Monday, December 15, 2008
Santa came early this year. A wonderful copy of 'Places' by Hilaire Belloc arrived last week. Published in 1942 and in fine condition, it is a collection, published by Cassell and Company and costing Eight Shillings and Sixpence, of 52 essays written by Belloc about places he had visited. The writing, as always, is excellent, but what is fascinating is reading descriptions of places that had already changed by 1942, let alone 50+ years later. There is a magnificent description of Belloc's meeting with General Franco, the Saviour of Christendom, towards the end of the Spanish Civil War, which I will save for another post, but here are a few choice quotes for your delight and delectation.
From 'On An Etching'
"See how abject, how despicable, are all things which boast that they are wholly new; that they owe nothing to tradition. See how lacking they are in sap. How tasteless and often insane."
"We do not restore the past because we cannot; but by a desperate effort to restore it we maintain the continuity of life."
Belloc speaks of "what ruin false doctrine can bring upon the world. The ancient paganism, being a preparation for the Faith, did no such hurt. It was Mohammedanism, the greatest and most virulent of the heresies (and the most persistent), which must bear the blame."
"We know very well why the virulent, debased, modern hostility to the Faith is what it is. It is the hatred of corruption for health, the hatred of vice for virtue."
"There is about the Catholic Church something absolute which demands, provokes, necessitates alliance or hostility, friendship or enmity."
From 'About Wine' (we can't let a Belloc quote go by without another essay on wine)
"Wine seems to me to be the test of things European. Were Europe - essential Europe - to perish, why, then, wine would perish too. But when wine disappears, it will be time for us to cover our faces and to die; for without wine we shall not be ourselves any more. By wine came the column and the temple, the marble figures and the right colours, all that is permanent in the beauty man has created; and without wine that beauty would sink away."
"For who can be properly nourished, if indeed he be of human stock, without wine? St. Paul said to someone who had consulted him (without remembering that, unlike St. Luke, he was no physician), 'Take a little wine for your stomach's sake.' But I say, take plenty of it for the sake of your soul and all that appertains to the soul: scholarship; verse; social memory and the continuity of all culture. There may be excess in wine; as there certainly is in spirits and champagne, but in wine one rarely comes across it; for it seems to me that true wine rings a bell and tells you when you have had enough. But there is certainly such a thing as a deficiency of wine; and such a deficiency is one of the most awful ravenous beasts that can fasten upon a living soul. To drink an insufficient portion of wine, leaving the whole being, body and soul, craving for a full portion, is torture. The feeling of loss will pursue a man for hours."