SAINT BERNARD’S VISION OF HELL : a 17th Century English Broadside Ballad

Saint Bernard’s Vision


A brief Discourse (Dialogue-wise) between the Soul and the Body of a damned man newly deceased, laying open the faults of each other: With a speech of the Devils in Hell. To the Tune of, Fortune my Foe.

Printed at London for J. Wright, dwelling in Gilt-spur street. 1640
Newly Transcribed by E.T.H. III for ease of the modern Reader. 2013

Soul in Hell 2

The Writer speaketh.
AS I lay slumbring in my Bed one Night,
A fearful Vision did me sore affright:
Me thought I saw a Soul departed late,
By it the Body, in a poor estate.

Wailing with sighs, the Soul aloud did cry
Upon the Body, in the Coffin by:
And thus the Soul to it did make her moan,
With grievous sobs, and many a bitter groan.

The Soul speaketh.
O sinful Flesh, which now so low doth lie,
Whom yesterday the World esteemd so high;
It was but yesterday the World was thine,
Thy Sun is set, which yesterday did shine.

Where is that Train that did attend on thee?
Where is thy Mirth? where is thy Jollity?
Where are thy sumptuous Buildings, and thy Treasure?
Thy pleasant Walks, in which thou tookst such pleasure?

Gone is thy Train, thy Mirth to mourning turn’d,
Thou in a Coffin in thy Shrine art Urn’d:
For thy rich Clothes, thou hast a Winding-sheet,
Thy high-built Roof now with thy Nose doth meet.

But I (poor Soul) was fram’d a noble creature,
In likeness to my God, of heavenly feature:
But by thy sin, whilst we on Earth abode,
I am made fouler than a loathsome Toad.

O wretched Flesh, with me that art forlorn,
That well mayst wish thou never hadst been borne;
Thou never wouldst to any good agree,
For which we evermore shall damned be.

I am and must forever be in pain,
No tongue can tell the torments I sustain;
Both thou and I, we must descend to Hell,
Where we in frying flames for aye must dwell.

It was thy Pride, Deceit, and Luxury,
Hath brought these torments both on me and thee;
Thy Wife, thy Children, Friends, which thou didst trust,
Doth loath thy Carcass, lying in the Dust.

The Book of God, which is both true and sure,
Witness at large what sinners shall endure:
Thou that within thy Bed of Earth art laid,
Arise, and answer to these things I said.

The Body answereth.
I know thee well, my Soul, which from me fled,
Which left my Body senseless, cold, and dead:
Cease then to say, the fault was all in me,
When I will prove the fault was most in thee.

Thou sayst, that I have led thee oft astray,
And from well-doing drawn thee quite away,
But if the Flesh the Spirits power can move,
The fault is thine, as I will plainly prove.

God you do know, created thee most fair,
And of Celestial knowledge gave you share:
I was your servant, form’d of Dirt and Clay;
You to command, and I for to obey.

Twas in your power for to restrain my will,
And not to let me do those things were ill.
The Bodies works be from the Soul derided,
And by the Soul the Body should be guided.

The Body of it self none ill hath known:
If I did what thou bidst, the guilts thine own:
For without thee, the Body resteth dead;
The Soul commands it rests upon thy head.

So to conclude, thy guilt exceedeth mine;
Oh, how the worms do tear me in my Shrine!
And therefore fare thou well, poor sinful Soul,
Whose trespasses pass mine, though they are foul.

The second part. To the same tune.

Soul in hell

The Soul answereth.
Most wretched Flesh, which in thy time of life
Wast foolish, idle, vain, and full of strife;
Though of my substance thou didst speak to me,
I do confess I should have bridled thee.

But thou through love of pleasure foul and ill,
Still me resisted and would have thy will:
When I would thee (O Body) have control’d,
Straight the worlds vanities did thee with-hold.

So thou of me didst get the upper hand,
Enthralling me in worldly pleasures band,
That thou and I eternal shall be drown’d
In Hell, when glorious Saints in Heaven are crown’d.

But flatt’ring fancies did thy mind so please,
Thou never thought to die, till death did seize:
This was thy fault, and cursed is our fate,
Which we repent, but now alas too late.

The Body speaketh.
Oh now I weep being scourg’d with mine own rod,
We both stand guilty ’fore the face of God:
Both are in fault, and yet not equally,
The greatest burthen (Soul) on thee doth lie.

