Full Online Books
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
Full Online Book HomeEssaysThe Views Of England
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
The Views Of England Post by :FleaMarketGuru Category :Essays Author :Hilaire Belloc Date :April 2011 Read :2332

Click below to download : The Views Of England (Format : PDF)

The Views Of England

England is a country with edges and with a core. It is a country very small for the number of people who live in it, and very appreciable to the eye for the traveller who travels on foot or in a boat from place to place. Considering the part it has in the making of the world, it might justly be compared to a jewel which is very small and very valuable and can almost be held in the hand. The physical appreciation of England is to be reached by an appreciation of landscape.

It so happens that England is traversed by remarkable and sudden ranges; hills with a sharp escarpment overlooking great undulating plains. This is not true of any other one country of Europe, but it is true of England, and a man who professes to consider, to understand, to criticize, to defend, and to love this country, must know the Pennines, the Cotswolds, the North and the South Downs, the Chilterns, the Mendips, and the Malverns; he must know Delamere Forest, and he must know the Hill of Beeston, from which all Cheshire may be perceived. If he knows these heights and has long considered the prospects which they afford, he can claim to have seen the face of England.

It is deplorable that our modern method of travel does cut us off from such experiences. They were not only common to, they were necessary to our fathers; the roads would not be at the expense of tunnelling through hills, and (what is more important) when those men who most mould the knowledge of the country by the country (the people who deal with its soil, who live separate upon its separate farms) visited each other upon horses; and horses, unlike railway trains, cannot climb hills. They puff, they heave, they snort, as do railway trains, but they climb them well.

On this account, because the roads for the carriages went over hills, and because the method of visiting even a near neighbour would permit you to go over hills, the England of quite a little time ago was familiar with the half-dozen great landscapes of England. You may see it in that most individual, that most peculiar, and, I think, that most glorious school of painters, the English landscape painter, Constable with his thick colours, Turner with his wonderment, and even the portrait painters in their backgrounds depend upon the view of the plains from a height. To-day our landscape painters sometimes do the same, but the market for that emotion is capricious, it is no longer the secure and natural way of presenting England to English eyes.

If you will consider these plains at the foot of the English hills you will find in them the whole history of the country, and the whole meaning of it as well. Two occur to me first: The view of the Weald (both Kentish and Sussex) through which the influence of Europe perpetually approached the island, not only in the crisis of the Roman or the Norman invasions, but in a hundred episodes stretched out through two thousand years--and the view of the Thames Valley as one gets it on a clear day from the summits of the North Downs when one looks northward and sees very faintly the Chilterns along the horizon.

This last is obscured by London. One needs a very particular circumstance in which to appreciate it. The air must be dry and clear, there must be little or no wind, or if there is a wind it must be a strong one from the south and west that has already driven the smoke from the western edge of the town. When this is so, a man looks right across to the sandy heights just north of the Thames, and far beyond he sees the Chilterns, like a landfall upon the rim of the world. He looks at all that soil on which the government of this country has been rooted. He sees the hill of Windsor. He overlooks, though he cannot perceive at so great a distance, the two great schools of the rich; he has within one view the principal Castle of the Kings, the place of their council, and the cathedral of their capital city: so true is it that the Thames made England.

Then, if you consider the upper half of that valley, the view is from the ridge of the Berkshire hills, or, better still, from Cumnor, or from the clump of trees above Faringdon. From such look-outs the astonishing loneliness which England has had the strength to preserve in this historic belt of land profoundly strikes a man. You can see to your left and, a long way off, the hill where, as is most probable, Alfred thrust back the Pagans, and so saved one-half of Christendom. Oxford is within your landscape. The roll upwards in a glacis of the Cotswold, the nodal point of the Roman roads at Cirencester, and the ancient crossings of the Thames.

From the Cotswold again westward you look over a sheer wall and see one of those differences which make up England. For the passage from the Upper Thames to the flat and luxuriant valley floor of the Severn is a transition (if it be made by crossing the hills) more sudden than that between many countries abroad. Had our feudalism cut England into provinces we should here have two marked provincial histories marching together, for the natural contrast is greater than between Normandy and Brittany at any part of their march or between Aragon and Castile at any part of theirs. I do not know what it is, but the view of the jagged Malvern seen above the happy mists of autumn, when these mists lie like a warm fleece upon the orchards of the vale, preserving them of a morning until the strengthening of the sun, the sudden aspect, I say, of those jagged peaks strikes one like a vision of a new world. How many men have thought it! How often it ought to be written down! It hangs in the memory of the traveller like a permanent benediction, and remains in his mind a standing symbol of peace.

