Breakfast, from a well-stocked and limitless buffet, is excellent. This is a really well-run hostel.
As I sit with my maps, working out my day, a group of English schoolboys, tumbling over each other like puppies, fill their trays with bizarre miscellanies, go through that chaos of finding their places that so quickly resolves into coteries and solitudes, consume various items from their miscellanies including swaps, clear their trays, and are gone, all this in fifteen minutes (I time them) leaving in a flurry of adolescent energy. It is the energy that, grown up a few years, was burned up, consumed on the battlefields of the Western Front, and drained from their countries.
In my thoughts, because today I am to visit those battlefields. In the optimism of planning on small-scale maps, I had imagined myself cycling out to the Menin Gate, maybe the Canadian trenches at Ypres, and being back by lunchtime to ‘do’ Amiens cathedral and town in the afternoon. Impossibly ambitious. So I decide to cycle out to the last front line of the war, and the nearest ‘Brit’ cemetery marked on the map.
Picardy As I cycle east, carried on a stiff breeze on this clear and sunny day across rolling country and through lark-filled air, I ponder Picardy. Why such romance in a word? Is it simply from the memory of a song, ‘Roses of Picardy’? It is one of those sentimental parlour ballads, favoured by high tenors in starched dickeys, that encompasses in two verses a life story. The verses unfold to a tricky tune: ‘She is standing by the poplars, Colinette with the sea-blue eyes. She is watching and longing and waiting, where the white roadway lies. And the song stirs in the silence, as the wind in the boughs above. She listens, and starts, and trembles – ’tis the first little song of love.’ The second verse continues, ‘And the years fly on forever, till the shadows veil the skies. But he loves to hold her little hands, and look in her sea-blue eyes. And she sees the road by the poplars, where they met in the bygone years. For the first little song of roses, is the last little song she hears.’ The chorus could easily be, ‘Just a song at twilight …’, written thirty years earlier. But we surge into, ‘Roses are shining in Picardy, in the hush of the silver dew. Roses are flowering in Picardy, …’ This is the Picardy of sentimental Victorian genre paintings, cheap emotion. But now, as I head across country that was still described by Ormsby in 1931 as ‘slowly recovering from the terrible ploughing and harrowing worked by the shells in 1916-18. Its mangled villages and sub-soil will, in some places, never be brought back to use and habitation’, different voices take up the chorus. We cut from tenor in a parlour or on a music-hall stage, to men marching, the relentless 4:4 tramp of soldiers, men in great-coats, singing in raucous, variously accented voices, ‘but there’s never a rose like you!’ They continue, with the bravado of men together, ‘And the roses will die in the summertime, and our roads may be far apart. But there’s one rose that dies not in Picardy! It’s the rose that I keep in my heart.’ The bravado of men together. But what thoughts each has, alone, terrified, scratching reassuring pencil messages home, each to his Colinette, the poplars and white roads changed in his head to street lights and cobbles, the girl or wife, who he’s never had to imagine before, never having left the street, is now transformed, has become a precious memory of every tenderness that has gone from his world.
The words were written in 1916, by a sixty-eight year old. It became a sheet-music best seller, earning half a million pounds at today’s prices. Men sang it marching to the killing grounds of the Somme. As Amanda says in Private Lives, ‘extraordinary how potent cheap music is.’
I’m soon at Villers-Bretonneux. This was the furthest point west reached by the final German attack in 1918. It was here they were held by British, American and Australian troops, and from here, three months later, in the Battle of Amiens, they were pushed relentlessly back, along the dead-straight Roman road along the ridge, until the armistice.
I stop at the cemetery. The sun is bright, dazzling. A strong wind blows across the open, rolling fields, making flowing patterns on the huge panels of different greens, blowing the air clean, intensifying the songs of the larks all around. A kestrel hangs, slips away, hangs, swoops down.
This is the official Australian war memorial. I hadn’t known. It’s a curious coincidence, that this is the one cemetery I am visiting. In Sydney last year I found the war memorial deeply affecting. Partly because it is such a fine building, that touchingly brings to the fore the lives and loss. But mainly because my father served with the Australians in the World War II, got on well with them, and planned for us to emigrate there after the war. His diagnosis of TB put an end to that. And now my son is living in Australia. And, 12,000 miles away, they are expecting their first child.
