Saturday, November 24, 2018

John Calvin

* "In denying the efficacy of good deeds and of the human will, of abnegations, in leaving on one side as useless all the doctrine and tradition of Holy Poverty, Calvin opened the door to the domination of the mind by money."

* "Calvin himself would have said with learning, sincerity, and zeal that the glory of God was the only object worthy of human activity, but as he divorced such activity from the power of saving the individual soul, what could there remain save the pursuit of riches?"

~Hilaire Belloc: "The Crisis of Civilization."

Saturday, October 13, 2018

"Then let us love one another and laugh"

“THEN let us love one another and laugh. Time passes and we shall soon laugh no longer—and meanwhile common life is a burden, and earnest men are at siege upon us all around. Let us suffer absurdities, for that is only to suffer one another.”

~H. Belloc: The Path to Rome

Friday, August 31, 2018

"Awful faces from beyond"

"WE sit by and watch the Barbarian, we tolerate him; in the long stretches of peace we are not afraid.

"We are tickled by his irreverence, his comic inversion of our old certitudes and our fixed creeds refreshes us: we laugh. But as we laugh we are watched by large and awful faces from beyond: and on these faces there is no smile."

~Hilaire Belloc: The Barbarians

Complete essay here

Friday, August 10, 2018

Distributism vs. Free Market Globalism

The whole notion of a global problem requiring a global solution is rooted in a false logic. Effectively it is saying that because bigness causes problems we need even more bigness to solve them. Distributism as a derivative of the principle of subsidiarity offers the only real alternative to the cult of bigness in the modern world… (by Joseph Pearce)

Continue reading at The Imaginative Conservative

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


“BY a very curious paradox, which it would be much too long to go into detail, but which it is amusing to notice, this power of taxing a very highly capitalist community is one of the things which is beginning to handicap our societies today against the Distributive societies. It used to be all the other way, and it seemed common sense that countries where you could levy large sums for State purposes of war or peace would win against countries where you could not levy such sums for public purposes. But the fact that you can tax so very highly a society of a few rich and many poor has been shown in the last few years to have most unexpected results. The very rich men pay all right; but the drain on the total resources of the wealth of the State weakens it.

“The money raised by taxation is spent on State servants – many of them inefficient and idle.

“Since it is so easy to raise large sums, there is a temptation to indulge in all sorts of expensive State schemes, many of which come to nothing. And this power of easy taxation, which was a strength, becomes a weakness.

“No one suspected this until taxation rose to its present height, but now it is clearly apparent; and we in England might perhaps be in a better way later on if there had been as much resistance to high taxation here as there has been in countries where property is better distributed.”

~H. Belloc: Economics for Helen, Chap. IV. (First published, 1924)

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Hilaire Belloc was born July 27, 1870

“STORM CLOUDS GATHERED OMINOUSLY over the village of La Celle St. Cloud, 12 miles outside Paris, on 27 July 1870. By four o’clock in the afternoon, as Elizabeth Belloc was in the final stages of childbirth, a violent thunderstorm heralded the arrival into the world of her son. Thereafter, whenever his mercurial temperament erupted into anger she would call him Old Thunder in reminiscence of the tempest which had accompanied his birth.”

~Joseph Pearce: Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc, Chap. One—Cradle Refugee.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Hilaire Belloc died July 16, 1953

Belloc in his home
I have quoted here a few paragraphs regarding Belloc's final days from Joseph Pearce's superlative biography, Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc.

“On 12 July, Eleanor Jebb discovered her father lying near the fireplace in a smoke-filled room. He had apparently fallen while poking the fire and had stumbled into the embers. Suffering from burns and from shock, he was taken to the Mount Alvernia nursing home of the Franciscan Missionaries at Guildford. A statue of the Blessed Virgin was taken from King’s Land and placed in his room where he could see it. On the evening of 13 July received the Last Sacraments. Two days later, on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Belloc died, a few days short of his eighty-third birthday. 

“The funeral took place at West Grinstead parish church on 20 July. Following the Requiem Mass, Belloc’s body was lowered beneath the soil of his beloved ‘South Country’ and beside the body of his beloved wife. After a separation of almost 40 years, they were once more together. Parted by death’s devastation, they were now reunited by its embrace.