No wit so mean, but this for truth it knows,
That where most gifts of virtue God bestows.
There most is due, and ought repaid be;
And unto this there’s none but will agree.

But foolishly thou yieldedst unto me,
And to my vain desires didst soon agree;
But (oh) I know that at the latter hour,
Both thou and I shall find a death most sour.

I greatly fear an everlasting fire,
Yet one thing more of thee I do desire:
Hast thou been yet amongst the fiends of Hell?
Is no hope left, that we with Christ may dwell?

The Soul answereth.
Fond flesh, remember Dives was denay’d,
When for one drop of water so he pray’d:
Thy question (senseless Body) wanteth reason,
Redemption now is hopeless, out of season.

Vile Body go, and rot in bed of Clay,
Until the great and general Judgement day:
Then shalt thou rise and be with me condemn’d,
To Hells hot lake, for ever without end.

So fare thou well, I must no longer stay,
Hark how the fiends of Hell call me away:
The loss of Heavenly joys tormenteth me
More than all tortures that in Hell can be.

The Devils speak.
Ho, are you come, whom we expected long?
Now we will make you sing another song:
Howling and yelling still shall be your note,
And molten lead be poured down your throat.

Such horror we do on our servants load,
Now thou art worse than is the crawling Toad:
Ten thousand thousand torments thou shalt bide,
When thou in flaming Sulphur shalt be fried.

Thou art a soldier of our camp enroll’d,
Never henceforth shalt thou the light behold:
The pains prepar’d for thee no tongue can tell,
Welcome, O welcome to the pit of Hell.

The Writer speaketh.
At this the groaning Soul did weep most sore,
And then the fiends with joy did laugh and roar:
These Devils seem’d more black than pitch or night,
Whose horrid shapes did sorely me affright.

Sharp steely forks each in his hand did bear,
Tusked their teeth, like crooked mattocks were,
Fire and Brimstone then they breathed out,
And from their nostrils Snakes crawl’d round about.

Foul filthy horns on their black brows they wore,
Their nails were like the tushes of a Boar:
Those fiends in chains fast bound this wretched Soul,
And drag’d him in, who grievously did howl.

Then straight me thought appeared to my sight
A beauteous young man, clothed all in white,
His face did shine, most glorious to behold,
Wings like the Rainbow, and his hair like Gold.

With a sweet voice, All hail, all hail (quoth he)
Arise and write what thou didst hear and see:
Most heavenly music seemed then to play,
And in a cloud he vanished quite away.

Awaking straight, I took my pen in hand,
To write these lines the young man did command,
And so into the world abroad it sent,
That each good Christian may in time repent.

Then let us fear the Lord both night and day,
Preserve our Souls and Bodies we thee pray,
Grant that we may so run this mortal race,
That we in Heaven may have a resting place.

Preserve the King, the Queen and Progeny,
The Clergy, Council, and Nobility,
Preserve our souls, O Lord, we do thee pray,
Amen, with me let all good Christians say.



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THE BELOVED CITY by Father Henry E.G. Rope

Transcribed from The City of the Grail & Other Verses by Henry E.G. Rope, M.A., London, 1923. Poet and Priest, friend and “chaplain” to Hilaire Belloc, Fr. Henry E.G. Rope has left behind him a rich little catalog of evocative stories, essays, and poems just waiting to be rediscovered. We have heard “he lived into his nineties, dying in about 1974 (???) rejecting the Novus Ordo theological and liturgical revolution. Sadly, his books are of the last rarity.” We are posting this particular poem of Father Rope’s in conjunction with our prayers at the start of this Lenten season in the hope that a True Catholic Pope will be acclaimed in the coming weeks.


SHOULD I forget thee, O Pontific Rome,
O chosen city of the King of Kings,
City of refuge, Peter’s royal home.

Should I forget thee, O Pontific Rome,
Fair city that the living flood enrings,
Fast rock whereon the billows spend their foam

For ever vainly, evermore frustrate ;
O city, whose high places stand engirt
With angel armies that untiring wait

Each sign from heaven, headlong from the gate
To drive thy foe or suffer him exert
His malice for an hour infatuate.

O City of our God, O Citadel
Of life, amid a death-devoted age
Encompass’d by the banner’d host of hell,

Whose rout God’s chosen hour shall soon dispel,
Should I forget thee, suffrage none assuage
The penal years my thankless soul must tell.

