“The Four Men” by Hilaire Belloc ~ The Imaginative Conservative

All natural love, even the love of the earth, must suffer death and burial in the raw world and the winters of this life. But Hilaire Belloc, who had “gained the secret of this vast and silent beauty” to his native Sussex at night, was confident that he and his friends who had gone away would see him face to face again, when we all return to a new heaven and earth. .

The Four Men: Farago By Hilaire Belloc, with annotations by Nathan Allen (209 pages, ACS Books, 2016)

Biographer Belloc and conservative imaginationEnior contributor Joseph Pierce believed that although Belloc himself had believed The road to Rome His best book,”the four men rivals him, and perhaps surpasses him, as a means of Belloc’s wit and wisdom, or as an outpouring of his irrepressible character.” Like Father. James Schaal, who was never able to decide whether Chesterton or Belloc was his favourite, I find that none of the Bellocian volumes The one I’m reading right now is my favourite. But with Pierce, I think so the four men It may be the greatest in all respects mentioned, though I doubt my judgment might be influenced by my experiences in the book as occasion of the party.

In 2021 I wrote about the Road to Rome feast that was held in Minnesota. The first summer feast of Pelochia was preceded by twenty years by four men’s feasts held by lovers of all in Belloc. Every fall around All Souls Day (November 2), which is the time when the mythical and mystical pilgrimage across Sussex described in the book ends, a feast like the feast depicted as taking place on All Saints (November 1) will be held at a friend’s house. Those entering the feast should shout, “In the name of Christ, I demand beer and bacon.” And then, upon entering, feast-goers will find bacon (in English or, as is usually the case, Canadian bacon rather than the American “spotted” variety) and eggs fried together in a skillet, bread, butter, cheese, and drinks of all kinds.

The evening passed with the meal at about 6 pm and then moved on to the singing of songs and the reading of the joyful portions of this glorious pilgrimage. Depending on one’s duties the next day to one’s wife, family, or business, the evening often lasted until the early hours of the morning and the incense of several cigars, pipes, and cigarettes were served. I haven’t made every single feast in my 21 years in Minnesota, but I’ve made a lot of them. Missing him was painful.

In fact, I missed it again this year, after I moved to Texas, which was kind of a death knell in many ways. Although I love my new home, I can’t help but miss the deep coolness of the air in late October and early November in the northern climates I’ve always lived in. Although God has cared for me to offer something approaching fall in Houston, the temperatures that drive my current students into coats and hats still fall into the t-shirt and shorts category for me. Not surprisingly, I have missed my home in Minnesota for many years as well as my home in northern Indiana and the heavenly city in which my true nationality lies, St. Paul told me.

All this made it necessary to read my soul the four men Again for… well, I don’t know how many times this is. Instead of reading it in the old red-covered Thomas Nelson and Sons edition published in Britain which I bought twenty years ago, I first read it in the American Chesterton Society edition published with annotations by Nathan Allen, a Catholic deacon, of these original planners of the Minnesotan Four Men Feast, a home maker, who always leads singing, reading and quoting.

In fact, Deacon loves Allen Belloc, and this book he and three companions attempted the same path in 2006, a journey he tells us about in an epilogue that includes many photos including a delightful view of the pilgrims walking through it. Alfalfa field. But his run through Belloc’s beloved Sussex wasn’t something that ended when he physically ended that run. Rather, this annotated edition was the result of more than ten years of tracking Belloc’s wicked, laughing mind through all the jokes, insinuations, and bogus allusions that fill this book written for the public but also “for his broad amusement”. As Deacon Allen notes, often, “To get the joke, the reader needs a broad knowledge of theology, philosophy, classics, law, Greek, Latin, history, music, geography, and literature. Hence his annotations for those of us who may or may not have credentials but whose education is still in progress.

Of course, the most important things in a book rarely need an explanation. Belloc’s letter to Sussex herself sets the tone in the preface: ‘My County, it has been shown in every man’s life that though his love is human, and therefore variable, but proportionate because he associates them with immutable things, so they are matured and expanded.’ This is a book about the love of the homeland and the meeting with it.

