Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Life Uninhibited, Irrepressed
For one of the pleasures of inhabiting an old country, full of the accumulated riches of earlier and better times, is that there are always new objects of interest and beauty to see, for the eye to delight in and the mind to draw satisfaction and profit from.
My first surprise was the Flawford figures, discovered in 1779: from the time of Richard II, half life-size and in beautiful preservation, among the finest surviving examples of English medieval sculpture. I suppose they were buried at the Reformation — imagine what destruction there must have been! I suppose no time can have approached that for destruction of things of beauty, until we come to the twentieth century, which must surely hold the record in that line. There are three figures: the middle one a bishop in full pontificals giving his blessing, the whole thing full of suavity and tenderness, coming out of a worId that could receive such blessings easily and gratefully as part of the order of nature, or rather of the divine order. The smaller figure is of St. Peter as Pope, gay and appealing, with slightly curved stance. This is still more marked in the Virgin and Child, the child carried gaily on the hip, the delightful imp pressing milk from her naked breast. The Middle Ages took all that very naturally — like their religion. It gave them joy as well as consolation: it expressed the whole of life as no version of Christianity or sect has done since. But that was because the medieval Church itself was an expression of the whole society. The Peter has a figure of an ecclesiastic, the donor, praying at his feet on a couple of cushions: all with that naturalness which was the genius of the Middle Ages, that childlike naturalness which runs through their literature, through Chaucer, their religious poems, their politics, their behaviour — life uninhibited, irrepressed, the life of children.
Id. (at 31):
It gives one a melancholy pleasure, too, to look at fragments brought together here from which one can see how beautiful the town once was — as almost all English towns were before the Industrial Revolution undermined the beauty of England, a process that has overwhelmed us in our time with fifteen million people too many in the island.