Right soon the moment which the King hath set
For judgment shall thy royalty renew;
That royalty the world would fain forget

From long eclipse shall issue brighter yet.
O Holy City, who to thee is true
Unto the end, him will not God forget.

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Coman of Cluain mac Treoin’s TESTIMONY as to the school of Sinchell the Young of Cell Аchid along with Mugron’s (a successor to Columcille) INVOCATION OF THE TRINITY.

Transcribed from
being a fragment of
an old-Irish Treatise on the Psalter
with Translation, Notes and Glossary
and an Appendix
Containing Extracts hitherto Unpublished from
Ms. Rawlinson, B. 51a
in the Bodleian Library
edited by Kuno Meyer

This is Coman of Cluain mac Treoin’s testimony as to the school of Sinchell the Young of Cell Аchid along with Mugron’s (a successor to Columcille) Invocation of the Trinity.

These are the rules and customs that were at young Sinchell’s school. Devotion without weariness. Humility without murmuring. Dressing without extravagance. Fasting without violation. Exile without return… against frivolities. Blessing the meal. Dining without leavings. Perseverance in learning. Оbservance of the canonical hours. Cultivation of Heaven. Strengthening every weak one. Not caring for the world. Desiring mass. Listening to elders. Adoration of chastity. Standing by the weak. Frequent confession. Contempt of the body. Respect for the soul. Humanity in need. Attending the sick. Cross-vigil in silence. Pity to sickness. Searching the Scripture. Relating the gospels. Honour to the old. Keeping festival days holy. Brevity in chanting. Keeping friendship (or perhaps gossipred). Greatly avoiding women. Dread of their stories. Great hatred of their talk. Not to go to their great conversation. Not to be alone with them, in one house. Without… the conversation of neighbours. Purity in these men, the better for their souls. Humility to their master. Their master their servant. The Lord their master.

Two things that are a greater evil than (any) one thing: lust and gluttony. Through gluttony Adam was expelled from Paradise. Through gluttony Esau destroyed his birthright and sold it to his brother Jacob for pottage.


Have mercy on us, O God father omnipotent! O God of hosts. O sublime God. O Lord of the world. O unspeakable God. O Creator of the elements. O invisible God. O incorporeal God. O unjudgeable God. O immeasurable God. O impatient God. O immaculate God. O immortal God. O immoveable God. O eternal God. O perfect God. O merciful God. O admirable God. O dread God. O golden good. O heavenly Father that art in Heavens, have mercy on us!

Have mercy on us, O omnipotent God, O Jesus Christ, O son of living God! O son that was born twice. O only-begotten of God the Father. O first child of Mary the Virgin. O son of David. O son of Abraham. O beginning of all. O end of the world. O word of God. O jewel of the heavenly kingdom. O life of all. О eternal truth. О image, О likeness, О figure of God the Father. О hand of God. О arm of God. О strength of God. О right hand of God. О true wisdom. О true light that lighteth every darkness. О…light. О sun of truth. О morning star. О radiance of the Godhead. О splendour of the eternal light. О intelligence of the mystic world. О intermediator of all men. О betrothed of the Church. О trusty shepherd of the flock. О expectation of the faithful. О angel of the great counsel. О true prophet. О true apostle. О true teacher. О high priest. О master. О Nazarene. О fair-haired one. О ever living satisfaction. О tree of life. О true vine. О sprout of the root of Jesse. О king of Israel. О Saviour. О door of the world. О chosen flower of the plain. О lily of the valleys. О rock of strength. О corner stone. О heavenly Zion. О foundation offaith. О innocent lamb. О diadem. О gentle sheep. О redeemer of mankind. О true God. О true man. О lion. О ox. О eagle. О crucified Christ. О judge of Doom, have mercy on us!

Have mercy on us, О omnipotent God, О Holy Spirit! О Spirit that is nobler than all spirits. О finger of God. О guard of the Christians. О comforter of the sorrowful. О gentle one. О merciful intercessor. О giver of true wisdom. О author of Holy Scripture. О ruler of speech. О septiform spirit. О spirit of wisdom. О spirit of understanding. О spirit of counsel. О spirit of strength. О spirit of knowledge. О spirit of gentleness. О spirit of awe. О spirit of charity. О spirit of grace. О spirit by whom all high things are ordained!

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“A scourge of small c(h)ords.”—JOHN ii. 15.

