Once upon a time, Belloc, who is generally ignored, wrote an obscure book, also generally ignored, called The Four Men, which is quite out of print and you will have a devil of a time getting it. (My priceless copy is a yellowing dog-eared regrettably covered -- with a late 60's illustration -- paperback that was discarded from the Hertfordshire Library, having been checked out on all of one occasion, fancy that.)
I shall not trouble you with the plot, the setting, or the characters, which are all richly weird and weirdly rich. I should only like to mention that I could not have liked, or understood at all, this book in my 20s or 30s, for then I put too much faith in the way of things. As a child, I would have understood the book's morning light. As an older man, I now understand its evening.
Permit me instead to get to the quick, and to some of the words which deserve a place in your Bartlett’s:
On love and permanence
… it has been proved in the life of every man that though his loves are human, and therefore changeable, yet in proportion as he attaches them to things unchangeable, so they are mature and broaden. (xix)
On women and home and permanence
… those women [are] chiefly dear to men who, as the seasons pass, do but continue to be more and more themselves, attain balance, and abandon or forget vicissitude. And on this account … does a man love an old house, which was his father’s, and on this account does a man come to love with all his heart, that part of earth which nourished his boyhood. For it does not change, or if it changes, it changes very little, and he finds in it the character of enduring things. (xix)
Her name, which was not Mary nor Catherine, but was as common and simple a name, was set above the world and was given power over my spirit. So that to hear it attached even to another or to see it written or printed on a page everything within me stirred, and it was as though a lamp had been lit suddenly in my soul. Then, indeed, I understood how truly there are special words of witchcraft and how they bind and loose material things. (112)
On men and companionship
A man is more himself if he is one of a number … all companionship is good, but chance companionship is the best of all … (5)
By that way we went, by walls and trees that seemed as old as the old road itself, talking of all those things men talk of, because men were made for speech and for companionship ... (84)
On the soul and pilgrimage
… we should walk through the whole county to the place we knew, and recover, while yet they could be recovered, the principal joys of the soul, and gather, if we could gather it, some further company … (6)
On good things and permanence
… good things do not jostle. (11)
On home, its name and eternity
… our name is not a name to be used like a label and tied on to common things, seeing that we were the first place to be created when the world was made, and we shall certainly be the last to remain, regal and at ease when all the rest is very miserably perishing on the Day of Judgment by a horrible great rain of fire from Heaven. (12)
… this land of Sussex orders all things towards itself, and will never long permit any degradation. (17)
… no one would have trusted him with a gun … An artist would not be so nonchalant … [His eyes] did not seem to see the things before them, but other things beyond, and while the rest of his expression changed a little to greet us, his eyes did not change. (15)
... it is notorious that poets neither see what is before them, nor hear, nor smell, but work in the void (and hence their flimsiness). (122)
... the quarrels of versifiers are tedious to standers-by. (127)
On poets and what people really want from them
We will look after you [Poet], and in return you shall write us verse: bad verse, oughly verse into which a man may get his teeth. Not sloppy verse, not wasty, pappy verse; not verse blanchified, but strong, heavy, brown, bad verse; made up and knotty; twisted verse of the fools. (16)
On conviviality and who should pay for it
It is in the essence of good fellowship that the poor man should call for the wine, and the rich should pay for it. (17)
On the devil
… this is the Devil’s way, always to pretend that he is the master, though he very well knows in his black heart that he is nothing of the kind. (19)
On industrialized towns
… in such towns the more one worked the less one had, and that yet, if one did not work at all, one died. (23)
On the centrality of the hearth
… no matter what the weather, and even out in the open, men can always sleep if they have a fire. (26)
I woke next morning to the noise, the pleasant noise, of water boiling in a kettle. May God bless that noise and grant it to be the most sacred noise in the world. For it is the noise that babes hear at birth and that old men hear as they die in their beds, and it is the noise of our households all our long lives long; and throughout the world, wherever men have hearths, that purring and that singing, and that humming and that talking to itself of warm companionable water to our great ally, the fire, is home. (37)
On the loss of friendship
When friendship disappears then there is a space left open to that awful loneliness of the outside which is like the cold of space between the planets. It is an air in which men perish utterly. Absolute dereliction is the death of the soul; and the end of living is a great love abandoned. (27)
… it is when youth has ripened, and when the slow processes of life begin that the danger or the certitude of this dreadful thing appears: I mean of the passing of affection. For the mind has settled as the waters of a lake settle in the hills; it is full of its own convictions, it is secure in its philosophy; it will not mould or adapt itself to the changes of another. (28-29)
On the nature of friendship (or love)
… the comprehension by one soul of another is something borrowed from whatever lies outside time: it is not under the conditions of time. (27)
On dreadful poetry
It is your innocence of the great emotions that makes your verse so dreadful – in the minor sense of that word (28)
... in my song there are no women. One knows your bad poet by an excess thereof. (125)
On debt and addiction to wealth