I walk through the lines of white gravestones. This man was 46 years old. This man (boy?) was nineteen. Here is an engineer. There a member of the Australian Cycle Corps. I guess it’s inevitable that one begins to imagine lives, their pasts, their unlived futures, their families. 416,809 enlisted, 39% of Australian men between 18 and 44. 61,514 died, 155,133 were wounded.
Looking up, I see the 2,000 graves stretching away. I imagine this cemetery a thousand times bigger, to represent the Allied dead. I double that, to include the German dead, white gravestones as far as the eye can see.
It is a place, this windswept hilltop, for expanding speculations. And for the handwritten commonplaces (what else could one write?) of the memorial register. ‘Never Forgotten.’ ‘Rest in Peace. Thank you.’ ‘Our grandfather is here.’
I cycle back through Villers-Bretonneux (twinned with Robinvale in Victoria, Australia), on the Roman road along the chalk ridge that stretches behind me, arrow straight, forty miles to St Quentin, where the front was from 1915 to 1918. I pick up food, return the the hostel, lunch, snooze, and head into Amiens.
Amiens Cathedral Ever since I read The Bible of Amiens, Ruskin has been my guide, especially to the cathedral.
What to make of John Ruskin? Remembered more these days for his sexual problems and his late madness, but in his day the leading art critic, social commentator, and passionate advocate for the working man’s right to beauty and a civilised life, his books on the meagre shelves of the humblest homes. Charged with realism, for his belief in exact description; with intellectualism, for his high ideas; with aestheticism, for his passion for beauty.
But his was a belief in looking, seeing, experiencing, thinking about. For, “the configuration of an object is not merely the image of its nature, it is the expression of its destiny, and the outline of its history.” It is worthwhile bringing this to the consideration of any object.
And this summing up, by Marcel Proust: ‘Ruskin is one of those men who, like Carlyle, are warned by their genius of the vanity of pleasure and, at the same time, of the presence near them of an eternal reality, intuitively perceived by inspiration. Talent is given to them as a power to relate this reality to the all-powerful and eternal to which, with enthusiasm and as if obeying a command to conscience, they dedicate their ephemeral life in order to give it some value.’ And, ‘as a sort of scribe writing, at nature’s dictation, a more or less important part of its secret, the artist’s first duty is to add nothing of his own to this divine message.’ After pausing to consider this, I am ready to enter Amiens cathedral, with Ruskin as my guide.
Enter, says Ruskin, not by the West door, for the effect of all great cathedrals is similar from this dramatic entrance. Enter Amiens, rather, from the Street of Three Pebbles, through the South porch, beneath ‘the pretty French Madonna, with her head a little aside, and her nimbus switched a little aside, too, like a becoming bonnet.’ (A copy, now. Her original is inside. And she wears a crown rather than a nimbus.) ‘And put a sou into every beggar’s box who asks it there – it is none of your business whether they should be there or not, nor whether they deserve to have the sou – be sure only that you yourself deserve to have it to give; and give it prettily, and not as if it burnt your fingers.’ I do this, and enter.
Enter at the cross-centre, the apse, ‘for it is not possible for imagination and mathematics together, to do anything nobler or stronger than that procession of window, with material of glass and stone – nor anything which shall look loftier, with so temperate and prudent measure of actual loftiness.’ Attend especially to the fifteenth-century wood carvings of the choir, ‘Flemish stolidity mixed with the playing French fire of it … under the carver’s hand it seems to cut like clay, to fold like silk, to grow like living branches, to leap like living flame. Canopy crowning canopy, pinnacle piercing pinnacle – it shoots and wreathes itself into an enchanted glade, inextricable, imperishable, fuller of leafage than any forest, and fuller of story than any book.’ Full of images and symbols, working at different scales. Except that, as Ruskin says, ‘in old Christian architecture, every part is literal: the cathedral is for its builders the House of God.’ I’ll come back to this when Proust rejoins the conversation.
Beginning – never clearer than here – with the plan of the cathedral, that represents the form of Christ. The nave is the body, with feet at the West end. The transepts are arms. At the crossing is the heart. And the chancel, the most sacred space, with the divine presence in the enclosed choir, is the head. And around that head, separated from it but related to it, radiate the chapels to the saints, the most easterly the Lady chapel dedicated to the Virgin, forming the nimbus or halo.
