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Crotchet Castle

10.
The Voyage, Continued
Continuant nostre routte, navigasmes par trois jours sans rien descouvrir.--
RABELAIS.
"There is a beautiful structure," said Mr. Chainmail, as they glided by Lechlade
church; "a subject for the pencil, Captain. It is a question worth asking, Mr. Mac
Quedy, whether the religious spirit which reared these edifices, and connected
with them everywhere an asylum for misfortune, and a provision for poverty, was
not better than the commercial spirit, which has turned all the business of modern
life into schemes of profit and processes of fraud and extortion. I do not see, in all
your boasted improvements, any compensation for the religious charity of the
twelfth century. I do not see any compensation for that kindly feeling which,
within their own little communities, bound the several classes of society together,
while full scope was left for the development of natural character, wherein
individuals differed as conspicuously as in costume. Now, we all wear one
conventional dress, one conventional face; we have no bond of union but
pecuniary interest; we talk anything that comes uppermost for talking's sake, and
without expecting to be believed; we have no nature, no simplicity, no
picturesqueness: everything about us is as artificial and as complicated as our
steam-machinery: our poetry is a kaleidoscope of false imagery, expressing no
real feeling, portraying no real existence. I do not see any compensation for the
poetry of the twelfth century."
MR. MAC QUEDY. I wonder to hear you, Mr. Chainmail, talking of the religious
charity of a set of lazy monks and beggarly friars, who were much more occupied
with taking than giving; of whom those who were in earnest did nothing but make
themselves and everybody about them miserable with fastings and penances,
and other such trash; and those who were not, did nothing but guzzle and
royster, and, having no wives of their own, took very unbecoming liberties with
those of honester men. And as to your poetry of the twelfth century, it is not good
for much.
MR. CHAINMAIL. It has, at any rate, what ours wants, truth to nature and
simplicity of diction.
The poetry, which was addressed to the people of the dark ages, pleased in
proportion to the truth with which it depicted familiar images, and to their natural
connection with the time and place to which they were assigned. In the poetry of
our enlightened times, the characteristics of all seasons, soils, and climates may
be blended together with much benefit to the author's fame as an original genius.
The cowslip of a civic poet is always in blossom, his fern is always in full feather;
he gathers the celandine, the primrose, the heath-flower, the jasmine, and the
chrysanthemum all on the same day and from the same spot; his nightingale
sings all the year round, his moon is always full, his cygnet is as white as his
swan, his cedar is as tremulous as his aspen, and his poplar as embowering as
his beech. Thus all nature marches with the march of mind; but among
barbarians, instead of mead and wine, and the best seat by the fire, the reward of
such a genius would have been to be summarily turned out of doors in the snow,
to meditate on the difference between day and night and between December and
 
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