… certainly as I have watched men it seems to me that they regard being hunted as the best thing in the world … Millions are seen to pursue this lust-hunted course, and some even try to combine it with that other sort of money-devil-huntedness. But the advice is given to all in youth that they must make up their minds which of the two [hunter or prey] sorts of exercise they would choose, and the first is commonly praised and thought worthy; the second blamed. (32)
On the anthropological vocation in Eden
Look … how true it is that in this very spot a man might set his seat whence from to worship all that he saw, and God that must have made it. (41)
I am not one of those belated heretics who hold such things sacred, believing as I do that the only is sacred which attaches directly to the Faith ... nevertheless ... to remember that great time, and how securely I was held, and in what a port lay the vessel of my soul, I do feel upon me something that should silence a man ... (111)
On the reality of rivers
It is not little baby Arun that I come to see, but Arun in his majesty, married to salt water, and a king. (42)
Our business now was to see Arun in his strength, in that place where he is already full of the salt se tide ... then we looked at that river a little while, and blessed it, and felt each of us within and deeply the exaltation of return. (110)
On the ministry of exorcists
Oh, he [i.e., St. Germanus] thwacked them hard, and he banged them long,
Upon each and all occasions,
Till they bellowed in chorus, loud and strong,
Their orthodox persuasions!
With my row-ti-tow, ti-oodly-ow,
Their orthodox persuasions!
Now the Faith is old and the Devil is bold,
Exceedingly bold indeed;
And the masses of doubt that are floating about
Would smother a mortal creed.
But we that sit in a sturdy youth,
And still can drink strong ale,
Oh – let us put it away to infallible truth,
Which always shall prevail!
On differences in rubrics
But every church must have its customs within reason.
On the Little People [i.e., fairies], and the relation of Poets to Fairies
It is this dancing of theirs [said Grizzlebeard] that leaves upon the grass its track in a brighter green, and marks the fields with those wheels and circles which convince unbelieving men. The Poet then said that he had seen the Little People, but we knew that what he said was false.
I think I have heard them once or twice, murmuring and chattering, and pattering and clattering, and flattering and mocking at me, and alluring me onwards towards the perilous edges and the water-ledges where the torrent tumbles and cascades in the high hills. ‘What did they say to you?’ They told me I should never get home, and I never have. (55)
On twilight and temporality
The sky was already of an apple green to the westward, and in the eastern blue there were stars. There also shone what had not yet appeared upon that windless day, a few small wintry clouds, neat and defined in heaven. Above them the moon, past her first quarter but not yet full, was no longer pale, but began to make a cold glory; and all that valley of Adur was a great and solemn sight to see as we went forward upon our adventures that led nowhere and away. To us four men, no one of whom could know the other, and who had met by I could not tell what chance, and would part very soon for ever, these things were given. All four of us together received the sacrament of that wide and silent beauty, and we ourselves went in silence to receive it. (55)
… in the beginning the horse was made for man to ride, and the cow for man to milk, and the hog for man to eat; with wheat also, which was given him to sow in a field, just as those stars and that waxing moon were given to him to lift his eyes toward heaven, and the sun to give him light and warmth by day. (56)
On what grandfather and grandmother were given when they were turned out of Sussex
- One tool-box
- A cock and six hens
- Some paint and brushes and a tube of sepia
- Six pencils, running from BB. to 4H
- Tobacco in a tin
- A Greek Grammar and Lexicon
- Half-hours with the best writers of English verse and prose, excluding thing-um-bob
- A little printing press
- A Bible
- The Elements of Jurisprudence
- A compact traveling medicine chest
- A collection of seeds, with
- A pamphlet that should accompany these, and
- TWO PIGS
On the curing of pigs and materialism
… how could man have discovered such a thing? There is revelation about it, and the seeming contradiction which inhabits all mysterious gifts. ‘You mean that there is no curing a pig until the pig is dead? For though that is the very moment when our materialists would say that he was past all healing, yet (oh marvel!) that is the very time most suitable for curing him … [When you have cured the pig], you will still have a pig of pigs, and a pork perfect, that has achieved its destiny and found the fruit of its birth: a scandal to Mahound, and food for Christian men.’ (57-58)
On being raised in the West
Oh, I thank my God for this at the least,
I was born in the West and not in the East,
And He made me a human instead of a beast,
Whose hide is covered with hair! (59)
On returning to the past
No, we will not go to the inn at Bramber, nor breathe upon embers which are now so nearly extinguished; we will not go and walk in the woods whence all the laurels have been cut away; nor will we return to emotions which in their day were perhaps but vaguely divine, but which the lapse of time has rendered sacred. It is the most perilous of human endeavours, is this attempt to return to the past; should it fail, it breeds the most woeful of human woes. (61)
... and the detestable inn at Wheatley, which fell from grace some sixty years ago, and now clearly stands for a mark of reprobation to show what inns may become, when, though possessed of free will and destined to eternal joy, they fail to fulfill their hostelarian destiny ... (64)
On feast days and the seasons
But it would be a good day I thought, for it was All-Hallows, which balances the year, and makes a counter-weight, as it were, to All Fools in her earlier part, when she is light and young, and when she has forgotten winter and is glad that summer is near, and has never heard them at all, or of the fall of leaves.