I follow Ruskin around the outside of the chancel curtain, along the ambulatory, past the radiant chapels, each with its slender walls and vast expanses of coloured glass, made possible by the pointed arches, the ribbed vaults, the flying buttress upon flying buttress that I had so admired outside.
And then, to the nave. I walk the length of it, without looking up, to the West door, before I turn. It is high. 132 French feet high, specifies Ruskin, 42.3m the modern measure. Which is 144 cubits, the height of the walls of the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation. It looks higher, is made higher-seeming, to an eye used to English cathedrals, by its narrowness, a mere third of the height. It is breathtaking. And, after the vitality and exuberance and illumination of choir and chapels, curiously austere, a simplicity of line that carries the eye up, exaggerating one’s smallness. And then leads the eye forward, along the nave that is now the stem of a flower, to the apse that is a bloom of light.
This is the largest French Gothic building by volume, and exceeded in height only by the ill-fated Beauvais. It was built between 1220 and 1266, under Louis IX, to house the head of John the Baptist. This had been looted from Constantinople in 1204 in the Fourth Crusade. (Constantinople of course was a Christian city.) I think of the Celtic ‘Cult of the Severed Head’.
For Ruskin, Amiens was ‘not only the best, but the very first thing done perfectly in its manner by northern Christendom.’ For Viollet-le-Duc it was ‘The Parthenon of Gothic architecture.’
But what is it for me? I realise that I have been experiencing it through Ruskin’s text. And Ruskin was a devout, if idiosyncratic Christian. Out through the West door, I walk away, then turn to see the great West front. Three-doored and twin-towered, with detail upon detail piled up, like a giant organ; or, rather, the music of a great organ. Architecture as frozen music. This is Ruskin’s ‘Bible of Amiens’, and he devotes many pages to describing and explaining the meaning and the message, of each detail, at every scale, calling it ‘the simplest, completest and most authoritative lesson in Christianity.’ There are three figures of Christ. But none is of Christ crucified. (Images of Christ crucified are rare before the tenth century.) For ‘The voice of the entire building is that which came from heaven at the moment of the Transfiguration: This is my beloved son, listen to him.’
Ruskin was one who could still believe in this message of Christianity. Which Proust, a few years later, resists, calling the cathedral ‘a book written in a solemn language in which each character is a work of art that nobody can understand any more.’ For him, and I guess for me, ‘There is no Logos; there are only hieroglyphs.’
Hieroglyphs. I reenter. Stephen Murray writes this: ‘The power of the cathedral to liquify the most hardened visitor is palpable on the astonished faces of those who enter the light-filled nave with its soaring spaces and repetitive forms,’ its aim: to soften the surface of the soul – what an expression! – a means to an end. ‘That end nothing less than the stamping or imprinting upon the softened surface of the soul a series of powerfully interacting images that pertain to the idea of redemption through the Church. And the central image is that of Christ himself, stamped upon the soul at the point of entrance through the Beau Dieu.’ Outside, it soars with the rich story-telling and evocativeness of the West front, and the virtuosic variety of the structural elements of the East end. Inside, its power comes from the grandeur of height, the simplicity of scale – or rather of size; the simple reaching up.
I marvel at the quality of the woodwork in the chancel, at the same time as, peering at it through a metal grill, I rail against my exclusion from it.
I admire the tombs of the bishops, bronze, ‘cast at one flow – and with insuperable, in some respects inimitable, skill in the caster’s art,’ still, centuries later, liquid looking.
I find ‘the weeping angel’. Amiens was occupied by the Germans for a month in 1914, but thereafter it was in Allied hands, and an important logistical hub. Many soldiers passed through, many sought solace in here. The ‘weeping angel’ is an emblem of that time, a sentimental seventeenth-century carving on a tomb behind the high altar that featured on thousands of postcards sent home. It returns me, with its sentimentality, to ‘Roses of Picardy’, reminds me that at times of emotional woundedness, it is the sentimental, even the kitsch, that speaks directly to us, all we can bear, with its softness, when there is no skin over the wound.
