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  • louise
    In this instance, pre-history may be helpful, if you forgive my half- deliberate obtuseness. See #37659. MILTON. ..... I know not what has brought us down
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 2, 2006
      In this instance, pre-history may be helpful, if you forgive my half-
      deliberate obtuseness. See #37659.

      ..... I know not what has brought us down into the kitchen.
      The fault must have been mine. We were talking of castles and
      abbeys and cathedrals, and the lords of them in their several
      degrees. We began with what is high and have descended to what is
      low. It is difficult to find "from this lowest depth a lower depth."
      "Raccende il gusto il mutar esca", says Ariosto: and the words are
      very applicable. An imaginary line may be drawn between
      Conversation and Dialogue. In Conversation, as in the country,
      variety is pleasant and expected. We look from the ground before us
      into the remoter, and much of more than one quality lies between.
      In Conversation we ought not to be didactic, in Dialogue we may be:
      Galileo has done it. There are other authorities, but none so great.
      I must now come back homeward from Italy.
      If in the next or any remoter age our country should produce a sound
      historian, who holds up his head above his party, and sees clearly
      and widely, will he be believed when he records what we have
      witnessed within the last few years? It will be called a
      traveller's story*. Already a story* is become a synonyme for a
      lie. Herodotus, the most instructive of historians, when he relates
      a marvellous tale of some occurrence in a far country, gives it us
      as a report: how will our forthcoming writers manage what shall have
      fallen into their hands from their father's, the eyewitness? Will
      they believe that a drop of Saxon blood is in their veins?
      Now you are speaking of history, let me express a wish that you had
      leisure or inclination to continue that which you began. Our own
      times do indeed seem as fabulous as the earlier. Did it never occur
      to you that many of us partake of the Roman? that, although the
      legions had left Britain, many of the inhabitants, and especially
      the settlers on the coast, descended from the invader?
      Doubtless in three centuries there must have been a large
      intermixture of the races. London was somewhat of a mercantile city
      and indeed an emporium, long before its occupation by the Romans.
      Tyre sent her merchants to the south of Ireland, and probably to the
      south of Britain, certainly to the west. An oyster was a bait to a
      Roman; the rocks about our island were covered with them, while
      those on the Italian were scarce and worthless. Certainly few
      merchants would abandon their habitations when the legionaires left
      the land. Their ships were manned by the hardy sailors of the
      north, and the capital (as we call it) invested in them belonged in
      great measure to settlers from abroad, principally Roman, where it
      was safer than in their own city, where imperial purple was the
      merchandise, soldiers the salesmen and auctioneers.
      We are a miscellaneous volume, the leaves well sewed together,
      Roman, Norwegian, Dane, Saxon, chapter after chapter.
      It seems to me likely, that, when the Roman military were recalled
      they were prohibited from their usual rapine, and the wealthier
      townsmen took refuge in their ships. Many if not most of these were
      of half-breed. In Warwickshire I saw a lock of black hair, which
      had been taken from a tomb containing the bones of a Norman, buried
      in it within half a century of the invasion. There could scarcely
      have been time for an intermixture of Neustrian and Saxon. The
      Jutlanders and other Northerns were chiefly the crews of the wealthy
      Neustrian merchants, and soon were joined by their landsmen, who
      made several descents and occupied at last the whole country.
      Here is likelihood without record; for the bowmen and swordsmen were
      no penmen. At the Conquest there were flocks of them. Ravens find
      food after battles. It is worthy of a thought and a reflection that
      a lock of hair, such as what you mention, should remain unchanged in
      colour and substance when body, bones, and brains, had become
      earth. Thus it often happens that the vile outlasts the valuable;
      and what is shorn off and thrown away is gathered up and treasured.
      Gentlemen are usually proud of Norman origin: none can prove
      unbroken in three generations: Dane and Saxon are interlopers. The
      absurd pretenders would go up higher if they knew how, and would
      thank you if you told and persuaded them that they quite as certainly
      had some particle of the Roman in them after so many crosses. The
      Northmen were as valiant as the Romans, and greatly more capable of
      true civilization. They never sent into the arena the bravest men
      to be devoured by wild beasts or to slaughter one another, as the
      most civilized of the Romans did, age after age. They worshipt
      false Gods; what people has not? and how few are there who do not
      even now? But their priests were not hucksters of souls, nor
      covered sins with wafers. They never called their hearers sheep*,
      and fleeced them as if they were. They never taught their fellow
      men that it was a duty or a privilege to kiss their toes, or that
      the seat was holy which they had squatted on. As they could not
      write, they could not forge wills had they been so minded.
      I dare not follow where chemists are so expert in pharmacy. Even
      our own country bears hemlock and hensbane. We may walk more safely
      among the sticklers for antiquity of lineage, who probably have
      never learnt by heart the verse of that poet who, with all his
      levity, has more unobtrusively sage verses than any, be he Roman or
      Athenian. --
      Genus et proavos et quae non fecimus ipsi
      Vix ea nostra voco.
      [Ovid, Metamorphoses*, xiii. 140]
      Ulysses is here represented as the speaker, characteristically and
      We are all of the earth, earthly. They who are proud of family
      antiquity ought to be ashamed of beating a dog, who, we are
      certified, is of older creation. Probably the worms are of older
      still. Happily they are deaf and dumb; if they had ears and tongues
      they would never so misapply them as we often do. We shall soon lie
      in the midst of them as quiet and mute as they are. We cause the
      bloodshed one of another, and often go far afield to chase the
      unoffending. The greediest worms are guiltless of the like; they
      only exact what is their inheritance; we must pay them the debt we
      owe them; let it be unreluctantly!


      Walter Savage Landor


      posted by Louise
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