
moderns a something evil--in the strained attention for necessary and
immovable things that cannot hear and cannot pity--the hour came for me
to reascend the valley to my home. Already upon the far and confused
horizon two or three motionless sails that had been invisible began to
show white against a rising cloud. This cloud had not the definition of
sudden conquering storms, proper to the summer, and leaving a blessing
behind their fury. The edge of it against the misty and brooding sky had
all the vagueness of smoke, and as it rose up out of the sea its growth
was so methodical and regular as to disconnect it wholly in one's mind
from the little fainting breeze that still blew, from rain, or from any
daily thing. It advanced with the fall of the evening till it held half
the sky. There it seemed halted for a while, and lent by contrast an
unnatural brightness to the parched hills beneath it; for now the sun
having set, we had come north of the gap, and were looking southward
upon that spectacle as upon the climax of a tragedy. But there was
nothing of movement or of sound. No lightning, no thunder; and soon the
hot breath of the afternoon had itself disappeared before the advance of
this silent pall. The night of June to the north was brighter than
twilight, and still southward, a deliberate spectacle, stood this great
range of vague and menacing cloud, shutting off the sky and towering
above the downs, so that it seemed permissible to ascribe to those
protecting gods of our valley a burden of fear.

Just when all that scene had been arranged to an adjustment that no art
could have attained, the first great fire blazed out miles and miles to
the west, somewhere above Midhurst: I think near No Man's Land. Then we
saw, miles to the east again, a glare over Mount Harry, the signal of
Lewes, and one after another all the heights took it up in a
chain--above Bramber, above Poynings, above Wiston, on Amberley Mount (I
think), certainly on the noble sweep of Bury. Even in those greater
distances which the horizon concealed they were burning and answering
each other into Hampshire: perhaps on the beaten grass of the high forts
above Portsmouth, and to the left away to the flat Rye level, and to
the eastern Rother; for we saw the line of red angry upon that cloud
which had come to receive it, an endless line which suddenly called up
what one had heard old men say of the prairie fires.

It was easy, without covering the face and without abstracting the mind
from the whirl of modern circumstance, it was easy, merely looking at
the thing, to be seized with an impression of disaster. The stars were
so pale on the lingering white light of the pure north, the smoky cloud
so deep and heavy and steadfast and low above the hills, the fire so
near to it, so sharp against it, and so huge, that the awe and sinister
meaning of conflagrations dominated the impression of all the scene.
There arose in the mind that memory which associates such a glare and
the rising and falling fury of flames with sacrifice or with vengeance,
or with the warning of an enemy's approach, or with the mark of his
conquest; for with such things our race (for how many thousand years!)
has watched the fires upon the hills far off. It touched one as does the
reiterated note of a chaunt; if not with an impression of doom, at least
with that of calamity.

When the fires had died down to a sullen glow, and the men watching them
had gone home under the weight of what they had seen, the storm broke
and occupied the whole sky. A very low wind rose and a furious rain
fell. It became suddenly cold; there was thunder all over the weald, and
the lightning along the unseen crest of the downs answered the lightning
above the forest.


I lay once alone upon the crest of a range whose name I have never seen
spelt, but which is pronounced "Haueedja," from whence a man can see
right away for ever the expanse of the Sahara.

It is well known that Mount Atlas and those inhabited lands where there
is a sufficient rainfall and every evidence of man's activity, the
Province of Africa, the plateaux which are full of the memories of Rome,
end abruptly towards the sun, and are bounded by a sort of cliff which
falls sheer upon the desert. On the summit of this cliff I lay and
looked down upon the sand. It was impressed upon my mind that here was
an influence quite peculiar, not to be discovered in any other climate
of the world; that all Europe received that influence, and yet that no
one in Europe had accepted it save for his hurt.

God forbid that any man should pretend that the material environment of
mankind determines the destiny of mankind. Those who say such things
have abandoned the domain of intelligence. But it is true that the soul
eagerly seeks for and receives the impressions of the world about it,
and will be moved to a different creed or to a different poetry,
according as the body perceives the sea or the hills or the rainless and
inhuman places which lie to the south of Europe; and certainly the souls
of those races which have inhabited the great zone of calms between the
trade winds and the tropics, those races which have felt nothing
beneficent, but only something awful and unfamiliar in the earth and
sky, have produced a peculiar philosophy.

