Some Traveller from New Zealand

There is not, and there never was on this earth, a work of human policy so well deserving of examination as the Roman Catholic Church. The history of that Church joins together the two great ages of human civilisation. No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon, and when camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheatre. The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back in an unbroken series, from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and youthful vigour. The Catholic Church is still sending forth to the farthest ends of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustin, and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila. The number of her children is greater than in any former age. Her acquisitions in the New World have more than compensated for what she has lost in the Old. Her spiritual ascendency extends over the vast countries which lie between the plains of the Missouri and Cape Horn, countries which a century hence, may not improbably contain a population as large as that which now inhabits Europe. The members of her communion are certainly not fewer than a hundred and fifty millions; and it will be difficult to show that all other Christian sects united amount to a hundred and twenty millions. Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished at Antioch, when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s.

Thos. Macaulay, essay on Ranke’s History of the Popes of Rome, Edinburgh Review, October, 1840.

Never Learned

The Myth of Arthur.
G. K. Chesterton.

O learned man who never learned to learn,
Save to deduce, by timid steps and small,
From towering smoke that fire can never burn
And from tall tales that men were never tall.
Say, have you thought what manner of man it is
Of who men say “He could strike giants down” ?
Or what strong memories over time’s abyss
Bore up the pomp of Camelot and the crown.
And why one banner all the background fills,
Beyond the pageants of so many spears,
And by what witchery in the western hills
A throne stands empty for a thousand years.
Who hold, unheeding this immense impact,
Immortal story for a mortal sin;
Lest human fable touch historic fact,
Chase myths like moths, and fight them with a pin.
Take comfort; rest–there needs not this ado.
You shall not be a myth, I promise you.

Even to the Twentieth Generation

That is the mark of the Scot that he stands in an attitude to the past unthinkable in Englishmen, and remembers and cherishes the memory of his forebears, good and bad, and there burns alive in him a sense of identity with the dead, even to the twentieth generation.

— Robert Louis Stevenson.

Rubha na Carraig-gèire

A frame saw by G. Anderson, Ltd., Arbroath, at Rubha na Carraig-gèire.
A frame saw by G. Anderson, Ltd., Arbroath, at Rubha na Carraig-gèire.
Fielding & Platt (Gloucester, England) gas engine used at Rubha na Carraig-gèire from 1907-1914.
Fielding & Platt (Gloucester, England) gas engine used at Rubha na Carraig-gèire from 1907-1914.
View of Iona marble quarry from the south west.
View of Iona marble quarry from the south west.
Rubha na Carraig-gèire, the Iona marble quarry, from the sea.
Rubha na Carraig-gèire, the Iona marble quarry, from the sea.

In this Iland is marble enough, whereof the late Earle of Argyle caused polish a piece at London abundantly beautifull. In a particular place of the Island, neer the sea ebbing and flowing thereinto, there are found transparant stones of all colours, but most ordinarily green, much resembling agatts: they yield to the file and tool, and I have severall sealls of them.

The Spottiswoode Miscellany: A Collection of Original Papers and Tracts, Illustrative Chiefly of the Civil and Ecclesiastical History of Scotland, Spottiswoode Society, 1845.

It Is History That Teaches Us to Hope

Equestrian statue of General Robert E. Lee at Monument Avenue, Richmond, Virginia.

My experience of men has neither disposed me to think worse of them, or indisposed me to serve them; nor in spite of failures, which I lament, of errors which I now see and acknowledge; or of the present aspect of affairs; do I despair of the future.

The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.

— Robert E. Lee in a letter to Lt. Col. Charles Marshall, September 1870.

The Irish According to Fynes Moryson (I)

What follows is a very unflattering, but historically instructive, description of the Irish people  in the Tudor age by Fynes Moryson, an English world traveller who published his observations on divers countries across Europe.  I will be posting various snippets, which whilst being severely tainted by English hatred, are still interesting in the Irish Gaelic manners and customs they purport to portray.

* * *

The lords, or rather chiefs of countries (for most of them are not lords from any grants of our kings, which English titles indeed they despise), prefix O or Mac before their names in token of greatness, being absolute tyrants over their people, themselves eating upon them and making them feed their kern, or footmen, and their horsemen.  Also they, and gentlemen under them, before their names put nicknames, given them from the colour of their hair, from lameness, stuttering, diseases, or villainous inclinations, which they disdain not, being otherwise most impatient of reproach, though indeed they take it rather for a grace to be reputed active in any villainy, especially cruelty and theft.  But it is strange how contrary they are to themselves, for in apparel, meat, fashions, and customs they are most base and abject, yet are they by nature proud and disdainful of reproach.  In fighting they will run away and turn again to fight, because they think it no shame to run away and to make use of the advantage they have in swift running; yet have they great courage in fighting, and I have seen many of them suffer death with as constant resolution as ever Romans did.  To conclude this point, they know not truly what honour is, but according to their knowledge no men more desire it, affecting extremely to be celebrated by their poets, or rather rhymers, and fearing more than death to have a rhyme made in their disgrace and infamy.  So as these rhymers—pestilent members in that commonwealth—by animating all sorts by their rhymes to licentious living, to lawless and rebellious actions, are so much regarded by them as they grow very rich, the very women, when they are young and new married, or brought to bed, for fear of rhymes giving them the best apparel and ornaments they have.

— The Manners and Customs of Ireland, Fynes Moryson.