Where John the Baptist’s head should be in the North aisle there is an icon, and this note: ‘the reliquary cannot be exposed in the winter months[!] because of humidity. You are invited to collect your thoughts and venerate this icon, gift of our brother Russian Orthodox Christians.’ The first cause of the cathedral is now hidden away. And by a chapel is this notice: ‘Confessions, Saturday 1500 to 1700 hours’. The whole of Amiens, confessed in two hours? What a change, this downplaying of the two great trumps of the medieval church: the relic, to be visited, venerated, touched, to cure – and of course to make money; and confession, its spy in people’s hearts, its instrument of control.
The cathedral has been, since the Revolution, owned by the state; the church is its tenant.
I arrive at the Cretan labyrinth, laid out on the nave floor.
I note that little boys rush, or cheat, or become suddenly self-conscious and break off, while little girls proceed through it with knitted determination, walking quickly but accurately, their set expressions opening like brilliant flowers when they reach the centre.
The labyrinth. At the centre of my novel set in Greece was the labyrinth as the path to self-discovery. And after the legendary and mysterious unicorn of last night, perhaps it is today’s metaphor for my journey along the Meridian, my forever meandering journey along a non-existent line. I suppose the question is: is it a labyrinth, which, however convoluted the path, leads inevitably to the centre; or a maze, designed to confuse and puzzle, but also to enable choice, serendipity, surprise? Which brings me back to Hermes, who both guides and leads astray.
As I leave, looking back, I remember Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor: ‘So we have before us a mystery which we cannot comprehend. And precisely because it is a mystery we have had the right to preach it, to teach the people that what matters is neither freedom nor love, but the riddle, the secret, the mystery to which we have to bow – without reflection and even against our conscience’”
Amiens cathedral, ‘The very first thing done perfectly in its manner.’ But not, alas built perfectly. How often the Gothic builders overreached themselves, with buildings that fell down, or were too big ever to finish! At Amiens the flying buttresses (which, with the pointed arch, is the great innovation of the Gothic, enabling them to build to new heights, and for the walls, no longer structural, to become curtains of light) were placed too high, and supplementaries had to be added, twice. And the lower wall had to be stabilised by an iron chain, wrapped round the body of the cathedral red hot so it contracted as it cooled.
A hundred or so years after Ruskin was writing his ‘Bible’, during the cleaning of the West front, its original rich painting was rediscovered. Research has enabled the colours to be established, and to be projected accurately onto the façade in a son et lumière. Is this an enriching of the experience, being able to time-travel back to the façade as it was meant to be seen, or a spectacle packaged for consumer consumption? I’m two weeks too early to find out.
Amiens Amiens was important to Ruskin because of its place in French history. Around 300, Firmin made here the first Christian converts. He was martyred here, and here was built the first Christian church ‘the first germ of cathedral for the French nation’. And in 445, at the limit of their advance into Gaul, the Franks made Amiens their capital. In 481 Clovis became king of the Franks, the first Merovingian. In 486 he defeated the Gallo-Roman forces at Soissons, east of Compiègne, and extended his realm to the Loire. In 491 he was baptised a Christian, adopted the Nicene creed, and establishing a unified Christianity across his realm. Later he conquered the rest of what is modern France. And most agree with de Gaulle and ‘reckon the beginning of France from the accession of a Christian king who bore the name of the Franks’. The name Clovis became Louis.
Ruskin likes the Franks. He admires their Frankness, a word, he says, we should learn from them. They are the heart of France, and the heart of the Gothic.
And, returning to language, the distinctive elements in the Picard language are exactly the Frankish elements. (For more on language, click on Language tab at the top of this page.)
But, as I remember Samarobriva, and the Celtic Meridian, the sophisticated culture of Gaul that Robb explores in The Ancient Paths, overwhelmed first by the Romans and then the Franks, I ponder this pagan culture. ‘Pagan’ from ‘pagus’, which becomes pays, a place inhabited by paysans. Who, through two millennia of Christianity, and two centuries of rationalism, have maintained a connection with a way of being that is both otherworldly, and deeply rooted in the earth. And it was why we came to France to live on the land forty years ago, to live like peasants, to make that connection. Whereas in Britain the Celts were forced out to the fringes, in France, they were overlaid by incomers. They remained in place. Recalled of course in Asterix, and the French celebration of Vercingetorix. And in our use of ‘Gallic’ to describe something ungraspably but quintessentially ‘French’. And perhaps it helps to explain both the contradictions that de Tocqueville points up, and the endless fascination of France.