I AM an Evolutionist, and I believe in Law,
I worship mother Nature though she’s “red in tooth and claw;”
I don’t believe in anything I neither hear nor see,
But I believe in Reason (mine) and some Theosophy.

We Evolutionists can tell just how the world was made,
Without a Maker—Well! of course, “evolved “ I should have said;
And Law without a Law-giver may sound a little raw,
But I’m an Evolutionist and I believe in Law.

The universe originally, of course, did not exist,
But tiny atoms hung about like clouds of finest mist;
The mightiest microscope could not reveal them to the eye,
But billions were there we know by our philosophy.

Like darkened mist they floated in—in—nothing only space,
Until one day—Well! not a “day”—a striking change took place;
Of course, all this was ages since, a million years or more,
Before the sun could measure “years,” and Time itself before.

These atoms had been idling and wasting all their time
Before that day, or rather night—one gets mix’d up in rhyme—
When a power came sweeping over them to make them closer draw,
Fortuitously some combined by—Well! by—“Natural Law.”

They all commenced a-pulling one another ! stranger still,
They pull’d without a hook or hands by a kind of force of will!
The potency of matter into operation came,
For “Gravitation” started up ere Newton knew the name.

How cleverly Sir Isaac guessed—“discovered” I should state—
From an apple falling to the ground by its own proper weight,
That atoms, million miles apart, and stars down to a straw,
Can pull each other without ropes, by merely “Natural Law !”

Like swarming bees about a queen they rushed together all,
And clashing struck with so much force they forged a white-hot ball;
And as they’d “other worlds than ours” to make, they thought it right,
Unlike the bees, who love the dark, to first strike up a light.

Our blazing sun then swung around—I think “ours” was the first,
Though not quite sure about the date—it seems one of the worst ?
For every star’s a sun you know, and some are greater far
Than ours, which scientists affirm is but a little star!

Well! then, our sun by whirling round shot off great sparks of fire,
Like red-hot fire-balls shooting forth, some lower and some higher;
And one of these while plastic, soft, revolved into a globe,
And formed a “crust” of earth and seas, a sort of watery robe!

This “crust,” of course, was baked so hot the oceans must have boiled,
Evaporation wasted some till what was left was spoiled;
A salty sediment was formed, which is their common fault,
But only Evolutionists know why the sea is salt!

Of Nature’s many marvels p’rhaps most wonderful of all
Was boiling water, not in pans, but round a red-hot ball!
It fills the mind (the astronomer’s) with thoughts akin to awe,
To think how all these things were done by simply “Natural law!”

In course of time the globe cooled down, the seas would cease to scald,
Another sediment was formed, “Bathybius” Huxley called;
A deep-sea protoplasmic mud—don’t say “sulphate of lime!”—
The dawn of life upon “our globe,” a lot of living slime!

From rocks or stones in water, when the stones had been dissolved,
The various vegetables sprang, or were in time evolved;
Atomic souls, or monads, found expression in these forms,
And threw out blades and branches, or appeared as wriggling worms!

Some specks of this live jelly pushed out arms to catch the prey,
They could not see at first, you see ? so had to feel their way;
Some pushed out legs determinedly, and feet, or fins and claws,
Just as they needed them, you know ; and all by “Natural laws!”

They felt-it inconvenient though to be without some sight,
And so on sunny days they sat exposing to the light;
They blinked and blinked till spots were formed—who knows until he tries?—
And, strangely, two, sank-deep enough to form a pair of eyes!

They then evolved to fishes, and some crawled upon the sand,
While others jumped till they could fly, despising those on land;
But these made up by flights of thought, evolving latent mind,
The fish begat the beast and that—man-monkeys, then—mankind!

Just think how great was Darwin to discover all the past
Development of animals ; I hope that it will last!
But some are lagging far behind, and old forms still persist,
Like clouds of nebulosity in space, which must have mist!

What transmigrations we’ve gone through ! What cycles they would span,
To rise from mud and eels, through snakes, from matter up to man!
Some great ancestral Serpent must have had a subtle mind,
To teach us how to glide ahead and leave the rest behind!

No wonder Serpent worship as a cult so long survived;
Our “Knowing ones” could tell indeed from whom it was derived!
But they are silent lest, you see, our foes should find a flaw
And say that DEVOL—UTION is a much more natural law.

Of course in man material development has ceased,
His outward frame the highest is of any kind of beast;
But monkeys—they should still evolve to mankind, if they can,
While we by force of will aspire to evolve the inner man.

