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- The Untilled Field - 57/57 -


sacraments, and the cardinals drove about Rome with their mistresses."

"The Pope, too," said Rodney.

"Everything was for the best when the pilgrim monk turned in shame and horror from the awakening; the kingdom of the earth was cursed. We certainly owe the last four hundred years of Christianity to Luther."

"I wonder if that is so," said Rodney.

After a pause, Carmady continued, "Belief is declining, but those who disavow the divinity of Christ eagerly insist that they retain his morality--the cowardly morality of the weak who demand a redeemer to redeem them. The morality of the Ghetto prevails; Christians are children of the Ghetto."

"It is given to men to choose between sacraments and statues," said Rodney. "Beauty is a reality, morality is a myth, and Ireland has always struck me as a place for which God had intended to do something, but He changed his mind and that change of mind happened about a thousand years ago. Quite true that the Gael was hunted as if he were vermin for centuries, and had to think how to save his life. But there is no use thinking what the Gael might have done. It is quite certain he'll never do it now--the time has gone by; everything has been done and gloriously."

And for a long while Rodney spoke of Italy.

"I'll show you a city," he said, "no bigger than Rathmines, and in it Michael Angelo, Donatello, Del Sarto, and Da Vinci lived, and lived contemporaneously. Now what have these great pagans left the poor Catholic Celt to do? All that he was intended to do he did in the tenth century. Since then he has produced an incredible number of priests and policemen, some fine prize-fighters, and some clever lawyers; but nothing more serious. Ireland is too far north. Sculpture does not get farther north than Paris--oranges and sculpture! the orange zone and its long cigars, cigars eight inches long, a penny each, and lasting the whole day. They are lighted from a taper that is passed round in the cafes. The fruit that one can buy for three halfpence, enough for a meal! And the eating of the fruit by the edge of the canal--seeing beautiful things all the while. But, Harding, you sit there saying nothing. No, you're not going back to Ireland. Before you came in, Carmady, I was telling Harding that he was not acting fairly towards his biographer. The poor man will not be able to explain this Celtic episode satisfactorily. Nothing short of a Balzac could make it convincing."

Rodney laughed loudly; the idea amused him, and he could imagine a man refraining from any excess that might disturb and perplex or confuse his biographer.

"How did the Celtic idea come to you, Harding? Do you remember?"

"How do ideas come to anyone?" said Harding. "A thought passes. A sudden feeling comes over you, and you're never the same again. Looking across a park with a view of the mountains in the distance, I perceived a pathetic beauty in the country itself that I had not perceived before; and a year afterwards I was driving about the Dublin mountains, and met two women on the road; there was something pathetic and wistful about them, something dear, something intimate, and I felt drawn towards them. I felt I should like to live among these people again. There is a proverb in Irish which says that no man ever wanders far from his grave sod. We are thrown out, and we circle a while in the air, and return to the feet of the thrower. But what astonished me is the interest that everybody takes in my departure. Everyone seems agreed that nothing could be more foolish, nothing more mad. But if I were to go to meet Asher at Marseilles, and cruise with him in the Greek Islands, and go on to Cairo, and spend the winter talking to wearisome society, everyone would consider my conduct most rational. You, my dear friend, Rodney, you tempt me with Italy and conversations about yellowing marbles; and you won't be angry with me when I tell you that all your interesting utterances about the Italian renaissance would not interest me half so much as what Paddy Durkin and Father Pat will say to me on the roadside."


The Untilled Field - 57/57

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