20 February 2013

Musings on the Way to Moutier

Fresh from the little town of Undervelier in the midst of his pilgrimage on foot to Rome, Hilaire Belloc found himself on a ridge occupied by a few little cottages.

When I got to the top of the ridge there was a young man chopping wood outside a house, and I asked him in French how far it was to Moutier. He answered in German, and I startled him by a loud cry, such as sailors give when they see land, for at last I had struck the boundary of the languages, and was with pure foreigners for the first time in my life. I also asked him for coffee and as he refused it I took him to be a heretic and went down the road making up verses against all such, and singing them loudly through the forest that now arched over me and grew deeper as I descended. 

And my first verse was-- 


           Heretics all, whoever you may be,

           In Tarbes or Nîmes, or over the sea,
          You never shall have good words from me.
          Caritas non conturbat me.

If you ask why I put a Latin line at the end, it was because I had to show that it was a song connected with the Universal Fountain and with European culture, and with all that Heresy combats. I sang it to a lively hymn-tune that I had invented for the occasion.

I then thought what a fine fellow I was, and how pleasant were my friends when I agreed with them. I made up this second verse, which I sang even more loudly than the first; and the forest grew deeper, sending back echoes--

          But Catholic men that live upon wine
          Are deep in the water, and frank, and fine;
          Wherever I travel I find it so,
          Benedicamus Domino.

There is no doubt, however, that if one is really doing a catholic work, and expressing one's attitude to the world, charity, pity, and a great sense of fear should possess one, or, at least, appear. So I made up this third verse and sang it to suit--

          On childing women that are forlorn,
          And men that sweat in nothing but scorn:
          That is on all that ever were born,
          Miserere Domine.

Then, as everything ends in death, and as that is just what Heretics least like to be reminded of, I ended thus--

          To my poor self on my deathbed,
          And all my dear companions dead,
          Because of the love that I bore them,
          Dona Eis Requiem.

~Path to Rome, pp.87-88


           
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