I look across from the cathedral to the citadel. The river flows between. For Amiens is a city ‘divided’, as Ruskin tells us, ‘by eleven beautiful trout streams which, branching out of one strong current above the city, and uniting again after they have eddied through its streets are bordered as they flow down to the sands of St Valery by groves of aspen, and glades of poplar, whose grace and gladness seem to spring in every stately avenue instinct with the image of the just man’s life.’ A city that, he delights in recording was, in the sixteenth century, called the Venice of France. Not only because of its wateriness, but because of its manufacturing and trade, when ‘on fabriquait à cette époque des velours de toutes couleurs pour meubles, des colombettes à grands et petits carreaux, des burailles crois, qu’on expédait en Allemagne – en Espagne, en Turquie, et en Barbary.’ Which he delightedly glosses as making, ‘all-coloured velvets, pearl-iridescent colombettes! (I wonder what they might be?) and sent to vie with the variegated carpets of the Turk, and glow among the arabesque towers of Barbary!’
Made, these fabrics, in the workshops of St-Leu, the watery district of the eleven branching streams that provided water and water power (one wonders how many trout there still were in Ruskin’s day) low down between the high seats of authority. As the velvet-making moved out to factories, the area declined into slummery, with its trapped population.
And then, as so often happens, at first artists came in, drawn by low rents and their art of enjoying what is, and sensing what might be, then bohemians, and at last the more adventurous of middle-classes. At which point the government mysteriously takes note of the ‘unsanitary’ conditions in which the poor have lived, condemns their buildings and moves them out to housing estates. And then provides money to improve services, to the point where estate agents and developers can move in and create what is here, a neat and smiling simulacrum of what had been, small houses along cobblestone quays by canals, now with added bars, restaurants, and all-important ‘ambiance’. These places always look as if they’ve been sprayed with a wipe-clean coating. But maybe it’s simply smugness.
I walk quickly upstream. Past a life-size, life-like statue of a man standing in the middle of a stream. He is looking down, tempted, as he listens to the chatter and the laughter in the bars, to end it all. I walk upstream, past the branching streams, to the unitary river.
It is the area of the hortillonages, low-lying market gardens reclaimed among a network of canals and accessed by punt. ‘Hortillonage’ is a Picard word, half Latin, half Frank, that came into French in 1870. Although I am interested to see them, my quest is for the Meridian. It crosses the river a mile east of the cathedral.
A century ago this path alongside the river would have been the track of horses and men towing barges. Now it is a recreation route, and the favoured track of runners and cyclists, each in their bubble, isolated by earphones and dark glasses, inflated by self-regard, powered and thrust forward by self-assertion, tearing through the delicate fabric of the river flowing gently. But, too, there are couples strolling, and playful families, knitting it up. There is a little girl with a goldfish eyepatch. She is the magical girl who has a fish swimming around in the goldfish bowl of her eye socket, look, see, isn’t it wonderful!
The towpath is between the wide, slowly-flowing river and a still, green canal, six feet wide. And over this canal arc, like rainbows, a series of curved pedestrian bridges. Each has a gate exactly at its high point. Each gives access to a small plot of land. On each is a small house. And every house is different. They are tiny dream houses, expressions of what is called eccentricity, but is simply individuality. This one is a perfect art nouveau villa, but stretched upwards, and tiny. This one is pink clapboard, like a beach hut. Next to it is a post-apocalyptic concrete bunker. Here is one dressed all over with swags of curtains and baskets of flowers made from seashells. This one has been built over a canal so one enters, like a princess, by barge. On this plot the lawn is populated with every sort of animal, each one realistic and highly coloured, living amiably together, like a Disney film, or a medieval tapestry. This one has a working drawbridge! One of the cottages is falling down, with holes in the roof, and the garden overgrown – what story would be told if time rewound? What dream failed?
Each has been allowed, on their tiny plot, to make their house uniquely their own. Architecturally they may be banal. But as self-expressions, houses of dreams, dreams of lives, they are touching. And that elevates them. For it is rare for individuals to be allowed to express themselves cheek by jowl with their neighbours, and so in the public eye. Of course, aesthetically it is chaotic, even, heaven forfend anarchic. But that is something too little allowed, and therefore to be celebrated.