It is to be remarked that this philosophy is not atheist; those races
called Semitic have never denied either the presence or the personality
of God. It is, on the contrary, their boast that they have felt His
presence, His unity, and His personality in a manner more pointed than
have the rest of mankind; and those of us who pretend to find in the
Desert a mere negation, are checked by the thought that within the
Desert the most positive of religions have appeared. Indeed, to deny God
has been the sad privilege of very few in any society of men; and those
few, if it be examined, have invariably been men in whom the power to
experience was deadened, usually by luxury, sometimes by distress.

It is not atheist; but whatever it is, it is hurtful, and has about it
something of the despair and strength of atheism. Consider the Book of
Job; consider the Arab Mohammedan; consider the fierce heresies which
besieged the last of the Romans in this Province of Africa, and which
tortured the short history of the Vandals; consider the modern tragedies
which develop among the French soldiers to the north and to the south of
this wide belt of sand; and you will see that the thing which the Sahara
and its prolongation produce is something evil, or at least to us evil.
There is in the idea running through the mind of the Desert an intensity
which may be of some value to us if it be diluted by a large admixture
of European tradition, or if it be mellowed and transformed by a long
process of time, but which, if we take it at its source and inspire
ourselves directly from it, warps and does hurt to our European sense.

It may be taken that whatever form truth takes among men will be the
more perfect in proportion as the men who receive that form are more
fully men. The whole of truth can never be comprehended by anything
finite; and truth as it appears to this species or to that is most true
when the type which receives it is the healthiest and the most normal of
its own kind. The truth as it is to men is most true when the men who
receive it are the healthiest and the most normal of men. We in Europe
are the healthiest and most normal of our kind. It is to us that the
world must look for its headship; we have the harbours, the continual
presence of the sea through all our polities; we have that high
differentiation between the various parts of our unity which makes the
whole of Europe so marvellous an organism; we alone change without
suffering decay. To the truth as Europe accepts it I cannot but bow
down; for if that is not the truth, then the truth is not to be found
upon earth. But there conies upon us perpetually that "wind of Africa";
and it disturbs us. As I lay that day, a year ago, upon the crest of the
mountain, my whole mind was possessed with the influence of such a gale.

Day after day, after day, the silent men of the Desert go forward across
its monotonous horizons; their mouths are flanked with those two deep
lines of patience and of sorrow which you may note to-day in all the
ghettoes of Europe; their smile, when they smile, is restrained by a
sort of ironic strength in the muscles of the face. Their eyes are more
bright than should be eyes of happy men; they are, as it were, inured to
sterility; there is nothing in them of that repose which we Westerners
acquire from a continual contemplation of deep pastures and of
innumerable leaves; they are at war, not only among themselves, but
against the good earth; in a silent and powerful way they are also

You may note that their morals are an angry series of unexplained
commands, and that their worship does not include that fringe of
half-reasonable, wholly pleasant things which the true worship of a true
God must surely contain. All is as clear-cut as their rocks, and as
unfruitful as their dry valleys, and as dreadful as their brazen sky;
"thou shalt not" this, that, and the other. Their God is jealous; he is
vengeful; he is (awfully present and real to them!) a vision of that
demon of which we in our happier countries make a quaint legend. He
catches men out and trips them up; he has but little relation to the
Father of Christian men, who made the downs of South England and the
high clouds above them.

The good uses of the world are forgotten in the Desert, or fiercely
denied. Love is impure; so are birth, and death, and eating, and every
other necessary part in the life of a man. And yet, though all these
things are impure, there is no lustration. We also feel in a genial
manner that this merry body of ours requires apology; but those others
to south of us have no toleration in their attitude; they are awfully

I have continually considered, as I have read my history, the special
points in which their influence is to be observed in the development of
Europe. It takes the form of the great heresies; the denial of the
importance of matter (sometimes of its existence); the denial that
anything but matter exists; the denial of the family; the denial of
ownership; the over-simplicity which is peculiarly a Desert product runs
through all such follies, as does the rejection of a central and
governing power upon earth, which is again just such a rebellion as the
Desert would bring. I say the great heresies are the main signs of that
influence; but it is in small and particular matters that you may see
its effect most clearly.