How great the mind of man (my own !) to trace this planet’s birth;
To know how all things formed themselves, all things in heaven and earth!
Has not Professor Drummond shown—though Paul some curses hurled
Against new gospels—“Natural law rules in the spirit world?”

So we shall climb much higher yet, evolving spirit, mind;
I hope it will not take as long as that we leave behind!
Our bodies, though developed with such labour, time, and care,
We’ll throw away—cremate them all!—and go and live—on air!

We want no resurrection of the body, we who look
For something better up to date than that old fashioned Book,
Which teaches that the Earth is fixed, a stable, out-stretched plane,
What Evolution can there be in that that’s worth the name?

Of course we Evolutionists have passed that sort of thing,
We want to be like angels, as the churches even sing;
Our spirits soar above the flesh in which we now ensconce,
And I shall be an angel soon, though p’rhaps not all at once!

We’ll raise another Babel Tower to join the heavenly host
Of immaterial deities, the demon gods and ghosts!
Some Master mind—who was it now? My recollection’s dim—
Once promised, “Ye shall be as gods !” and we all follow him.

So I’m an Evolutionist, I hold to “Natural Law,”
Both here and in the spirit world, as our dear Drummond saw;
The problem of the Universe these master minds have solved?
From out their inner consciousness the whole has been evolved!

Reprinted from “THE EARTH”,
A Monthly Magazine of Sense and Science, upon a
Scriptural Basis;
And of Universal Interest to all Nations and Peoples
under the sun.
Edited and Published by E.A.M.B, 11, Gloucester Road
Kingston Hill, Surrey, England.

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THE RUIN THAT BEFELL THE GREAT FAMILIES OF IRELAND (c. 1720) by Aodhágan Ó Rathaille / Translated by Michael Hartnett

for Luke Kelly

My pity, that Carthy’s heirs are weaklings,
this poor land’s people without a leader;
no man to free her, locked up and keyless,
and shieldless now in this land of chieftains.
Land with no prince of her ancient people,
land made helpless from foreigner’s beatings;
land stretched out beneath the feet of treason,
land chained down—it is the death of reason.
Land lonely, tortured , broken and beaten,
land sonless, manless, wifeless, and weeping;
land lifeless, soulless, and without hearing,
land where the poor are only ill-treated.
Land without churches, massless, and priestless,
land that the wolves have spitefully eaten;
land of misery and obedience
to tyrant robbers, greedy and thieving.
Land that produces nothing of sweetness,
land so sunless, so starless and so streamless;
land stripped naked, left leafless and treeless,
land stripped naked by the English bleaters.
Land in anguish—and drained of its heroes,
land for its children forever weeping;
a widow wounded, crying and keening,
humbled, degraded, and torn to pieces.
The white of her cheeks is never tearless,
and her hair falls down in rainshowers gleaming;
blood from her eyes in torrents comes streaming
and black as coal is her appearance.
Her limbs are shrunken, bound and bleeding;
around her waist is no satin weaving,
but iron from Hades blackly gleaming
forged by henchmen who are Vulcan’s demons.
Red pools are filled by her poor heart’s bleeding
and dogs from Bristol lap it up greedily—
her body is being pulled to pieces
by Saxon curs with their bloody teeth full.
Her branches rotten, her forests leafless,
the frosts of Heaven have killed her streams now;
the sunlight shines on her lands but weakly,
the fog of the forge is on her peaks now.
Her quarries, her mines, are exploited freely,
the rape of her trees is pointless, greedy;
her growing plants are all scattered seawards
to foreign countries to seek for freedom.
Griffin and Hedges, the upstart keepers
of the Earl’s holdings—it is painful speaking—
Blarney, where only bold wolves are sleeping,
Ráth Luirc is plundered, naked and fearful.
The Laune is taken, has lost its fierceness,
Shannon and Maine and Liffey are bleeding;
Kingly Tara lacks the seed of Niall Dubh,
No Raighleann hero is alive and breathing.
O’Doherty is gone—and his people,
and the Moores are gone, that once were heroes;
O’Flaherty is gone—and his people,
and O’Brien has joined the English cheaters.
Of the brave O’Rourke there is none speaking,
O’Donnell’s fame has none to repeat it,
and all the Geraldines, they lie speechless,
and Walsh of the slender ships is needy.