Each humpback bridge, passerelle, is an arc en ciel over the water to a personal paradise, an individual’s hortus conclusus. A panel about les passerelles says, with French hauteur, ‘some of them do not lack elegance’. And on each the gate of paradise is midway: the in side is mine; the out side is the world’s. The gate is where the self meets the world. Most gates are of metal, with enough radiating spikes to deter the most adventurous trespasser. One is in the faux bois I encountered at Cassel. Here is one in concrete, formidable as an Egyptian pharaonic gateway, a pylon. This gate, of green-painted wood, has, on a cloud-shaped board buried in greenery, ‘Comment s’appelle! Désiré’.
These castles of the embattled, these arcs over water, these gates, are bastions against the passing stream of entitled runners and cyclists that is the coming wave. They are triumphant standards of self-definition.
I am cheered by this colony of embedded idiosyncratics. The river here is wide, and flows gently. Once busy, it is now empty, except for the occasional sculler. I watch a bottle float slowly past, pursued by an inquisitive duck. Is there a message in it? Not for me. But, a little later, there is a message for me.
A board describes the ginguettes (dance-bars) that thrived in the late nineteenth century, on the opposite bank, and gives their names: Pré Porus, l’Agrappin, and – Robinson.
Robinson A name beloved of psychogeographers. My ride along the Meridian is psychogeographical. Robinsonner is defined as, ‘to live alone, aside from, at an angle to, the world.’ It was invented in Rimbaud’s poem Roman, where the young man’s ‘crazy heart robinsons through novels’ in which he both loses and reimagines himself. Robinson reappears in Céline’s Long Journey into Night as an amoral chancer with a clear-eyed view of the realities of the world, who yet dies for a principle, that of refusing to marry. In Kafka’s Amerika he is also a drifter, slipping through the interstices of society, refusing to belong, and yet a repeated reference point for the hero. In Weldon Kees’ poems, he is a conventional figure whose presence is a sort of absence, his adherence to convention such that he has not developed a self. In Chris Petit’s novel Robinson, he is an extravagant figure whose ever-more extreme attempts to feel and be, end in frustration and death. In Patrick Keiller’s films, he is an anonymous failure who yet doggedly persists in experiencing and trying to make sense of the world. I share a fellow feeling with each of these Robinsons, and meeting one, in a dance hall on the other side of the river, refocusses me on my journey.
Such that, when I arrive at the point where the Meridian crosses the Somme, I expect flags flying, beacons, at least a rainbow arc en ciel of celebration over the river, echoing the passerelles. Nothing.
What has happened, or rather, not happened, to this grand idea? Why is there no line of willows through the hortillonages? Why don’t people mark it where it passes through their gardens? An idea like this only works if it is adopted.
I had expected, on my ride, to be following an idea that has been maturing into an experience. Which each individual, each community has been celebrating and developing, year by year, in their own way. That in the differences between how it is marked in each place, is the confirmation of diversity-within-unity, pays and patrie. I had seen it, la Méridienne Verte, as the knitting together of a new backbone, a new unifying spine for France. What I am finding is a concept handed down from on high that has not resonated and therefore has been, in the head-down localness of the French, ignored. So, instead of a line of celebration, I am following the ruins of a forgotten idea.
There is an annual hortillonage fair, when the market-gardeners dress up and bring their produce into town by punt. The rest of the year they wear jeans and, as this man is, loading boxes of lettuce, use trucks.
I buy food, to cook in the microwave in the hostel kitchen. Again I put in the food. Again I press buttons. Again nothing happens. Again the girl who is sitting silently in the dining room absorbed in a TV sketch show enters silently, this time with the faintest smile of acknowledgement, presses buttons, the machine hums, the plate turns, I thank her, she smiles and silently returns to watching the same sketch show as last night, I’m sure the same episode, occasionally looking down at her smartphone. A serene waiting. Again, sitting close to her, tethered by the cable from his computer to the power point, is the thin young man with the wispy beard. They are entangled, but they do not acknowledge each other. They are held together in this loop of repetition, in thrall.
As, I realise, I am beginning to be in thrall to Amiens. I like it here. The town, the river, the cathedral, the hostel, the girl at reception, the refugees, the two young people waiting in suspended time for something to happen. It is time for me to leave.
Ormsby, France, p168.
Ruskin, The Bible of Amiens.
Proust, On Reading Ruskin.
The Revelation of St John, chap 21, v17,
Murray, Amiens Cathedral.
Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov.