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Clare Hall and King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, from the Banks of the River Cam

 "Clare Hall and King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, from the Banks of the River Cam"
Watercolor - 1793
Joseph Mallord William Turner

"Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about."

--G.K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens


Maundy Thursday

"Maundy Thursday"
Oil on Canvas - Date Unknown
Mykola Pymenenko 
The dry paths had turned my boots and puttees white with dust. The empty sky was the clear blue of a bird’s egg and I was walking in my shirt sleeves for the first time. Slower and slower however: a nail in one of my boots had mutinied. I limped into the thatched and white-washed village of Köbölkut as it was getting dark. There was a crowd of villagers in the street and I drifted into the church with them and wedged myself into the standing congregation.

The women all had kerchiefs tied under the chin. The men, shod in knee-boots, or in raw-hide moccasins cross-gartered halfway up their shanks, had wide felt hats in their hands, or cones of fleece. Over the shoulders of a couple of shepherds were flung heavy white capes of stiff homespun frieze. In spite of the heat and the crush, one of them was wrapped in a cloak of matted and uncured sheepskin, shaggy-side out, that reached down to the flagstones. Things had become much wilder in the last hundred miles. The faces had a knobbly, untamed look: they were peasants and countrymen to the backbone.

The candles, spiked on a triangular grid, lit up these rustic masks and populated the nave behind them with a crowd of shadows. At a pause in the plainsong one of the tapers was put out. I realized, all at once, that it was Maundy Thursday. Tenebrae were being sung, and very well. The verses of the penitential psalms were answering each other across the choir and the slow recapitulations and rephrasings of the responsories were unfolding the story of the Betrayal. So compelling was the atmosphere that the grim events might have been taking place that night. The sung words crept step by step through the phases of the drama. Every so often, another candle was lifted from its pricket on the triangle and blown out. It was pitch dark out of doors and with the extinction of each flame the interior shadows came closer. It heightened the chiaroscuro of these rough country faces and stressed the rapt gleam in innumerable eyes; and the church, as it grew hotter, was filled by the smell of melting wax and sheepskin and curds and sweat and massed breath. There was a ghost of old incense in the background and a reek of singeing as the wicks, snuffed one after the other, expired in ascending skeins of smoke. “Seniores populi consilium fecerunt,” the voices sang, “ut Jesum dolo tenerent et occiderent”; and a vision sprang up of evil and leering elders whispering in a corner through toothless gums and with beards wagging as they plotted treachery and murder. “Cum gladiis et fustibus exierunt tamquam ad latronem . . .” Something in the half-lit faces and the flickering eyes gave a sinister immediacy to the words. They conjured up hot dark shadows under a town wall and the hoarse shouts of a lynch-mob; there was a flicker of lanterns, oafish stumbling in the steep olive groves and wild and wheeling shadows of torches through tree trunks: a scuffle, words, blows, a flash, lights dropped and trampled, a garment snatched, someone running off under the branches. For a moment, we— the congregation— became the roughs with the blades and the cudgels. Fast and ugly deeds were following each other in the ambiguity of the timbered slope. It was a split-second intimation! By the time the last of the candles was borne away, it was so dark that hardly a feature could be singled out. The feeling of shifted rôles had evaporated; and we poured out into the dust. Lights began to kindle in the windows of the village and a hint of moonrise shone at the other end of the plain.

--Patrick Leigh Fermor, from A Time of Gifts


A Group of Professors

"A Group of Professors"
Oil on Canvas - Newcasle University - Date Unknown
Unknown artist

It is true, in a sense, to say that the mob has always been led by more educated men. It is much more true, in every sense, to say that it has always been misled by educated men. It is easy enough to say the cultured man should be the crowd’s guide, philosopher and friend. Unfortunately, he has nearly always been a misguiding guide, a false friend, and a very shallow philosopher. And the actual catastrophes we have suffered, including those we are now suffering, have not in historical fact been due to the prosaic practical people who are supposed to know nothing, but almost invariably to the highly theoretical people who knew that they knew everything. The world may learn by its mistakes; but they are mostly the mistakes of the learned.

--G.K. Chesterton, "The Common Man"



Oil on Canvas - 1957
Terence Tenison Cuneo 

The truth is that any advance in science leaves morality in its ancient balance; and it depends still on the inscrutable soul of man whether any discovery is mainly a benefit or mainly a calamity. This is, perhaps, the strongest argument for a morality superior to materialism, and a religion that refuses to be bullied by science. Moral progress must still be made morally; and a modern scientist who has invented the most complex mechanism, or liberated the most subtle gas, has still exactly the same spiritual problem before him as that which confronted Cain, when he stood with a ragged stone in his hand.

--G.K. Chesterton, from "The Efficiency of the Police." 


Hounds Putting Up a Swan

"Hounds Putting Up a Swan"
Oil on Panel - Date Unknown
Abraham Hondius

”Every young man starting life ought to know how to cope with an angry swan, so I will briefly relate the proper procedure. You begin by picking up the raincoat which somebody has dropped; and then, judging the distance to a nicety, you simply shove the raincoat over the bird’s head; and taking the boat-hook which you have prudently brought with you, you insert it underneath the swan and heave. The swan goes into a bush and starts trying to unscramble itself; and you saunter back to your boat, taking with you any friends who happen at the moment to be sitting on roofs in the vicinity. That was Jeeves’s method, and I cannot see how it could have been improved upon.”

--P.G. Wodehouse, “Jeeves and the Impending Doom”