Monday, May 25, 2009
In my article yesterday, I said 'Who are we?' was the real question people were asking. At 11am in Coffee Republic in Marylebone High Street I came across one English, not British, answer.
In Geoffrey Hill's essay Keeping to the Middle Way, he quotes Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy on the subject of exorcism - 'all those jugling circumstances, Astrologicall Elections, of time, place, prodigious habits, fustian, sesquipedall words, spells, crosses, characters, which Exorcists ordinarily use...'
Far better, says Burton, to following the example of the curing of the lame man in Acts 3 - 'In the name of Christ Jesus rise and walke.' The simplicity contrasts not just with the holy rolling exorcists but also with Burton's own expansive style - the 'loose, referential edifice' of his book. Burton thus makes his point by implicitly decrying his own style in the light of scripture, a moment that, Hill says, is 'wonderful almost beyond words'.
A few pages later, Hill quotes Burton again - 'Want of faith, no feeling of grace for the present, are not fit directions, we must live by faith, not by feeling, 'tis the beginning of grace to wish for grace: we must expect and tarry.'
Hill says, ''We must live by faith not by feeling': this at the heart of several hundred thousand words dedicated to an 'anatomy' of diseased feeling. 'In the name of Christ Jesus rise and walke.''
He said it of Burton so I'll say it of Hill - 'wonderful almost beyond words'. And English to the core.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 4:07 am