I have no space to speak of how from Beeston you see all Cheshire; the Vale Royal to your left, and the main plain of the county to your right. The whole stretch is framed in with definite hills, the last and highly marked line of the Pennines bounds the view upon the east; upon the west the first of the Welsh hills stands sharply in a long even line against the fading sun; and on the north you see the height of Delamere. There are three other views in the North of England, the first easy, the last two difficult to obtain, all between them making up a true picture of what the North of England is. The first (and it is very famous) is the view over the industrial ferment of South Lancashire, seen from the complete silence of the hills round the Peak. No matter where you cross that summit, even if you take the high road from the Snake Inn to Glossop, where the easiest, and therefore the least striking, passage has been chosen, much more if you follow the wild heights a little to the south until you come to a more abrupt descent on which there are not even paths, there comes a point where there is presented to you in one great offering, without introduction, a vision of the vast energies of England.

I remember once in winter when the sun sets early (it was December, and seven years ago) coming upon this sight. The clouds were so arranged after an Atlantic storm that all the heaven (which here is always spacious and noble) was covered with a rolling curtain as though a man had pulled it with his hands. But far off, westward, there was a broad red band of sunset, and against this the smoke, the tall stacks, the violence and the wealth of that cauldron. One could almost hear the noise. It did arrest one; it was as though someone had painted something unreal, to be a mystical emblem, and to sum up in one picture all those million despairs, misfortunes, chances, disciplines, and acquirements which make up the character of Lancashire men. This vision also many men have seen and many men shall write of. Very rarely upon the surface of the earth does the soul take on so immediate and obvious a physical body as does the soul of that industrial world in the view of which I speak.

And the two other views are, first, that difficult one which one must pick and choose but which can be obtained from several sites (especially at the end of Wensleydale), and which is the view of that rich, old, and agricultural Yorkshire, from which the county draws its traditions and in which, perhaps, the truest spirit of the county still abides; for Yorkshire is at heart farmer, and possibly after three generations of a town, a man from this part of England still looks more lively when he sees a lively horse put before him for judgment. Second, the view from Cross Fell, very, very difficult to obtain, for often when one climbs Cross Fell in sunny weather, one gets up over the Scar under the threat of cloud, and one only reaches the summit by the time the evening or the mist has fallen; but if one has the luck to see the view of which I speak, then one sees all that rugged remaining part of the Northwest exactly as the Romans saw it, and as it has been for two thousand years, with the high land of the lakes and the stony nature and the sparseness of all the stretch about one, and the approach to a foreign land.

I have often thought when I have heard men blaming the story of England or her present mood for false reasons, or, what is worse, praising her for false reasons; when I have heard the men of the cities talking wild talk got from maps and from print, or the disappointed men talking wild talk of another kind, expecting impossible or foreign perfections from their own kindred--I have often thought, I say, when I have heard the folly upon either side (and the mass of it daily increases)--that it would be a wholesome thing if one could take such a talker and make him walk from Dover to the Solway, exercising some care that he should rise before the sun, and that he should see in clear weather the views of which I speak. A man who has done that has seen England--not the name or the map or the rhetorical catchword, but the thing. And it does not take so very long.

(The end)
Hilaire Belloc's essay: The Views Of England

If you like this book please share to your friends :

The Inventor The Inventor

The Inventor
I had a day free between two lectures in the south-west of England, and I spent it stopping at a town in which there was a large and very comfortable old posting-house or coaching-inn. I had meant to stay some few hours there and to take the last train out in the evening, and I had meant to spend those hours alone and resting; but this was not permitted me, for just as I had taken up the local paper, which was a humble, reasonable thing, empty of any passion and violence and very reposeful to read, a man came up

The Lunatic The Lunatic

The Lunatic
Those who are interested in what simple straightforward people call the Pathology of Consciousness have gathered a great body of evidence upon the various manias that affect men, and there is an especially interesting department of this which concerns illusion upon matters which in the sane are determinable by the senses and common experience. Thus one man will believe himself to be the Emperor of China, another to be William Shakespeare or some other impossible person, though one would imagine that his every accident of daily life would convince him to the contrary. I had recently occasion to watch one of