|Chapter Number||XXIV (Continued) & XXV|
|Chapter Title||A Temple Built in Music & Poet's Corner|
|Newspaper Title||The Canberra Times|
|Trove Title||From Windjammer to Battleship|
FROM WINDJAMMER TO BATTLESHIP
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
BY S. G. FIELDING
They then passed into the North Transept, the Statesman's Aisle, with its monuments of Chatham and Pitt, Peel and Palmerston, Disraeli and Glad- stone, men who had done much to build up the Empire, and to "frame the laws by which we move," then into the Sanc- tuary where the Kings and Queens of England have been crowned from the time of William the Conqueror to George the Fifth. A verger showed them the spot where William was said to have stood on Christmas Day, 1066, when the Norman soldiers, through some mistake, burst into the church and slew, and slew until aisle and transept were stained with Saxon blood."
"Who could have predicted at that time," said Jack, "that Norman and Saxon would to-day be united into one great British people, fighting for the freedom of the world."
"It is indeed wonderful, when you come to think of it," said Adele, "how a people of such mixed blood as the British, should have been gradually welded together by common struggles, and fears into the one great Empire of
"The history of our race reminds me," returned Jack, "of one of Tenny- son's beautiful smiles, we are like
"Iron dug from central gloom,
And heated hot with burning fears:
And dipped in baths of hissing tears, And battered with the shocks of
To shape and use . . . . "
"To shape and use," continued Adele, "by God for His own Divine purpose, for as Harry used to say, "in spite. of the blundering and selfishness of some of our statesmen, we have advanced the cause of justice and freedom, wherever our flag has been unfurled."
They passed up into the chapels of the Kings, that of Henry VII. claiming their attention as the most beautiful. For some minutes they stood gazing, with deep emotion at the Chapel of Edward the Confessor, the saintly King who lies buried in the centre, around whose shrine pilgrims have knelt for over eight hundred years.
"This," said Adele, pointing to the ad- joining Chapel, "is the Chantry of Henry V., the warrior King of Eng- land. On the wooden bar above, you can see the shield, saddle and helmet which it is said he used in battle."
As she spoke Jack saw, not only shield and helmet, but fluttering ban- ners, and heard the noise and shout of armies gathering, and the voice of the warrior King rising loud and clear.—
"Once more unto the breach, dear
friends, once more,
Or close the wall up with our Eng-
Close to the Chantry Chapel is the Coronation Chair, dark with age, but alas! defaced by irreverent tourists, under its seat is the mystic "Stone of
Destiny," carried off, Adele informed him, from Scone in Scotland by Edward I. in 1296, and ever since used at the Coronation of the Kings and Queens of
"There is an old tradition," she said, "that it is the same stone used by Jacob for a pillow, on the night when he fled from the anger of his brother Esau, "and dreamed that wonderful dream, in which he saw the Angels of God ascending, and descending upon the fiery stair, that reached to the verge of Heaven."
"What a strange and romantic story," observed Jack, "and who can tell but that it may yet be found to have some
element of truth in it."
CHAPTER XXV. POET'S CORNER
They walked slowly down the south ambulatory, past the chapels of St. Ed- mund and St. Benedict, and entered "Poet's Corner." Jack was gazing up at Chaucer's tomb, and was about to step back to get a better view of it, when his guide touched him on the arm,
"Look, Mr. Grenville, where you are treading!"
Casting his eyes toward the pave- ment at his feet, he started back with a cry of surprise, for he found that he was treading over the graves of Brown- ing and Tennyson. Catching Adele's hand, "Good Heavens!" he exclaimed; "my great masters! To whom I owe so much, but for them I would not be here to-day; and but for you," he add- ed, turning to Adele, "I would have passed them by."
The graves were marked by two gran- ite slabs, so plain in design, that they might easily be overlooked amongst the
more elaborate monuments that sur- rounded them. He now noticed for the first time that a burst of Tennyson stood upon the pillar opposite. A strange fancy took possession of him, that there was a look of recognition in the eyes that gazed down at him from the pedestal. In an instant his mind
travelled back to that wild life at sea
when he first came under the spell of the poet's wonderful words. He saw
once more the fo'castle of the "Cutty
Sark," and felt the heave of the deck beneath his feet. A flood of associa- tions came rushing back upon him. Scenes and memories of his past. Storm
and wreck, calm and sunshine, Tommy
and Little Billie, faces from fo'castle and cabin, shore scenes in foreign lands, Chand Kaur, and the snow-clad Himalayas, temples and pagodas, Hindoo, Chinese, and Japanese faces, in a few seconds swept past him, in quick suc- cession; while through these phantas- magoric pictures of the past moved the spirits of the two great men, whose mouldering bodies lay beneath his feet.