“The tributes poured in from friends and enemies alike. His co-religionists hailed the death of a hero. The Tablet devoted an entire issue to his memory with contributors, such as Douglas Woodruff, Ronald Knox, Christopher Hollis, James Gunn, Frank Sheed and the Bishop of Southwark queuing up to pay homage. To Knox he was ‘a Master of English Prose’, to the Bishop of Southwark a ‘Champion of the Church’. ‘Christendom has lost a great swordsman,’ lamented his old friend D.B. Wyndham Lewis in the News Chronicle, ‘more rigorous and sustained in an attack than Chesterton, less chary of wounding an opponent’s feelings, better equipped than his friend perhaps for dueling à outrance by reason of his French blood . . .’ The paying of homage was not, however, the preserve of Catholics, as the Catholic Herald proclaimed proudly, ‘The Nation Pays Tribute to the Master.’ MacDonald Hastings, writing in the Daily Express, declared that ‘Hilaire Belloc was the last of the giants of the golden age of English literature.’ The Daily Mail concurred, declaring him ‘the last of the giants’. The leader-writer in The Times placed Belloc ‘somewhere between Mr Pickwick and Dr Johnson’, echoing Father Martin D’Arcy’s dubbing Belloc as the ‘Catholic Dr Johnson’.”  

—Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc, Chap. 31—The Fading.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


“DEMOCRACY, that is, the government of the community by the community: a state wherein a man stands equal with his fellows, and has to suffer neither subservience nor the corruption of flattery and power; a state in which office alone commands, and not being clothed with office—that is the ideal at the back of every man’s mind who cares for right in public affairs, and who has within himself anything left of private honor. It is simplest put by saying that democracy is the noblest form of government.”

~Hilaire Belloc: The Cruise of the Nona.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Small Producer

“IT IS imperative in the cause of civilization, that we save the small producer and the small distributor. I call him “small” in contrast to those huge agglomerations of capital which have bred communism and half the other evils of our time. But I do not use this word “small” to make him out an unimportant person. He is all-important to human society and, under a scheme of properly distributed property, though his property would not be large it would be sufficient for his independence, his dignity and the security of his livelihood.

“At any rate the name does not matter. The point is that the individual farmer and craftsman – or rather he and his family, if he has one – should be fostered and preserved by society instead of being crushed under, as he has been under our recent insane social motives of mere greed and criminal competition.”

~H. Belloc: The Way Out, Chap. 26—The Small Producer.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


“MAN may, as Pinkerton [Sir Jonas Pinkerton] writes, be master of his fate, but he has a precious poor servant. It is easier to command a lapdog or a mule for a whole day than one’s own fate for half an hour.”

~H. Belloc: The Path to Rome.

Saturday, May 5, 2018


THIS IS the laughing-eyed amongst them all: 
My lady's month. A season of young things. 
She rules the light with harmony, and brings 
The year's first green upon the beeches tall. 
How often, where long creepers wind and fall 
Through the deep woods in noonday wanderings, 
I’ve heard the month, when she to echo sings, 
I've heard the month make merry madrigal. 

How often, bosomed in the breathing strong 
Of mosses and young flowerets, have I lain 
And watched the clouds, and caught the sheltered song - 
Which it were more than life to hear again - 
Of those small birds that pipe it all day long 
Not far from Marly by the memoried Seine. 

                                            ~Hilaire Belloc

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Chesterton on Hilaire Belloc

Belloc & Chesterton
[G.K. Chesterton’s introduction to Hilaire Belloc: The Man and His Work, by C. Creighton Mandell and Edward Shanks, 1916.]

"WHEN I first met Belloc he remarked to the friend who introduced us that he was in low spirits. His low spirits were and are much more uproarious and enlivening than anybody else's high spirits. He talked into the night; and left behind in it a glowing track of good things. When I have said that I mean things that are good, and certainly not merely bons mots, I have said all that can be said in the most serious aspect about the man who has made the greatest fight for good things of all the men of my time.