For instance, the men of the Desert are afraid of wine. They have good
reason; if you drink wine in the Desert you die. In the Desert, a man
can drink only water; and, when he gets it, it is like diamonds to him,
or, better still, it is like rejuvenation. All our long European legends
which denounce and bring a curse upon the men who are the enemies of
wine, are legends inspired by our hatred of the thing which is not
Europe, and that bounds Europe, and is the enemy of Europe.

So also with their attachment to numbers. For instance, the seventh day
must have about it something awful and oppressive; the fast must be
seven times seven days, and so forth. We Europeans have always smiled in
our hearts at these things. We would take this day or that, and make up
a scheme of great and natural complexity, full of interlacing seasons;
and nearly all our special days were days of rejoicing. We carried
images about our fields further to develop and enhance the nature of our
religion; we dedicated trees and caves; and the feasts of one place were
not the feasts of another. But to the men of the Desert mere unfruitful
number was a god.

Then again, the word, especially the written word, the document,
overshadows their mind. It has always had for them a power of something
mysterious. To engrave characters was to cast a spell; and when they
seek for some infallible authority upon earth, they can only discover it
in the written characters traced in a sacred book. All their expression
of worship is wrought through symbols. With us, the symbol is clearly
retained separate from that for which it stands, though hallowed by that
for which it stands. With them the symbol is the whole object of

On this account you will find in the men of the Desert a curious panic
in the presence of statues, which is even more severe than the panic
they suffer in the presence of wine. It is as though they said to
themselves: "Take this away; if you leave it here I shall worship it."
They are subject to possession.

Side by side with this fear of the graphic representation of men or of
animals, you will find in them an incapacity to represent them well. The
art of the iconoclasts is either childish, weak, or, at its strongest,

And especially among all these symptoms of the philosophy from which
they suffer is their manner of comprehending the nature of creation. Of
creation in any form they are afraid; and the infinite Creator is on
that account present to them almost as though He were a man, for when we
are afraid of things we see them very vividly indeed. On this account
you will find in the legends of the men of the Desert all manner of
fantastic tales incomprehensible to us Europeans, wherein God walks,
talks, eats, and wrestles. Nor is there any trace in this attitude of
theirs of parable or of allegory. That mixture of the truth, and of a
subtle unreal glamour which expands and confirms the truth, is a mixture
proper to our hazy landscapes, to our drowsy woods, and to our large
vision. We, who so often see from our high village squares soft and
distant horizons, mountains now near, now very far, according as the
weather changes: we, who are perpetually feeling the transformation of
the seasons, and who are immersed in a very ocean of manifold and
mysterious life, we need, create, and live by legends. The line between
the real and imaginary is vague and penumbral to us. We are justly
influenced by our twilights, and our imagination teaches us. How many
deities have we not summoned up to inhabit groves and lakes--special
deities who are never seen, but yet have never died?

To the men of the Desert, doubt and beauty mingled in this fashion
seemed meaningless. That which they worship they see and almost handle.
In the dreadful silence which surrounds them, their illusions turn into
convictions--the haunting voices are heard; the forms are seen.

Of two further things, native to us, their starved experience has no
hold; of nationality (or if the term be preferred, of "The City") and of
what we have come to call "chivalry." The two are but aspects of one
thing without a name; but that thing all Europeans possess, nor is it
possible for us to conceive of a patriotism unless it is a patriotism
which is chivalric. In our earliest stories, we honour men fighting
odds. Our epics are of small numbers against great; humility and charity
are in them, lending a kind of magic strength to the sword. The Faith
did not bring in that spirit, but rather completed it. Our boundaries
have always been intensely sacred to us. We are not passionate to cross
them save for the sake of adventure; but we are passionate to defend
them. In all that enormous story of Rome, from the dim Etrurian origins
right up to the end of her thousand years, the Wall of the Town was more
sacred than the limits of the Empire.

