while “ not a parishioner catches a hare or a rabbit, or a trout, but he brings it as an offering to me." I

“ See here, Sterne's roadside home. As day expires,

Within that panneled room behold him sit,
With long churchwarden pipe and scribbled quires,
Himself scarce smiling at his light-born wit,
Or, where the tears should flow, and cheek grow pale,

Turning to shift his wig, or froth his ale." 2

Compared with the Canterbury Tales, the Sentimental Journey may be called refined; but when Chaucer, turning from the portraiture of the dissolute monks, painted in simple words his ideal ecclesiastic, he soared into an atmosphere too pure for men like Sterne to breathe.

“ A good man was ther of religioun,

And was a poure Persoun of a toun;
But riche he was of holy thought and werk.

He cowde in litel thing han suffisaunce.
Wyd was his parische, and houses fer asоnder,
But he ne lafte not for reyne ne thonder,
In siknesse nor in meschief to visite
The ferreste in his parrische, moche and lite,
Uppon his feet, and in his hond a staf.

1 As regards asceticism, at least, Sterne faithfully practised what he preached, for, in a sermon on Eccles. vii. 2, 3, we find him saying, ""Sorrow is better than laughter'— for a crack-brained order of Carthusian monks, I grant, but not for men of the world."

2 Lines on “Coxwold near Thirsk,” srom In Doors and Out, by E. Wordsworth.

This noble ensample to his scheep he yof
That first he wroughte, and afterward he taughte."

It is true that Chaucer had been in Italy, and his mind and art were tinged with the morning light of the Renaissance, but he was still centuries behind that blessed day, so enlightened at once and so picturesque, in which Gothic architecture was consigned to the same limbo with monasticism, and “Mr. Spectator" himself sought, in the following words, to educate the national taste :

“Let any one reflect on the disposition of mind he finds in himself at his first entrance into the Pantheon at Rome, and how the imagination is filled with something great and amazing; and at the same time consider how little, in proportion, he is affected with the inside of a Gothic cathedral, though it be five times larger than the other; which can arise from nothing else but the greatness of the manner in the one, and the meanness in the other.” 1

1 Spectator, vol. vi. No. 415.

[ocr errors][merged small]

“We have not lost all while we have the buildings of our forefathers.” With some such thought as this in our minds we come to Fountains Abbey, the crown and glory of all that monasticism has left to us in England. The tiny seed from which, century after century, this inimitable beauty grew to perfection, was the same holy discontent, the same “incurable distaste for all that is not God,” in which we have traced at Molesme the germ of the Cistercian order. From the cry which arose among a few monks at York, for a more faithful observance of

scaffolding was removed from the great Tudor tower of Fountains, this aspiration was working out its record.

But as with Italian art, so was it with monastic architecture—while the language became more ex

quisite the message was forgotten, and when the form reached perfection the spirit fled for ever.

Slowly, but surely, as the wilderness became a garden and isolation gave place to fame, the Cistercian discontent was transformed into complacency; and when the abbot and his monks beheld with satisfaction their completed work, the feet of those who should drive them out were already at the door. And now the jovial holiday-makers from Harrogate and the cultivated strangers from London or New York come and go with other words on their lips than “The pity of it, Iago! O Iago, the pity of it!' for they are too busy to learn, or too thoughtless to remember, that nothing comes of nothing, and

“ Not from a vain or shallow thought
His awful Jove young Phidias brought,
Never from lips of cunning fell
The thrilling Delphic oracle ;
Out from the heart of Nature rolled
The burdens of the Bible old ;
The litanies of nations came.
Like the volcano's tongue of flame,
Up from the burning core below,-
The canticles of love and woe.
The hand that rounded Peter's dome
And groined the aisles of Christian Rome
Wrought in a sad sincerity :
Himself from God he could not free,
He builded better than he knew
The conscious stone to beauty grew.”

Yet in this fact-for fact it is none the less for being poetry—lies the real charm and wonder of Fountains Abbey. “Could any men whatever, did they but will it, build what our forefathers built? Is a cathedral the offspring of a random thought?” Here is the idea of Mr. Emerson's verse expressed in Cardinal Newman's prose.

The classical gardens and temples at Studley are admirable in their way, but the best that their selfconscious art can do is to emphasise by sharp and sudden contrast the awful sincerity of the Gothic church.

To describe at length this best-known of all the Yorkshire abbeys, would be to follow in the steps of quite a little army of writers, of whom one, the late Mr. Walbran, has treated the subject more or less exhaustively in three distinct works. The near neighbourhood of Ripon, with its interesting cathedral, and of Harrogate, with its less pensive but apparently not less potent charm, make Fountains an easy and familiar goal for tourists, picnickers, lovers, and idlers. Nature and the monks have indeed done

i On the other hand, so much still remains to be elucidated thatpending the promised publication of the results of recent investigation by the secretary of the Society of Antiquaries and Mr. Micklethwaiteeven so slight a sketch as this must be given with caution and reserve.

« VorigeDoorgaan »