We met between a little Soho paper shop and a little Soho restaurant; his arms and pockets were stuffed with French Nationalist and French Atheist newspapers. He wore a straw hat shading his eyes, which are like a sailor's, and emphasizing his Napoleonic chin. He was talking about King John, who, he positively assured me, was not (as was often asserted) the best king that ever reigned in England. Still, there were allowances to be made for him; I mean King John, not Belloc. "He had been Regent," said Belloc with forbearance, "and in all the Middle Ages there is no example of a successful Regent." I, for one, had not come provided with any successful Regents with whom to counter this generalization; and when I came to think of it, it was quite true. I have noticed the same thing about many other sweeping remarks coming from the same source.

The little restaurant to which we went had already become a haunt for three or four of us who held strong but unfashionable views about the South African War, which was then in its earliest prestige. Most of us were writing on the Speaker, edited by Mr. J. L. Hammond with an independence of idealism to which I shall always think that we owe much of the cleaner political criticism of to-day; and Belloc himself was writing in it studies of what proved to be the most baffling irony. To understand how his Latin mastery, especially of historic and foreign things, made him a leader, it is necessary to appreciate something of the peculiar position of that isolated group of "Pro-Boers." We were a minority in a minority. Those who honestly disapproved of the Transvaal adventure were few in England; but even of these few a great number, probably the majority, opposed it for reasons not only different but almost contrary to ours. Many were Pacifists, most were Cobdenites; the wisest were healthy but hazy Liberals who rightly felt the tradition of Gladstone to be a safer thing than the opportunism of the Liberal Imperialist. But we might, in one very real sense, be more strictly described as Pro-Boers. That is, we were much more insistent that the Boers were right in fighting than that the English were wrong in fighting. We disliked cosmopolitan peace almost as much as cosmopolitan war; and it was hard to say whether we more despised those who praised war for the gain of money, or those who blamed war for the loss of it. Not a few men then young were already predisposed to this attitude; Mr. F. Y. Eccles, a French scholar and critic of an authority perhaps too fine for fame, was in possession of the whole classical case against such piratical Prussianism; Mr. Hammond himself, with a careful magnanimity, always attacked Imperialism as a false religion and not merely as a conscious fraud; and I myself had my own hobby of the romance of small things, including small commonwealths. But to all these Belloc entered like a man armed, and as with a clang of iron. He brought with him news from the fronts of history; that French arts could again be rescued by French arms; that cynical Imperialism not only should be fought, but could be fought and was being fought; that the street fighting which was for me a fairytale of the future was for him a fact of the past. There were many other uses of his genius, but I am speaking of this first effect of it upon our instinctive and sometimes groping ideals. What he brought into our dream was this Roman appetite for reality and for reason in action, and when he came into the door there entered with him the smell of danger.

There was in him another element of importance which clarified itself in this crisis. It was no small part of the irony in the man that different things strove against each other in him; and these not merely in the common human sense of good against evil, but one good thing against another. The unique attitude of the little group was summed up in him supremely in this; that he did and does humanly and heartily love England, not as a duty but as a pleasure and almost an indulgence; but that he hated as heartily what England seemed trying to become. Out of this appeared in his poetry a sort of fierce doubt or double-mindedness which cannot exist in vague and homogeneous Englishmen; something that occasionally amounted to a mixture of loving and loathing. It is marked, for instance, in the fine break in the middle of the happy song of camaraderie called "To the Balliol Men Still in South Africa."

"I have said it before, and I say it again,
There was treason done and a false word spoken,
And England under the dregs of men,
And bribes about and a treaty broken."

It is supremely characteristic of the time that a weighty and respectable weekly gravely offered to publish the poem if that central verse was omitted. This conflict of emotions has an even higher embodiment in that grand and mysterious poem called "The Leader," in which the ghost of the nobler militarism passes by to rebuke the baser—

"And where had been the rout obscene
Was an army straight with pride,
A hundred thousand marching men,
Of squadrons twenty score,
And after them all the guns, the guns,
But She went on before."