The men of the Desert do not understand these things. They are by
compulsion nomad, and for ever wandering; they strike no root; their
pride is in mere expansion; they must colonise or fail; nor does any man
die for a city.

As I looked from the mountain I thought the Desert which I had come so
far to see had explained to me what hitherto I had not understood in the
mischances of Europe. I remained for a long while looking out upon the

But when I came down again, northward from the high sandstone hill, and
was in the fields again near running water, and drinking wine from a cup
carved with Roman emblems, I began to wonder whether the Desert had not
put before my mind, as they say it can do before the eye of the
traveller, a mirage. Is there such an influence? Are there such men?


Once, in Barbary, I grew tired of unusual things, especially of palms,
and desired to return to Europe and the things I knew; so I went down
from the hills to the sea coast, and when after two days I had reached
the railway, I took a train for Algiers and reached that port at

From Algiers it is possible to go at once and for almost any sum one
chooses to any part of the world. The town is on a sharp slope of a
theatre of hills, and in the quiet harbour below it there are all sorts
of ships, but mostly steamships, moored with their sterns towards the
quay. For there is no tide here, and the ships can lie quite still.

I sat upon a wall of the upper town and considered how each of these
ships were going to some different place, and how pleasant it was to
roam about the world. Behind the ships, along the stone quays, were a
great number of wooden huts, of offices built, into archways, of little
houses, booths, and dens, in each of which you could take your passage
to some place or other.

"Now," said I to myself, "now is the time to be free." For one never
feels master of oneself unless one is obeying no law, plan, custom,
trend, or necessity, but simply spreading out at ease and occupying the
world. In this also Aristotle was misled by fashion, or was ill-informed
by some friend of his, or was, perhaps, lying for money when he said
that liberty was obedience to a self-made law; for the most distant hint
of law is odious to liberty. True, it is more free to obey a law of
one's own making than of some one else's; just as if a man should give
himself a punch in the eye it would be less hurtful and far less
angering than one given by a passer-by; yet to suffer either would not
be a benefit of freedom. Liberty cannot breathe where the faintest odour
of regulation is to be discovered, but only in that ether whose very
nature is largeness. Oh! Diviner Air! how few have drunk you, and in
what deep draughts have I!

I had a great weight of coined, golden, metallic money all loose in my
pocket. There was no call upon me nor any purpose before me. I spent an
hour looking down upon the sea and the steamships, and taking my pick
out of all the world.

One thing, however, guided me, which was this: that desire, to be
satisfied at all, must be satisfied at once; and of the many new
countries I might seek that would most attract me whose ship was
starting soonest. So I looked round for mooring cables in the place of
anchor chains, for Blue Peter, for smoke from funnels, for little boats
coming and going, and for all that shows a steamboat to be off; when I
saw, just behind a large new boat in such a condition of bustle, a sign
in huge yellow letters staring on a bright black ground, which said, "To
the Balearic Islands, eight shillings"; underneath, in smaller yellow
letters, was written: "Gentlemen The Honourable Travellers are warned
that they must pay for any food they consume." When I had read this
notice I said to myself: "I will go to the Balearic Islands, of which
the rich have never heard. I, poor and unencumbered, will go and visit
these remote places, which have in their time received all the
influences of the world, and which yet have no history; for I am tired
of this Africa, where so many men are different from me." As I said this
to myself I saw a little picture in my mind of three small islands
standing in the middle of the sea, quite alone, and inhabited by happy
men; but this picture, as it always is with such pictures, was not at
all the same as what I saw when next morning the islands rose along the
north to which we steered.