This story, allegedly set in 1902, allegedly began in 1907 but was not published until 1912. The pilgrims here are Belloc and three others who met on October 29 at an inn called George, just inside Sussex, and decided to walk from one end of the road. province to the other. The idea of ​​this march is planned by Belloc himself who is longing for Odysseus “to see smoke rise again from his land, and then die.” He is soon joined by the three who, instead of using their given names, are called each: the sailor, the poet, and the grizzlybeard. The disappearance of these three in the fog at the end of the story indicates a supernatural or at least supernatural identity for them. An attentive reader of Belloc will sense that they themselves are aspects of Belloc, who is called “Myself” on this journey.

Likes The road to RomeThis farago includes everything one could want from poetic descriptions of the land and Belloc’s pencil drawings mixed with the jokes, songs, stories, and depths for which Belloc is known.

Among the jokes, I can never get enough of the swine-curing talk, which myself tells us, “There is a revelation…and the seeming paradox that inhabits all mystical gifts.” Grizzlebeard himself explains:

You mean there is no cure for a pig until the pig dies? Although this is the moment when our materialists say he has transcended all healing, yet (oh, a miracle!) this is the very time to heal him.

Curing pigs leads to that most wonderful mysterious gift of bacon, which I call “a pig of pigs, and a whole ham, who fulfilled his destiny and found the fruit of his birth: a scandal to Mahound, and food for Christians.” men.”

This discussion, which ends with a query on boar’s whiskers, leads to one of the greatest songs in the book, the chorus of which goes as follows:

Oh, thank God, at least for that

I was born in the West, not in the East,

and made me a human instead of a beast,

Who covered his stash with hair!

This song, like “Song of the Pelagian Heresy” and “Noel” (key lines: “Nol! Noël! Noël! Noël! / I wish all my enemies go to hell! / Noël! Noël!”), is utterly exhilarating. I will admit that some stories are in themselves “never ending,” as the sailor himself insists one night in reference to the story of the war of the old kings of Sussex and Kent. But I strongly suspect that great art is in full swing because even the most boring tales have small moments, and they provide a backdrop to the deeper about home.

I’ve always been amazed and fascinated again by the four men’s debate about the worst thing in the world. Grizzlebeard, the old man, dominates this conversation with his claim, “The worst thing in the world is the death of human affection. No man who has lost his friend needs to fear death.” Well, he’s really talking about this “gradual weakening, the final break of human bonds”. As much as Belloc praises the land itself, Grizzlybeard’s word on losing friends makes clear that a home isn’t just a matter of rolling hills, gushing rivers, and beech trees. It is that place to accompany friends.

Therefore, despite the language of the poet, who asserts that “the sight of one’s homeland after many years is the only blessed thing in the world,” objects the traveler Grizzlebeard, who is not from Sussex. Although he was happy to come home each time, he “never found it his last joy”. I agree with Grizzlebeard: “None of us will rest, not even in Aaron’s Valley. We will go on and on.” The poet reluctantly agrees but asserts that this house really does exist in dreams.

So after the feast they enjoyed on Halloween, which was “unlike any other feast that has been since the beginning of the world” and “answered all that the heart had expected of him,” I woke myself up from a dream in which he “has reached a good place, the place within the mind.” Which is all about remembrance and peace. However, he wakes up to “the raw world and sad, uncertain beginnings of a small winter’s day.”

Before the grizzlybeard, the poet, and the sailor vanished into the mist, the former told myself his own advice: “To think chiefly from now on of those perpetual things which are, as they were, the shores of this age and our shimmering harbors. And a gentle but very dangerous and capricious sea.”

I interpret this as an invitation to think about death. It is, I think, a proper thing to think of in all souls, Day of the Dead. However, he, Belloc, considers that death is not the end and that one can give his land “glory and to do so”, that native land “would be his friend, and death somehow besieged him.”

All these natural love, even the love of the earth, must suffer death and burial in the raw world and the winters of this life. But Belloc, who has “gained the secret of this vast and silent beauty” to his native Sussex at night, is confident that he will be seen and those friends who have left face to face again when we come home to a new heaven and earth.

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Featured image is “Funeral” by Francesc Zubinski (1910), and is in the public domain, provided by Wikimedia Commons.

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