Monday, February 01, 2016

The Road

Reading about the Great North Road today (Dick Whittington, thrice-Lord Mayor and all that), the site linked to a Hillaire Belloc extended quote.  I have heard of Belloc, but never read anything of him.  ACatholic writer, he was friends with GK Chesterton and paired with him in the '10's and '20's, so that George Bernard Shaw affectionately called them The Chesterbelloc, a monster.
"There are primal things which move us. Fire has the character of a free companion that has travelled with us from the first exile; only to see a fire, whether he need it or no, comforts every man. Again, to hear two voices outside at night after a silence, even in crowded cities, transforms the mind. A Roof also, large and mothering, satisfies us here in the north much more than modern necessity can explain; so we built in the beginning: the only way to carry off our rains and to bear the weight of our winter snows. A Tower far off arrests a man’s eye always: it is more than a break in the sky-line; it is an enemy’s watch or the rallying of a defence to whose aid we are summoned. Nor are these emotions a memory or a reversion only as one crude theory might pretend; we craved these things - the camp, the refuge, the sentinels in the dark, the hearth - before we made them; they are part of our human manner, and when this civilisation has perished they will reappear.

"Of these primal things the least obvious but the most important is The Road. It does not strike the sense as do those others I have mentioned; we are slow to feel its influence. We take it so much for granted that its original meaning escapes us. Men, indeed, whose pleasure it is perpetually to explore even their own country on foot, and to whom its every phase of climate is delightful, receive, somewhat tardily, the spirit of The Road. They feel a meaning in it; it grows to suggest the towns upon it, it explains its own vagaries, and it gives a unity to all that has arisen along its way. But for the mass The Road it silent; it is the humblest and the most subtle, but, as I have said, the greatest and most original of the spells which we inherit from the earliest of our race. It was the most imperative and the first of our necessities. It is older than building and than wells; before we were quite men we knew it, for the animals still have it to-day; they seek their food and their drinking-places, and, as I believe, their assemblies, by known tracks which they have made.
It sounds very much like Chesterton, doesn't it? The full quote from Belloc's book The Road, is here 

Also -

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say”(Bilbo Baggins)


james said...

Tolkien came to mind as I read this. I like the observation.

I'd heard of Belloc but not read anything of his. I began to correct this oversight tonight via gutenberg and so far find him pleasant reading.

Grim said...

That's very nice. I have also known the Road.