Since that small riot of ours he may be said without exaggeration to have worked three revolutions: the first in all that was represented by the Eyewitness, now the New Witness, the repudiation of both Parliamentary parties for common and detailed corrupt practices; second, the alarum against the huge and silent approach of the Servile State, using Socialists and Anti-Socialists alike as its tools; and third, his recent campaign of public education in military affairs. In all these he played the part which he had played for our little party of patriotic Pro-Boers. He was a man of action in abstract things. There was supporting his audacity a great sobriety. It is in this sobriety, and perhaps in this only, that he is essentially French; that he belongs to the most individually prudent and the most collectively reckless of peoples. There is indeed a part of him that is romantic and, in the literal sense, erratic; but that is the English part. But the French people take care of the pence that the pounds may be careless of themselves. And Belloc is almost materialist in his details, that he may be what most Englishmen would call mystical, not to say monstrous, in his aim. In this he is quite in the tradition of the only country of quite successful revolutions. Precisely because France wishes to do wild things, the things must not be too wild. A wild Englishman like Blake or Shelley is content with dreaming them. How Latin is this combination between intellectual economy and energy can be seen by comparing Belloc with his great forerunner Cobbett, who made war on the same Whiggish wealth and secrecy and in defence of the same human dignity and domesticity. But Cobbett, being solely English, was extravagant in his language even about serious public things, and was wildly romantic even when he was merely right. But with Belloc the style is often restrained; it is the substance that is violent. There is many a paragraph of accusation he has written which might almost be called dull but for the dynamite of its meaning.

It is probable that I have dealt too much with this phase of him, for it is the one in which he appears to me as something different, and therefore dramatic. I have not spoken of those glorious and fantastic guide-books which are, as it were, the textbooks of a whole science of Erratics. In these he is borne beyond the world with those poets whom Keats conceived as supping at a celestial "Mermaid." But the "Mermaid" was English—and so was Keats. And though Hilaire Belloc may have a French name, I think that Peter Wanderwide is an Englishman

I have said nothing of the most real thing about Belloc, the religion, because it is above this purpose, and nothing of the later attacks on him by the chief Newspaper Trust, because they are much below it. There are, of course, many other reasons for passing such matters over here, including the argument of space; but there is also a small reason of my own, which if not exactly a secret is at least a very natural ground of silence. It is that I entertain a very intimate confidence that in a very little time humanity will be saying, "Who was this So-and-So with whom Belloc seems to have debated?"


Friday, April 6, 2018


The stranger warmth of the young sun obeying,
Look! little heads of green begin to grow,
And hidden flowers have dared their tops to show
Where late such droughty dusts were rudely playing.
It's not the month, but all the world's a-maying!
Come then with me, I'll take you, for I know
Where the first hedgethorns and white windflowers blow:
We two alone, that goes without the saying.

The month has treacherous clouds and moves in fears.
This April shames the month itself with smiles:
In whose new eyes I know no heaven of tears,
But still serene desire and between whiles,
So great a look that even April's grace
Makes only marvel at her only face.

~H. Belloc

"Allegory of April: Triumph of Venus (detail)"
by Francesco Cossa. Fresco, A.D. 1470; Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

"The breakdown of Christendom today"

"Cultures spring from religions; ultimately the vital force which maintains any culture is its philosophy, its attitude toward the universe; the decay of a religion involves the decay of the culture corresponding to it—we see that most clearly in the breakdown of Christendom today. The bad work begun at the Reformation is bearing its final fruit in the dissolution of our ancestral doctrines—the very structure of our society is dissolving."

~H. Belloc: The Great Heresies, Ch. III.—The Great and Enduring Heresy of Mohammed.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

"The Resurrection of that real historical Man"

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH alone and from its origins proclaimed the Divinity of a real historical Man and the objective truth of the doctrines which it affirmed Him to have revealed. It proclaimed from the beginning the Resurrection of that real historical Man from the dead; and the popular nickname, “Christian” (which became like so many nicknames the general term) arose from that fact.

All the other popular worships with their mysteries and initiations and the rest of it were admittedly myths. They did not say, “This happened”; what they said was, “This is a parable, a symbol to explain to you the nature and possible fate of the human soul and its relation to the Divine.” Not one of them said, “I was founded by a real human being whom other men met and knew, who lived in a particular place and time; one to whom there are ‘a cloud of witnesses’.” Not one of them said it was the sole guardian of revealed truth and that its officials held a Divine commission to explain that truth throughout the world. 

It was the affirmation that a criminal who had been put to death in a known place and time at Jerusalem, under the Emperor Tiberius, condemned to scourging and to ignominious death by Crucifixion (whereto no Roman citizen was liable) was Divine, spoke with Divine authority, founded a Divine Society, rose from the dead, and could promise to His faithful followers eternal beatitude. This is what shocked the intellectuals, but this also was what gave stuff and substance to that new society and so led to its persecution.

~Hilaire Belloc: The Crisis of Our Civilization, Ch. 1—The Foundation of Christendom. (A.D. 27-33 to A.D. 500)

"Scenes from the Life of Christ" by Fra Angelico.
Tempera on panel, A.D. 1451-52; Museo di San Marco, Florence.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"Mortality is but the Stuff you wear"

MORTALITY is but the Stuff you wear 
To show the better on the imperfect sight. 
Your home is surely with the changeless light 
Of which you are the daughter and the heir. 
For as you pass, the natural life of things 
Proclaims the Resurrection: as you pass 
Remembered summer shines across the grass 
And somewhat in me of the immortal sings. 

You were not made for memory, you are not 
Youth's accident I think but heavenly more; 
Moulding to meaning slips my pen's poor blot 
And opening wide that long forbidden door 
   Where stands the Mother of God, your exemplar. 
   How beautiful, how beautiful you are! 

~H. Belloc: Sonnets and Verse, VII (1923)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

St. Patrick

"We know that among the marks of holiness is the working of miracles. Ireland is the greatest miracle any saint ever worked. It is a miracle and a nexus of miracles. Among other miracles it is a nation raised from the dead."

~Hilaire Belloc

Read the complete essay,
St. Patrick

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

"Teaching is today ruined"

"Now teaching is today ruined. The old machinery by which the whole nation could be got to know all essential human things, has been destroyed, and the teaching of history in particular has been not only ruined but rendered ridiculous."

~Hilaire Belloc: On The Reading Of History

Monday, February 26, 2018

"Positive falsehoods were increasingly suggested"

“MEN GRADUALLY came to notice that one thing after another of great public interest, sometimes of vital public interest, was deliberately suppressed in the principal great official papers, and that positive falsehoods were increasingly suggested, or stated.”

~Hilaire Belloc: The Free Press: An essay on manipulation of news and opinion, and how to counter it.

The Free Press is available at IHS Press and Amazon

Friday, February 9, 2018

Gilbert Chesterton in English Letters

"It seems to me that Gilbert Chesterton at his baptism was visited by three fairies. Two good and one evil one. The two good fairies were the Fairy of fecundity in speech and the Fairy of wide appreciation. The bad fairy was struck dead as she entered the church—and serve her right. He was blessed in knowing nothing of the acerbities which bite into the life of writing men."

~Hilaire Belloc: On the Place of Gilbert Chesterton in English Letters

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The towering name of St. Thomas Aquinas

"...and, in philosophy, which determines all, the towering name of St. Thomas Aquinas. He established during that great time a body of co- ordinated doctrine and philosophy which no one had yet possessed. The scale of his work is on a par with its cultural value. He seemed to have put his seal upon the civilization which he adorned, and, through his establishment of right reason in philosophy, his marriage of Catholicism with the Aristotelian wisdom, to have set up a structure that would endure for ever and give a norm to our civilization."

~Hilaire Belloc: The Crisis of Our Civilization. (1937)


"Apotheosis of Thomas Aquinas" by Francisco de Zurbaran.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

“The New Paganism"

“The New Paganism advances over the modern world like a blight over a harvest. You may see it in building, in drawing, in letters, in morals.”

~Hilaire Belloc:  Survivals and New Arrivals: The Old and New Enemies of the Catholic Church.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Mohammed founded his heresy on simplification

But the central point where this new heresy [Islam] struck home with a mortal blow against Catholic tradition was a full denial of the Incarnation.

Mohammed did not merely take the first steps toward that denial, as the Arians and their followers had done; he advanced a clear affirmation, full and complete, against the whole doctrine of an incarnate God. He taught that Our Lord was the greatest of all the prophets, but still only a prophet: a man like other men. He eliminated the Trinity altogether.

With that denial of the Incarnation went the whole sacramental structure. He refused to know anything of the Eucharist, with its Real Presence; he stopped the sacrifice of the Mass, and therefore the institution of a special priesthood. In other words, he, like so many other lesser heresiarchs, founded his heresy on simplification.

~Hilaire Belloc: The Great Heresies, Chap. III.

Continue reading Chapter III. The Great and Enduring Heresy of Mohammed

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Church immortal

“THE Church itself was regarded (and will continue to be regarded by its adherents) as immortal, but its administration is subject to perpetual threat of mortality, that is, of corruption and weakness tending to extinction.”

~Hilaire Belloc: The Crisis of Civilization.

"Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter" by Giovanni Battista Castello.
Illumination on vellum, A.D. 1598; Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

On New Years and New Moons

THE NEW YEAR is over-valued. Properly speaking, it is not there at all. Properly speaking, it is not there at all. It is a whimsy; it is an imaginary; it is a fiction of the mind; it is a convention; it is a fraud. I wonder that the Jobbernols, that vast crowd who object to anything that is not tangible and cannot be tested by experience, have not protested against it before now.

The new moon is something real. She hangs in the sky a tender crescent, a sickle of ethereal silver magically transmuted under the evening gold. She lacks only a hammer of the same metal to make her a symbol of all that is best and noblest in the New Everything. She is (quite rightly) openly worshipped by many savages and secretly by most civilised men, at least, of those who inhabit the countrysides and have not been sterilised by girders and cement (to which let me add the daily papers, a highly antiseptic influence). The new moon has been hymned, and most deservedly so, for she is really there; indeed, I myself have seen her more than once. The new moon is worthy of our adoration because she is real.

Of course there is illusion even about her, as there is illusion about all her sex; for I am assured by the learned that the new moon is only a slice of the old one, and is there all the time; but, anyhow, the light on that lovely little, exiguous little, gradually brightening little arc is real, if, indeed, anything told us by our senses be real. We can hold on to the new moon firmly as something that we know (though we are not allowed to touch it), and the way in which the new moon, just at her virginal best, dies away into the western mist and disappears from our sight is admirably pathetic. It is a theme I should recommend to the poets had they not already got hold of it in herds and were they not still grinding it out by the pageful. It is true that I have seen none of her in what is called “Modern Verse”—but then, modern verse has nothing to do with poetry.

*  *  *  * 

So much for the new moon which has led me astray from my theme, fascinating me as is the habit of Goddesses. If you doubt this get someone to read you a textbook on mythology or to sing you the song in the “Belle Hélène,” which, though of the Second Empire, and, therefore, Victorian and until lately mixed up with the general curse of horsehair furniture and plush upholstery in general, is homely and human and so not to be despised. The tune is lively, but it needs to be sung with feeling and go. It is forgotten now, and those who still remember it are too old to sing.

It is my business to return to the New Year, though, to tell the truth, I see no reason why I should. A man writing on some strict subject, such as “The Morphology of the Cacchenidae in their relation to the Jurassic Formations,” must stick to his subject or be torn to pieces by infuriated pendants. But I am under no such obligation to-day, still less are my readers. If I like to wander at large, I may. Nor need they be fatigued by constraint to a particular path, though I fear it must be a little tiresome to be dragged through a mass of undergrowth. But no matter. If we do not begin to talk about the New Year we shall not get to it at all. So here goes.

I say that the New Year is a whimsy; an imaginary; a nothing. It is not there at all. You may receive it with all manner of ceremonies; you may treat it with solemn ritual; but all that is part of the myth-making of man. It is indeed part of reality that The Seasons do actually pass and return in a circle, a ring whence, if you like, the word “annual.” The days will actually grow longer after Christmas (thank heaven), and then they will get shorter again after Goodwood. There is a rhythm about all this which I do not pretend to understand but which is part of reality; and we human beings, bound in by reality and confined to it until we get away to better things (for I mean by “reality” all the business of this world), must set boundaries so as to know how far we have got along the round of the works and the days.

* * *

For the moment we have fixed on a certain day, the first of January, which in its turn is not there. There is no January. It is one more of those imaginations, without which in our weakness we cannot live.  I would rather believe in a Janus with two faces (for I have met such people) than in a mere abstraction like January.

Moreover, any day out of the three hundred and sixty-five and a quarter—to be accurate 365 days, 5 hours, 49 seconds and a “snift”—which is the present length of the year (but that is changing and may change again if something comes to trouble us from outer space), would do for a starting point. Not so long ago, March 25, called by the old-fashioned and the rent-collectors, Lady Day, was the first of the year. And from what I have read the Chinese have yet another day altogether. And the Mohammedans and the Hebrews are said to have a calculation of their own, to which they are welcome. You would certainly find if you searched throughout mankind that New Years were almost infinite. So let us be grateful that we have a solid and rooted one of our own, on which there can be not doubt. Let us also withstand all efforts at changing our ritual, for by ritual men live. It must have been a dreadful wrench when the English suddenly lost eleven days rather more than two hundred years ago. And what good did it do anyhow? Except, of course, to debtors who were paying interest. Or to their creditors? I cannot be troubled to calculate which.

*  *  *  * 

A New Year has this useful thing about it, whether it be Mohammedan, Hebrew, Julian, Gregorian, Chinese, or Choctaw: it makes man remember and regret his follies and his sins. If we did not become familiar and conversant with these ultimate companions we should make very poor wayfaring with them at the end. And as, before the end, we lose all other friends and fellowships, let us at least be conversant with these and learn to know them each by name and to grasp them familiarly by the hand, turning to the right and saying, “Good-morning, my dear Folly Number 8! Let us talk over the matters that concern us. . . . . “Good-morning, Sin Number 367. Remember me to all the little sins.”

I say that at the New Year we enter into preparatory companionship with our follies and our sins. Wherefore idiots on this occasion make good resolutions. They had far better make money (which lasts) or hay while the sun shines. But the sun does not shine at the New Year, and there is no hay, except what is already stacked under its thatch in the rick outside the yard.

~Hilaire Belloc: in The Silence of the Sea and Other Essays


It freezes- all across a soundless sky 
The birds go home. The governing dark's begun: 
The steadfast dark that waits not for a sun; 
The ultimate dark wherein the race shall die.

Death, with his evil finger to his lip, 
Leers in at human windows, turning spy 
To learn the country where his rule shall lie 
When he assumes perpetual generalship. 

The undefeated enemy, the chill 
That shall benumb the voiceful earth at last, 
Is master of our moment, and has bound 
The viewless wind it-self. There is no sound. 
It freezes. Every friendly stream is fast. 
It freezes; and the graven twigs are still. 

~Hilaire Belloc

"Winter Landscape" by Jan van de Cappelle (1626-1679).
Oil on canvas; private collection.


THEY warned Our Lady for the Child
That was Our blessed Lord,
And She took Him into the desert wild,
Over the camel's ford.

And a long song She sang to Him
And a short story told:
And She wrapped Him in a woollen cloak
To keep Him from the cold.

But when Our Lord was grown a man
The Rich they dragged Him down,
And they crucified Him in Golgotha,
Out and beyond the Town.

They crucified Him on Calvary,
Upon an April day;
And because He had been her little Son
She followed Him all the way.

Our Lady stood beside the Cross,
A little space apart,
And when She heard Our Lord cry out
A sword went through Her Heart.

They laid Our Lord in a marble tomb,
Dead, in a winding sheet.
But Our Lady stands above the world
With the white Moon at Her feet.

~H. Belloc: Verses.

"The Seven Sorrows of the Virgin" by Albrecht Dürer.
Oil on panel (main panel and side panels), c. 1496;
Alte Pinakothek, Munchen and Gemäldegalerie, Dresden.

"The New Year is over-valued"

"The New Year is over-valued. Properly speaking, it is not there at all. It is a whimsy; it is an imaginary; it is a fiction of the mind; it is a convention; it is a fraud."

~Hilaire Belloc: "On New Years and New Moons," in The Silence of the Sea

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