I went down to the quay by some large stone steps which an Englishman
had built many years ago, and I entered the office above which this
great sign was raised. Within was a tall man of doubtful race, smoking
a cigarette made of loose paper, and gazing kindly at the air. He was
full of reveries. Of this man I asked when the boat would be starting.
He told me it started in half an hour, a little before the setting of
the sun. So I bought a ticket for eight shillings, upon which it was
clearly printed in two languages that I had bound myself to all manner
of things by the purchase, and especially that I might not go below, but
must sit upon deck all night; nevertheless, I was glad to hold that
little bit of printed prose, for it would enable me to reach the
Balearic Islands, which for all other men are names in a dream. I then
went up into the town of Algiers, and was careful to buy some ham from a
Jew, some wine from a Mohammedan, and some bread and chocolate from a
very indifferent Christian. After that I got aboard. As I came over the
side I heard the sailors, stokers, and people all talking to each other
in low tones, and I at once recognised the tongue called Catalan.

I had heard this sort of Latin in many places, some lonely and some
populous. I had heard it once from a chemist at Perpignan who dressed a
wound of mine, and this was the first time I heard it. Very often after
in the valleys of the Pyrenees, in the Cerdagne, and especially in
Andorra, hundreds of men had spoken to me in Catalan. At Urgel, that
notable city where there is only one shop and where the streets are
quite narrow and Moorish, a woman and six or seven men had spoken
Catalan to me for nearly one hour: it was in a cellar surrounded by
great barrels, and I remember it well. So, also, on the River Noguera,
coming up again into the hills, a girl who took the toll at the wooden
bridge had spoken Catalan to me. But none of these had I ever answered
so that they could understand, and on this account I was very grieved to
hear the Catalan tongue, though I remembered that if I spoke to them
with ordinary Spanish words or in French with a strong Southern accent
they would usually have some idea of what I was saying.

As the evening fell the cables were slipped without songs, and with
great dignity, rapidity, and order the ship was got away.

I knew a man once, a seafaring man, a Scotchman, with whom I travelled
on a very slow old boat in the Atlantic, who told me that the Northern
people of Europe were bravest in a unexpected danger, but the Southern
in a danger long foreseen. He said he had known many of both kinds, and
had served under them and commanded them. He said that in sudden
accident the Northerner was the more reliable man, but that if an act of
great danger had to be planned and coolly achieved, then the Southerner
was strongest in doing what he had to do. He said that in taking the
ground he would rather have a Northern, but in bringing in a short ship
a Southern crew.

He was a man who observed closely, and never said a thing because he had
read it. Indeed, he did not read, and he had in a little hanging shelf
above his bunk only four or five tattered books, and even these were
magazines. I remembered his testimony now as I watched these Catalans
letting the ship go free, and I believed it, comparing it with history
and the things I had myself seen. They did everything with such
regularity and so silently that it was a different deck from what one
would have had in the heave of the Channel. With Normans or Bretons, or
Cornishmen or men of Kent, but especially with men from London river,
there would have been all sorts of cursing and bellowing, and they could
not have touched a rope without throwing themselves into attitudes of
violence. But these men took the sea quite quietly, nor could you tell
from their faces which was rich and which was poor.

It was not till the ship was out throbbing swiftly Over the smooth sea
and darkness had fallen that they began to sing. Then those of them who
were not working gathered together with a stringed instrument forward
and sang of pity and of death. One of them said to me, "Knight, can your
grace sing?" I told him that I could sing, certainly, but that my
singing was unpleasing, and that I only knew foreign songs. He said that
singing was a great solace, and desired to hear a song of my own
country. So I sang them a song out of Sussex, to which they listened in
deep silence, and when it was concluded their leader snapped and twanged
at the strings again and began another song about the riding of horses
in the hills.

So we passed the short night until the sky upon our quarter grew faintly
pale and the little wind that rises before morning awakened the sea.


A pilgrimage is, of course, an expedition to some venerated place to
which a vivid memory of sacred things experienced, or a long and
wonderful history of human experience in divine matters, or a personal
attraction affecting the soul impels one. This is, I say, its essence.
So a pilgrimage may be made to the tomb of Descartes, in Paris, or it
may be a little walk uphill to a neighbouring and beloved grave, or a
modern travel, even in luxury, on the impulse to see something that
greatly calls one.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And what is that?" said he.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MYSELF: "_Salva fide_, I cannot tell."

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 1: The 22nd of December.]


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Of what voyage?" I asked.

He answered:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Hills and the Sea" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.