On vegetarians, diet manipulation and other gnostics
Burn me those men who are afraid of the Flesh! Water-drinkers also, and caterwauling outers, and turnip mumblers, enemies of beef, treasonable to the immemorial ox and the tradition of our human kind! Pifflers and snifflers, and servants of the meanest of the devils, tied fast to halting, knock-kneed Baphomet, the coward's god, and chained to the usurers as is a manger dog to a blind man!
They are the betrayers of Christendom! They are the traducers of those mighty men our fathers, who upon the woodwork of the Table and the Bed, as upon twin pillars, founded the Commonweal ...
Do you not know, Poet, that by all these anti-belly tricks of yours you would canalize mankind into the trench that leads to hell? For there is nothing that cannot be made to serve the Master of Evil by abuse, nor anything which cannot by a just and reasonable enjoyment be made to glorify God ...
Your man that smirks his hatred of war is he that potters into the dirty adventures against the very weak (but by God's providence his aim is damnable), and he is the man that fees lawyers to ruin the poor.
On sour men
He had a hump which was not his fault, and a sour look which was.
... the constant exercise of bullying men who could not reply had given him a commanding manner. (128)
... we took the road again, thinking about lawyers and talking of them, and from that the conversation came by an easy stage to moneylenders, and from them again, to traitors ... (132-133)
The Stranger was a measly sort of fellow in a cloak, tall, and with a high voice and words of a cultured kind, and his eyes were like dead oysters, which are unpleasing things ... (133)
On philosophy and religion
There you go, Grizzlebeard, verbalising and confumbling, and chopping logic like the Fiend! exegetic and neo-scholastic, hypograstic, defibulating stuff! An end to true religion!
So it is with philosophers, who will snarl and yowl and worry the clean world to no purpose, not even intending a solution of any sort or a discovery, but only the exercise of their vain clapper and clang ... Now this kind of man can be cured only by baptism ... (137)
On the seven qualities of real ale from real inns -- which neither exists
- Aleph = Clarity,
- Beth = Savour,
- Gimel = A lively hue,
- Daleth = Lightness,
- He = Profundity,
- Vau = Strength retained,
- Zayin = Perfection and The End (85)
On the constant vigilance required to fend off Napolean and other secularists
Shud zummon d'Eart
To land on Pevensey Level,
I have two sons
With our three guns
To blarst un to the de-e-vil.
On oblation and ablution
Steadily, and with design, he poured out all the beer upon the sand, and put down his pewter with a ring.
The beer did not defile the sand. It was soaked in cleanly, and an excellent aroma rose from it over the room. But beer, as beer, beer meant for men, good beer and nourishing, beer fulfilling the Cervisian Functions, beer drinkable, beer satisfying, beer meet-to-be-consumed: that beer it could never be again.
Then Grizzlebeard said: 'You see what I have done. I did it chiefly for a sacrifice, since we should always forego some part of every pleasure, offering it up to the Presiders over all pleasure and pouring it out in a seeming waste before the gods to show we honour them duly. But I did it also for a symbol of what befalls the chief experience in the life of every man.' (116)
On Christmas carols
I pray good beef and I pray good beer
This holy night of all the year,
But I pray detestable drink for them
That give no honour to Bethlehem. (126)