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majority of Englishmen who never leave home.
When I was six years old I can remember what a
sorrow came flying over our little country place
at the news that the great Cathedral in York had
been set on fire by a fanatic who thought he was
obeying a voice from Heaven, hid himself in service
time, piled up books and cushions after the sex-
tons had gone out, set them on fire and then climbed
out at a window by one of the bell ropes.

The fire spread in the vast spaces for many
hours but the city went to sleep without a suspicion
of the destruction which was gathering about the
fairest jewel in the north, the pride of the great
county, and the most perfect Gothic church in the
world, until, at two o'clock in the morning, a man
going through the church-yard fell on the frozen
pavement, and, as he rose to his feet saw the glare
in one of the windows, sounded the alarm, and then,
from towns thirty and forty miles away, the engines
went galloping toward the fire at the summons of
the citizens, and all that human power could do to
save the precious pile was done, but not before a

40



CATHEDRALS 4.1

great part of the beauty was turned to ashes, the
wonderful carving in stone and wood, the marvelous
windows that flashed in your eyes as you stood on
the hills forty miles away in the setting sun, and
the ancient tombs of brass and marble running back
into the dim centuries, — all went down together
in the fire.

I think our people felt the calamity as if it had
struck their own homes. I can just see them,
through my child eyes, talking about it as they
met in the lanes and at the fireside, the cloud on
their faces, the sadness in their voices, and the
wonder what would be done now that the glory had
gone out, while it seemed as if there was a flash out
of the awful deeps no man may fathom, when they
found on the very next Sunday that the Lesson
read on that day ever since the times of Elizabeth
held the words " Our holy and beautiful house
where our fathers praised Thee is burnt with fire,
and all our pleasant things are laid waste."

It was not really a place of worship so much as
a place to be worshiped ; not one in a thousand had
ever stayed there through a sei^ice, and if they had
it would hardly have been worth their while except
as they might be touched by the matchless music
and the singing.

But the Yorkshire folk like their own music best,
as a rule, and do not take kindly to any other. They
want to take part in it, to make a mighty noise
unto God, and certainly they succeed. What they
loved there was just the great, grand pile that had



m CLEAR GRIT

stood as it was for five hundred years, and before
that for perhaps ten hundred more, falling and
rising with the chance and change of time. They
had all been there once and the visit was a white
day in their lives. It had been like the visit of the
disciples to the Mount of Transfiguration, a vision
of glory never to be forgotten. And so it was felt
to be a common calamity !

Before I was able to go there and see it for my-
self, some fifteen years after, it had been restored
to something like its original beauty, and I have
gone there from this country twice to see the brave
sight again, to see others, also, each wonderful in
its way, in other parts of England, and that espe-
cially, I remember with the greatest delight, at
Durham — a great, grand pile of Norman work
of which Dr. Johnson said, " It looks as if it had
grown out of the rock on which it is founded and
would stand as long as the rock will hold it ; "
where Cuthbert rests under the great marble slab
worn hollow by the knees of the worshipers who
came and went for perhaps 600 years before the
Reformation; where Bede rests, that noble spirit,
who gave us the first Saxon translation of the
Gospels, and, finding he was passing away as the
last chapter drew to a close bade the scribe hasten
his hand that the work might be done, and then
breathed his last.

I want to speak to you now and then this winter
about some of these cathedrals and the memories
they hold, and shall begin this evening by touching



CATHEDRALS 45

my dream of their beauty as it stays with me, and
some of its lessons, reserving special studies, like
that you may remember of Westminster, for other
chances; and to begin by saying that the first
thing these English cathedrals do is to upset en-
tirely and destroy that idea we all harbor some-
where within us, that we have gone ahead, in every-
thing, of what we call the Dark Ages, though you
shall hear old people say that times are all the
time growing worse, but they mean by this that the
times were better when they were young, or, at
most, a hundred years ago, or at the farthest, in
the days of Good Queen Bess, as they call her over
there without any reason in the world. The good
times, I think, to all our minds, find their uttermost
edge about then; but before then you begin to
touch the Dark Ages. Now, all these cathedrals,
except St. Paul's in London, grew to this marvelous
beauty and completeness some hundreds of years
before Elizabeth. They range through a period
of perhaps 200 years, but the most and the best
of them were built in the Thirteenth Century, —
that is, from five to seven hundred years ago, — and
yet they are so wonderful in their design, so grand
in their proportions, and so perfect in all the de-
tails of their finish, that no man in England, or
even in America, ever thinks of surpassing them
in any way.

The best architects, when they want to build a
noble church, merely adopt the ideas of these old
forgotten builders and, as a rule, manage to spoil



44 CLEAR GRIT

them before they get through, while as for copying
their vast and precious beauty and finish, it is a
thing never thought of.

After this fire I mentioned in the Minster at
York, the workmen went up among the dim vaults
of oak and stone that, from their great height, had
only appeared for centuries, to the people below,
as it were " through a glass darkly," and never
could appear anything else. But they were struck
with wonder to find up there carving as perfect, to
the last detail, as that on the stalls and altars. It
made no difference to these reverent men in the old
days that other men would never see what they had
done ; they were not building for men, but for God,
and felt it would not do to shuffle mean work away
among the rafters and put the beauty and excel-
lence where everybody could see it. In the old
days before them men caught out of Heaven the
idea that the Almighty must not be put off with
an imperfect offering, — it must be spotless and
speckless, and so they wrought to that idea in
these temples built to His Name. Indeed in this
same Church at York they showed me, the last time
I was there, some mason work discovered a few
years before by an accident, a part of the old
Church built, perhaps, 1200 years ago and hidden
away when the great Gothic pile was reared after
the Norman Conquest. It was as sharp and clear
and beautifully joined as if it had been done yes-
terday by the best masons on the earth ; great mas-
sive stones fitted to their places with the finest



CATHEDRALS 45

cement, of which not an ounce went to hide bad
work. All there was had been laid there simply
for perfection of the perfect stone, and not a stone
had shifted a line out of its place or sunk from its
true level in all these ages. And so it is everywhere
with these Churches, allowing for the inevitable
wear and tear of time and the difficulty the slender
and delicate work blossoming out of the stone finds
in withstanding the elements. For these Gothic
Cathedrals are, of all things that were ever done in
stone and wood, the most difficult to preserve, and
at the same time give that lightness of design
which is their rare perfection, and the builders
knew it. But then it was to them as it is to us
now, the most beautiful way to build, and so they
neither spared their money nor hedged against
spending more the moment there was any needed.
They believed that the most sacred outward thing
they could do was to build a grand temple to the
Lord — whether they were right or wrong I shall
not say in this connection. They believed, also,
that the people who loved God and loved their
Church would always be ready to keep it up to the
high standard of perfection they had touched in
its completion, and so they died with its glory in
their eyes.

But in these Cathedrals you have to wonder not
alone at the perfection of beauty, but at its diver-
sity, — no two of them are alike or at all alike. In
this new land and life of ours you may travel a
thousand miles and never know where you are by



46 CLEAR GRIT

the churches, ex^cept in Montreal, where the great
Cathedral of Notre Dame has a certain character
we find nowhere else on the continent ; but in that
little England you cannot mistake your locality —
if you catch sight of a Cathedral. " Ah ! " you
say, " this is Salisbury," as you see one tall spire
rising from the downs and then the marvelous west
front with its three great lancet windows and in-
numerable niches once filled with statues of the
saints and heroes of the old time. Then two great
square towers rise out of a gray old city and you
say " Canterbury," and think that just here the
glad tidings were first heard that turned pagan
England into Christian England after a long fight.
You ride over a great plain, and gradually, out of
the haze, rise three great towers, two just alike
and one rising above them, massive, square, and
almost bare of ornament, and you say again :
" This is York," before you see the ancient walls
that compass the town or the west front of the
Church with the statues of Walter Gray, who made
it, and Vavasour of Haslewood, who gave the
stone; wonderful old York, where they used to
decide, now and then, the fortunes of the Roman
Empire, and, when the Christian Faith got the
mastery, built this Church on the site of a heathen
temple. And this with one low square tower and
a round Saxon doorway all abloom with carving, —
" What is this ? " — this is Rochester, dear to the
heart of Charles Dickens, the scene of the work
broken off at his death, " The Mystery of Edwin



CATHEDRALS 47

Drood." Dickens never tired of wandering about
this old place, in moonlight and sunlight, and
watching for the glory,

" When buttress and buttress, alternately,
Seem framed of ebon and ivory."

And these twin tovrers set on a hill with a low
green country all about, and red-tiled houses
clustering about the base of the vast Norman
pile, — that is London. And farther on, among
the marshes, this one great square tower with
a low tower clean at the other end, " What is
this ? " — this is Ely ; you cannot mistake it, there
is not another Cathedral like it in the kingdom.
And down toward the sea this spire of an infinite
slender beauty, rising out of another old city, —
this is Norwich. And this massive tower, low and
square, with carving all over it, this is Exeter.
And these three slender spires shooting up into the
blue sky, — this is Lichfield ; you would know Lich-
field out of a thousand. And this vast, simple
pile, Norman you know as you look at it, standing
high out of the smoke of the forges that have
turned the grass and trees black for scores of
miles except just there, " Why ! this is Durham ! "
where the ancestors of Washington went on holy-
days before America was more than a dream.

And so you may go in any direction, and you
can never mistake your place if you can see the
Cathedral; it stamps a character on the whole
region, and when you say York, or Canterbury, or



48 CLEAR GRIT

Durham, or Lincoln, those towers and spires and
wonderful variations of grandeur and beauty take
the same place in your thought they take in the
picture, — they are the one peerless presence. It
is as if in a great crowd one should cry, " Here is
the king," and then you saw one towering over all
the rest and had no e3^es to see the rest for his
stately beauty and royalty.

Now how did these things get themselves built?
We have, no doubt, to make allowance for ec-
clesiastical pride and secular superstition, and for
that spirit of competition which made one city
vie with another for the finest structure that could
be had for love or money ; but these are all minor
reasons, while the great reason lay in that devout
longing of the people to give their best and their
fairest to God.

Now I am by no means prepared to say, with
some men, that this was all nonsense and worse
than that. There is a bad side to it, and in the
course of time it came to be so very bad that the
honest heart of England and Germany had to
handle it without mercy, to turn the old worship
out of doors and introduce something cleaner and
more reasonable. That was the bad side. But
the good side was this : — these people made a sacri-
fice for something higher, as they believed, and
more sacred than their own comfort or luxury,
and it was not eaten up by a pack of lazy beggars ;
it grew into all this beauty and stateliness and
became a world's wonder and a kingdom's worship.



CATHEDRALS 4^

The days for such buildings are probably over,
but in that day the people gave for the highest and
most sacred purpose they could conceive of, for
something that had Heaven in it, and so it was a
noble and sacred thing to do and, no doubt,
brought its blessing to the doer as certainly as it
has bequeathed its beauty to these later times, and
so I say anything that will take a man out of him-
self and will lift him for a moment into a higher
life than grubbing for money to spend on himself
or leave to his children to their hurt is a blessing.

When we do a grand thing now it is for a uni-
versity or a library. These are the cathedrals of
our new day ; our churches are of a lesser pattern
and in our Protestant worship it must be so. Yet
churches are now, as ever, indispensable things,
and when it is possible they should always be beau-
tiful and noble and paid for as these cathedrals
were by the whole people, the rich casting in their
treasure and the poor their mite, for no church
and no service can be really worth much to any
man who will not do his share for its building and
maintenance. Deadheads in a church mean dead
hearts too.

Then there is another thing I like to think of in
connection with these stately and enduring piles.
As the people who said, " Let us huild them," had
a noble idea about what they wanted to do, so had
the men who did the work.

Those were days when work was in itself inti-
mately blended with what religious life people had



50 CLEAR GRIT

to their name. The youth was not left to run
wild with no handicraft to carve out a living withal
when manhood came, because the trades-unions were
afraid of being swamped, nor was a bad workman
deemed equal to a good one if he Avas backed by
such a union. You could not get an inkling of
some craft and then say, " I can do that as well as
another man," and so go to building or plumbing
or carving on your own word. You must serve
seven years, from 14 to 21 under one master.
Then you must take your kit and wander over
England as a journey man, for that is what the
term means, and see what they were doing far and
wide. This was your pilgrimage and these were
your shrines. Then you must turn out your day's
work and let your fellows judge of its excellence,
and then you were ready, — but not until then, —
to go wherever you would as a free and true work-
man.

So these grand cathedrals rose, one by one, out
of the fervent heart of the time and by the well
taught head and hand. So when they touched a
stone it blossomed into beauty, and where they laid
it, there it stayed ; they never made a false line and
never carved an ugly thing except by pure inten-
tion. So that vast treasure of beauty came, and
of variety which was never made matter for mere
imitation, but every city held its own peerless
treasure, v/hich the wasting and wantonness of
three hundred years could not deform or defile.
They laid the most precious dust there of their



CATHEDRALS 51

dead. The cathedral was the shrine of a county,
the last long home of saints and heroes, and monu-
ments were built to their memory and windows
flashed purple and crimson and golden glories on
their graves.

I have said I am not sure it would be best to
build such places again, if that were possible.
They belonged to a time that has passed away, and
beautiful as these shrines are that survive we must
still remember a few things which may close my
dream of cathedrals.

I. God is not to be worshiped as though he
needed these things at all ; what is required of thee,
O man, but " to do justly, to love mercy, and to
walk humbly with thy God." It is not on Zion or
on Gerizim, but in the spirit and in truth we lift
our hearts to Heaven, and such places do not
greatly help us. They were built, indeed, for an-
other purpose, I fear, to entrance the eyes rather
than to touch the heart and make noble and beauti-
ful the life.

II. Man is not to worship as though he needed
them; the more home-like a church can be made
in all ways, the nearer it is to the heart of all wor-
ship. I mind a simple log church far away in the
West, which seemed to me one summer's day nearer
Heaven than Cologne or York. The windows were
thrown open to the vast green lands dotted at wide
distances with little homes. The people came rid-
ing over the lands in rude wagons, men and women
and troops of children, homely replicas of the



52 CLEAR GRIT

angels in old pictures. It was too warm a day
for the men to wear their coats and so they left
them outside, and I am not sure that any woman
wore what j^ou would call a bonnet. They sat
down with the children about them in a very pleas-
ant, homely way, and I often had to wait in my
sermon for the children to hush, and look as if I
enjoyed it very much. But it was all so home-
like and they were so hearty and sincere and that
log church was so sweet and sound a leaven for a
whole county, slaying the grossness of the old evil
times, rooting out the drinking dens at the corners,
drawing the folk together in this friendly way to
bend their faces before the Most High, catch new
thoughts of our human brotherhood and find their
way from that to the Divine, teach the children a
few simple and sweet truths in the little Sunday
school and send them home with a good sound book
in their hands to where books were hardly known,
that this stays with me still as the dream of a better
cathedral than the most splendid fanes I have ever
seen, when you get at the real heart of the ques-
tion.

III. In the very bloom and glory of that century
when these cathedrals touched the summit of their
splendor, the Black Death swept over England so
fearfully and fatally that the living were hardly
enough to bury the dead. It is surmised that
two-thirds of the entire population died of that
Black Death. " How did this befall us.? " I will
tell you. We lived in base, mean, and filthy homes,



CATHEDRALS 53

dark, close, and ugly as sin, and the poor lived on
mean and base food and not enough of that.
These grand foundations were like the wens that
draw all the life to themselves and leave the man
to die ; the hard-working man had ultimately to
pay for them and for the hordes and herds of men
that lived on and in them. It was very much like
that old print you may have seen, — the King with
his crown says, " I govern all," the Soldier with
his sword says, " I fight for all," the Lawyer in his
gown says, " I plead for all," and the poor man
w^ith his spade says " I pay for all."

