April 25, 2004

Belloc 'Path to Rome' Excerpt

His long walking journey wasn't all sweetness and light:
... I had marched 180 miles. It was no wonder that on this eighth day I was oppressed and that all the light long I drank no good wine, met no one to remember well, nor sang any songs. All this part of my way was full of what they call Duty.

I watched a train come in. It was full of tourists, who (it may have been a subjective illusion) seemed to me common and worthless people, and sad into the bargain. It was going to Interlaken; and I felt a languid contempt for people who went to Interlaken instead of driving right across the great hills to Rome.

After an hour, or so of this melancholy dawdling, I put a map before me on a little marble table, ordered some more coffee, and blew into my tepid life a moment of warmth by the effort of coming to a necessary decision. I had (for the first time since I had left Lorraine) the choice of two roads; and why this was so the following map will make clear....I say a day without salt. A trudge. The air was ordinary, the colours common; men, animals, and trees indifferent. Something had stopped working.

Our energy also is from God, and we should never be proud of it, even if we can cover thirty miles day after day (as I can), or bend a peony [editor's note: but not Peony of Summa Mama's! (an intentional sic)] in one's hand as could Frocot, the driver in my piece—a man you never knew—or write bad verse very rapidly as can so many moderns. I say our energy also is from God, and we should never be proud of it as though it were from ourselves, but we should accept it as a kind of present, and we should be thankful for it; just as a man should thank God for his reason, as did the madman in the Story of the Rose, who thanked God that he at least was sane though all the rest of the world had recently lost their reason.

Indeed, this defaillance and breakdown which comes from time to time over the mind is a very sad thing, but it can be made of great use to us if we will draw from it the lesson that we ourselves are nothing. Perhaps it is a grace. Perhaps in these moments our minds repose ... Anyhow, a day without salt.

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