Hear, oh Trinity, my poor beseeching:
take this sorrow from my broken people,
from the seed of Conn and Ír and Eibhear—
restore their lands to my broken people.

They are my tormenting sorrow,
brave men broken by this rain,
and fat pirates in bed
in the place of older tribes of fame,
and the tribes that have fled
and who cared for poets’ lives, defame.
This great crime has me led
shoeless, bare,
through cold towns crying today.

O Rathaille by Michael Hartnett, Oldcastle: Gallery Press, 1999.

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THE VERY FIRST PAGE OF AN OLD RECUSANT CATECHISM (1633) : Three Sayings of S. Austin most worthy to be noted; taken out of his first book of Faith, ad Pet.

[…] I beseech thee for God’s and thy own sake, seriously to weigh, and frequently to consider in the silence of thy recollected mind, these words of the great Doctor of the Church, S. Austin, which are here adjoined.

Three Sayings of S. Austin most
worthy to be noted; taken out
of his first book of Faith,
ad Pet.

1. Hold for most certain, and in no wise doubt, that not only all Pagans, but also Jews, Heretics, and Schismatics, who die out of the Catholic Church, shall go to neverending fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels.

2. Hold for most certain, and in no wise doubt, that no Heretic or Schismatic, baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, if he be not united (by Faith and Charity) to the Catholic Church, though he give never so great alms, yea die for the name of Christ, can in any wise be saved. For neither Baptism, nor ever so great almsdeeds, nor death undergone for the name of Christ, can be profitable to Salvation, as long as one remaineth in the wickedness of Heresy or Schism, which leadeth to damnation.

3. Hold for most certain, and in no wise doubt, that not all, who are baptized according to the rites of the Catholic Church, shall receive everlasting life : but only those who after Baptism live righteously, that is, abstain from vices, and desires of the flesh. For as faithless Heretics shall not have the kingdom of Heaven, so naughty Catholics shall never inherit the same.

These are the words of S. Austin, that great light of God’s Church. I pray God they may be imprinted and even riveted in thy heart, and therein work that effect, which (together with thy prayers) I desire, Farewell.

Transcribed by E.T.H. III from AN INTRODUCTION TO THE CATHOLICK FAITH Containing A brief explication of the Christian Doctrine; Togeather with an easie Method to examine the Conscience for a general Confession. Whereunto is added a dailie exercise of devout prayers. By John Cousturier. M. DC. XXXIII.

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Hilaire Belloc’s PREFACE to Ernest Bramah’s KAI LUNG’S GOLDEN HOURS

Kai Lung's Golden Hours

Homo faber. Man is born to make. His business is to construct: to plan: to carry out the plan: to fit together, and to produce a finished thing.

That human art in which it is most difficult to achieve this end (and in which it is far easier to neglect it than in any other) is the art of writing. Yet this much is certain, that unconstructed writing is at once worthless and ephemeral: and nearly the whole of our modern English writing is unconstructed.

The matter of survival is perhaps not the most important, though it is a test of a kind, and it is a test which every serious writer feels most intimately. The essential is the matter of excellence: that a piece of work should achieve its end. But in either character, the character of survival or the character of intrinsic excellence, construction deliberate and successful is the fundamental condition.

It may be objected that the mass of writing must in any age neglect construction. We write to establish a record for a few days: or to send a thousand unimportant messages: or to express for others or for ourselves something very vague and perhaps very weak in the way of emotion, which does not demand construction and at any rate cannot command it. No writer can be judged by the entirety of his writings, for these would include every note he ever sent round the corner; every memorandum he ever made upon his shirt cuff. But when a man sets out to write as a serious business, proclaiming that by the nature of his publication and presentment that he is doing something he thinks worthy of the time and place in which he lives and of the people to whom he belongs, then if he does not construct he is negligible.

Yet, I say, the great mass of men to-day do not attempt it in the English tongue, and the proof is that you can discover in their slipshod pages nothing of a seal or stamp. You do not, opening a book at random, say at once: “This is the voice of such and such a one.” It is no one’s manner or voice. It is part of a common babel.

Therefore in such a time as that of our decline, to come across work which is planned, executed and achieved has something of the effect produced by the finding of a wrought human thing in the wild. It is like finding, as I once found, deep hidden in the tangled rank grass of autumn in Burgundy, on the edge of a wood not far from Dijon, a neglected statue of the eighteenth century. It is like coming round the corner of some wholly desolate upper valley in the mountains and seeing before one a well-cultivated close and a strong house in the midst.