So my dream of cathedrals for our new and
better day turns away from these, beautiful as
they are, to foundations where we can learn how
to live, to help each other in noble ways to a nobler
life, to take no striving out of any man but to
teach him how to strive to the best purpose, so
that his life shall be well worth living.

We are beginning to think of these things, —
they are great things and good. My dream of a
cathedral for the future and for this new good
world is grand clusters of homes, full of sweetness
and light, noble and beautiful in their way as these
old fanes are, where we can live together and wor-
ship together, maintaining the sanctity of the
family and yet maintaining the brotherhood. " A
dream," you say ; " well," I answer, " it will come
true because it is the next great thing to build in
our building."



WESTMINSTER ABBEY

There is one church in England we are sure to
visit who go there if we visit no other, and that is
Westminster Abbey. The real mother church of
the mother land, the great and beautiful shrine
where her noblest dust is treasured and the monu-
ments of her mighty dead, the place where the
American heart is touched as I think it can be
touched nowhere else within those four seas ! Be-
cause this is our dust also down in the vaults and
the finest of those monuments are ours by kinship
of blood, and so it is as if we stood among the tra-
ditions of some grand ancestral home where the
dead are more to us for the moment than the liv-
ing. They belong to the race from which we
sprang and make close and true connection with
its life, while no doubt it was this feeling which
prompted Irving to write one of the finest chap-
ters about Westminster Abbey to be found in
books.

I have thought also that to the most of those
who go there from this side of the water the curi-
ous and touching story which lies far back and
within what they see with their eyes is still in the
same sense a blank, — something like those old
parchments in which when you remove what meets

54



WESTMINSTER ABBEY 55

the eye you find far older and more enduring rec-
ords that by reason of their very age come home
to you Kke a new revelation. So I want to help
those who may go there to catch some crumb of
the curious interest in what they will see as they
stand within those walls, to remind some others
of what they have seen and to what may still be
the heavy majority, to those will never go there,
recite something of the story of the foundation
and fortunes of the venerable pile, so that West-
minster Abbey may stand in its true light as a
type of the far reaching and enduring life of
England, a life mingled forever of good and evil,
I know, but still with a stanch and serious pur-
pose, as I believe, in the heart of it all, to get the
evil under in the end and to glorify the good.

Dean Stanley questions the truth of the eva-
nescence of names written in water and thinks
nothing is apt to be so abiding as such a name,
and I think he is right. In Bede, the first English
historian, who died 1163 years ago, mention is
made of a well, and I was looking down into the
cool deeps of that well a few years since. The
whole place has been burnt over — no man knows
how often — but the well still bubbled up fresh
and clear all the same and said you must build
your citadel about me or you can have no abiding
city — and so a well 300 miles away from this I
saw at Carlisle was the nursing mother of West-
minster Abbey. There was once a little island
where the Abbey stands now, made by the great



56 CLEAR GRIT

river on one side and on the other by some streams
that are now lost in underground London. It
was a haunt of wild things and was more than
suspected of harboring demons, — loco terribilis —
the old Saxon chronicle calls it, — and here about
the year 600 a few brave men went to see what
could be done to bring the island within the clasp
of such civility as was possible in those rude and
rough days. They struck a well in the very
heart of the wilderness and this was the pivot on
which all things turned. They also got a church
going about 616 and then forever after psalms
were sung and prayers lifted from the margin of
that sweet old well. And then in time there came
another sacred touch to the place. One man's
life was so pure and good that when he died they
made him a saint and buried him within the church,
grouped their homes about it, and so it was very
much like our old nests in New England to which
our hearts are still bound by the old well, the
meeting house and the graves of those who are to
you as the saints. It is all dim enough through
more than four centuries ; still these sweet home
touches never quite fade out, the water bubbles,
the dust of the good saint sleeps close by and the
terrible place grows into a garden of God within
sight of London, while the generations live and die


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