November 29, 2010

Never ridicule windows...

I'm browsing an old friend of a book, The Path to Rome by Hillaire Belloc, 1902. It's a tale he lived and wrote when he was a young and poor writer, and made a vow to walk from Toul to Rome. The charm of the book is inexpressible. It was the making of Belloc, and had a huge literary influence. He was writing in the time of the "Decadents," and the Aesthetic Movement, and Wilde and Beardsley and Pater, and others of the same weedy reedy type.

And the world was really ready for a change, and didn't know what sort of change it wanted, until Belloc gave it to them! The young poets of the next generation went off to the trenches with The Path to Rome in their knapsacks.

...The very first thing I noticed in St Ursanne was the extraordinary shape of the lower windows of the church. They lighted a crypt and ran along the ground, which in itself was sufficiently remarkable, but much more remarkable was their shape, which seemed to me to approach that of a horseshoe; I never saw such a thing before. It looked as though the weight of the church above had bulged these little windows out, and that is the way I explain it. Some people would say it was a man coming home from the Crusades that had made them this eastern way, others that it was a symbol of something or other. But I say—

LECTOR. What rhodomontade and pedantry is this talk about the shape of a window?

AUCTOR. Little friend, how little you know! To a building windows are everything; they are what eyes are to a man. Out of windows a building takes its view; in windows the outlook of its human inhabitants is framed. If you were the lord of a very high tower overlooking a town, a plain, a river, and a distant hill (I doubt if you will ever have such luck!), would you not call your architect up before you and say—

'Sir, see that the windows of my house are tall, narrow, thick, and have a round top to them'?

Of course you would, for thus you would best catch in separate pictures the sunlit things outside your home.

Never ridicule windows. It is out of windows that many fall to their deaths. By windows love often enters. Through a window went the bolt that killed King Richard. King William's father spied Arlette from a window (I have looked through it myself, but not a soul did I see washing below). When a mob would rule England, it breaks windows, and when a patriot would save her, he taxes them. Out of windows we walk on to lawns in summer and meet men and women, and in winter windows are drums for the splendid music of storms that makes us feel so masterly round our fires. The windows of the great cathedrals are all their meaning. But for windows we should have to go out-of-doors to see daylight. After the sun, which they serve, I know of nothing so beneficent as windows. Fie upon the ungrateful man that has no window-god in his house, and thinks himself too great a philosopher to bow down to windows! May he live in a place without windows for a while to teach him the value of windows. As for me, I will keep up the high worship of windows till I come to the windowless grave. Talk to me of windows!...

Posted by John Weidner at November 29, 2010 9:00 PM
Weblog by John Weidner