It is now many years–I forget how many; it may be twenty or more, or it may be a little less–since The Wallet of Kai Lung was sent me by a friend. The effect produced upon my mind at the first opening of its pages was in the same category as the effect produced by the discovery of that hidden statue in Burgundy, or the coming upon an unexpected house in the turn of a high Pyrenean gorge. Here was something worth doing and done. It was not a plan attempted and only part achieved (though even that would be rare enough to-day, and a memorable exception); it was a thing intended, wrought out, completed and established. Therefore it was destined to endure and, what is more important, it was a success.

The time in which we live affords very few of such moments of relief: here and there a good piece of verse, in The New Age or in the now defunct Westminster: here and there a lapidary phrase such as a score or more of Blatchford’s which remain fixed in my memory. Here and there a letter written to the newspapers in a moment of indignation when the writer, not trained to the craft, strikes out the metal justly at white heat. But, I saw, the thing is extremely rare, and in the shape of a complete book rarest of all.

The Wallet of Kai Lung was a thing made deliberately, in hard material and completely successful. It was meant to produce a particular effect of humour by the use of a foreign convention, the Chinese convention, in the English tongue. It was meant to produce a certain effect of philosophy and at the same time it was meant to produce a certain completed interest of fiction, of relation, of a short epic. It did all these things.

It is one of the tests of excellent work that such work is economic, that is, that there is nothing redundant in order or in vocabulary, and at the same time nothing elliptic–in the full sense of that word: that is, no sentence in which so much is omitted that the reader is left puzzled. That is the quality you get in really good statuary–in Houdon, for instance, or in that triumph the archaic Archer in the Louvre. The Wallet of Kai Lung satisfied all these conditions.

I do not know how often I have read it since I first possessed it. I know how many copies there are in my house–just over a dozen. I know with what care I have bound it constantly for presentation to friends. I have been asked for an introduction to this its successor, Kai Lung’s Golden Hours. It is worthy of its forerunner. There is the same plan, exactitude, working-out and achievement; and therefore the same complete satisfaction in the reading, or to be more accurate, in the incorporation of the work with oneself.

All this is not extravagant praise, nor even praise at all in the conventional sense of that term. It is merely a judgment: a putting into as carefully exact words as I can find the appreciation I make of this style and its triumph.

The reviewer in his art must quote passages. It is hardly the part of a Preface writer to do that. But to show what I mean I can at least quote the following:

“Your insight is clear and unbiased,” said the gracious Sovereign. “But however entrancing it is to wander unchecked through a garden of bright images, are we not enticing your mind from another subject of almost equal importance?”

Or again:

“It has been said,” he began at length, withdrawing his eyes reluctantly from an usually large insect upon the ceiling and addressing himself to the maiden, “that there are few situations in life that cannot be honourably settled, and without any loss of time, either by suicide, a bag of gold, or by thrusting a despised antagonist over the edge of a precipice on a dark night.”

Or again:

“After secretly observing the unstudied grace of her movements, the most celebrated picture-marker of the province burned the implements of his craft, and began life anew as a trainer of performing elephants.”

You cannot read these sentences, I think, without agreeing with what has been said above. If you doubt it, take the old test and try to write that kind of thing yourself.

In connection with such achievements it is customary to-day to deplore the lack of public appreciation. Either to blame the hurried millions of chance readers because they have only bought a few thousands of a masterpiece; or, what is worse still, to pretend that good work is for the few and that the mass will never appreciate it–in reply to which it is sufficient to say that the critic himself is one of the mass and could not be distinguished from others of the mass by his very own self were he a looker-on.

In the best of times (the most stable, the least hurried) the date at which general appreciation comes is a matter of chance, and to-day the presentation of any achieved work is like the reading of Keats to a football crowd. It is of no significance whatsoever to English Letters whether one of its glories be appreciated at the moment it issues from the press or ten years later, or twenty, or fifty. Further, after a very small margin is passed, a margin of a few hundreds at the most, it matters little whether strong permanent work finds a thousand or fifty thousand or a million of readers. Rock stands and mud washes away.

What is indeed to be deplored is the lack of communication between those who desire to find good stuff and those who can produce it: it is in the attempt to build a bridge between the one and the other that men who have the privilege of hearing a good thing betimes write such words as I am writing here.

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