He stood gazing in a state of hypnosis for some minutes, unconscious that he
was still. He was recalled to his pre- sent surroundings by strains of en- chanting music, the same stealing, and pealing forth, apparently from the
choir screen behind him. The daily
morning service was about to com- mence. A few minutes later, the white- robed choir filed past them. Jack and Adele moved a few steps into the
transept, and knelt in prayer, still hand in hand, almost over the place, where the two great poets lay sleeping. It happened to be the eighteenth day of
the month, and the introductory part of the service over, the choir commenced to chant the 90th Psalm:
"Lord, Thou hast been our refugee, from one generation to another. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the earth and the world were, made, Thou art God,from, everlasting, and world without end."
It would be difficult to describe the effect produced upon Jack's mind as he listened to this oldest song in the world, sung by one of the finest choirs in one of the oldest churches of the Empire.
It may have been partly the surround-
ings, but as the voices of boys, and men fell upon his ears again, the spell of the past came over him. Once more he was swept back into other ages, be- fore the mountains were brought forth, and the majestic drama of creation seemed to pass before his eyes, the mass of nebulous gas whirling through
infinite space. Then he seemed to see the earth as a molten globe, gradually cooling until at last a crust of slag formed upon its surface, which was broken again and again by the heaving ocean of fire beneath. What a tumult and tossing; what an uproar of vol- canic forces were there, preparing the planet for the coming of life. For un- numbered ages it seemed to him this furious action of creation thundered on like a tempest. Chand Kaur would have said that "he was watching God at His work." At last, "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, and God said, 'Let there be light; and there was light." Then the mystery of all mysteries, the miracle of all miracles, the coming of life, and the slow, pain- ful evolution from lower to higher types; until suddenly, without shock or break, mental evolution succeeded or- ganic, though it was impossible to dis- cern where the one ended and the other began. But the effect was there in a new creation, a new type. Man stood out supreme, alone, a personality, a spiritual Ego; for God had breathed into him the breath of life, and man had become a living soul. Then it seemed as though man fought against this Divine spirit, with a strange de- sire to relieve sometimes a part, and sometimes the entire history of his lower organic life. Then a new life appeared, like man and yet different, a life free from the burden of the past. A new man, a second Adam. The Spirit of the Universe had entered the limitations of humanity, that He might feel with and for His human children. That He might live, and,suffer, and die for them. And so his vision was crown- ed by the coming of the Christ, the per- fect man. A new type of life, including all that had ever been, and all that would be, had appeared on the earth.
Doubtless Edward the Confessor had chanted this very psalm with his monks nine hundred years ago; and seen the same or a similar vision. It was prob- ably sung at the dedication of the Abbey. As the thought flashed across his mind, Jack turned, and saw, or seemed to see, the saintly King himself enter the cloister door just behind him, as he used to do. He could see his pink cheeks, his long white hair and beard, and his thin hands uplifted to bless the kneeling people, while his monks chanted:
"Before the mountains were brought forth; or ever the earth and world were made; Thou art God from everlasting, and world without end. Thou turnest man to destruction; again Thou sayest,
come again, ye children of men.
"For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday; seeing that is past as a watch in the night.
"As soon as Thou scatterest them they are even as a sleep and fade away suddenly like the grass."
Truly, they were strange, grand words that Moses had spoken three thousand years ago to the Children of Israel, and which were now set to this wonderful music, that swept in great waves of harmony along nave and transept, words full of the mystery of life and death; full, too, of the spirit of God, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel, and strength. He could not help feeling that they contained the secret life, that had baffled him so
long. Glancing upward, he saw the
strong brave face of Tennyson looking down upon him, and he remembered his song of life and death, which he had read, and pondered over during his lonely night watches, until its spirit and meaning had become part of his own being.
"Strong we, that have not seen Thy
By faith, and faith alone embrace
Believing where we cannot prove.
Thine are those orbs of light and shade;
Thou madest life in man and brute; Thou madest Death; and lo, Thy foot Is on the skull which Thou hast made.
Thou wilt not leave us in the dust;
Thou madest man, he knows not why; He thinks he was not made to die;
And Thou hast made him; Thou art
Still the organ pealed and the choir
"When Thou art angry all our days are gone; we bring our years to an end, as it were a tale that is told.
"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wis-
Then the words which seemed about to die away would swell into a rich note of triumph:—
(To be Continued.)