I commence my pilgrimage where Julius Caesar crossed the Thames – I seek a salmon in Westminster and a king in Cornhill – At St. Albans I find a bishop, a martyr and a savage queen – I visit Glastonbury which men have called the cradle of English Christianity.
This story really begins with the bluff and hearty gentleman who pounced into my carriage on the day on which I set out by train to London. I had spent a restless night, half-minded to abandon my whole project as too ambitious, and my brain still seethed with innumerable doubts. What if I obtained no hitches? Or suppose it rained all the time? Or might I not get stranded in, say, the Highlands with insufficient money to pay my fare home? Then, presto! He flung open the door, dropped heavily into the opposite corner so that a frail young woman seated beside him bounced perceptively towards the window, clapped his hands and said, “caught it!”
“Good,”I said, rather lamely.
“You`re hiking.” He pointed an accusing finger at my haversack.
“Splendid!” he bellowed; “splendid ! bravo! wish I were coming with you. Never settle down – that`s me all over – makes you old – move about – get out of the rut, I say! More`n once I`ve come of a night, handed the missus six months` money an` said, `Ma, I`m off tomorrow, but I`ll be back.` `Where to?` she says. `Can`t say,` I says; `find a ship an` go with it – want a change – growing old.` Six years back took my lad round the world – working our way – engineers – get a job anywhere. Twenty years ago they wanted me to take charge of the Power Station in Chicago – was in Yokohama when they had the earthquake – been to India.”
He grinned round the carriage as though daring us to doubt him.
“After the war I`ll be off again – north, like as not – always wanted to see Russia. I`m a docker – war-effort, you know – hats off to the dockers, I say – doin` their bit an` willing. Once I got a job as an engineer in Sydney an` ended up with a pork shop in Monte Carlo. See the world – travel – get about. Stop you growing old. . . .”
Well, you can believe if you like that he was merely trying to entertain us, but he gave me the courage. And when, some hours later in pouring rain, I hitched my first lorry on the Great West Road I remembered him and smiled to myself. “Travel – get about – stop you growing old.” And now I was off. My adventure had begun.
It was still early when I walked down Buckingham Palace Road and made my way to Chelsea Suspension Bridge. Except for the milkman there was little traffic and the shops had not yet begun to raise their blinds.
It was probably near here Julius Caesar crossed the Thames on his second incursion into England in 54 B.C. (some authorities consider that the crossing was made at Brentford) Of course he never conquered the country; ninety years were to elapse before the Roman succeeded in doing that, but he fired the imagination of his people and opened the road for the later and more determined invasion of the Emperor Claudius.
No other man has been so successful in misrepresenting the true character of a nation. Caesar reflects the snobbery of Imperial Rome and leaves his reader with the impression that he found here only a collection of savages, undisciplined, totally uncivilized, who lived like beasts in caves and holes and lacked even the decency of clothing.
But there was a civilization in Britain fourteen centuries before Caesar came, and the island people had trade relations with the continent and even with distant Egypt. Beads from the Egypt of 1,44 years ago have been dug up on Salisbury Plain, and it is at least conceivable that merchant-men who saw Moses lead the Jewish slaves to freedom, watched the slow building of the pyramids and heard of Nebuchadnezzar`s destruction of Jerusalem, came in their ships with merchandise to these shores. When Rome in her infancy the boats of the Phoenicians were purchasing tin from the Cornish mines, and the source of their supply was one of the closely kept trade-secrets of their day. Once Roman galleys followed them to try to learn whence they obtained it, but the Phoenician captain chose to ground his ship on rocks rather than to allow the secret to be discovered by his country`s rival. In Caesar own day oysters from Kent were a luxury enjoyed at Rome, and many an Italian lady used a basket made in Britain or a brooch adorned with British pearls and beautifully decorated with enamel-work.
The people were a mixed race of Gaels and Britons. The Gaels had first arrived, coming from the Rhine nine centuries before the birth of Christ and bringing with them Druid priests. They found here a tribal people called Iberians, but evidently they soon exterminated or absorbed them. Later came the Britons from Gaul or modern France, little hardy, dark-skinned men, whose gods were the spirits of the streams and trees and hillocks, and who drove the Gaels westward into Wales and the grim mountains of central and eastern Scotland. These Britons were a pastoral people, clothing themselves in woven garments and skins, and breeding sheep and horses. They had a monetary system, with weighted rings for coins, and it was they who gave the land its name – Brait-an, meaning `the high land`. They maintained communication with their homeland of Gaul, sailing there in little coracles of wickerwork over which hides were stretched and bound; their villages of wooden huts were built in the clearings of the great forests which stretched the length and breadth of the island, the haunt of boars and wolves and wild cattle. The soil was poor and unfertile, but they worked the mines, wrought artistically in metals, and reared a fierce breed of hunting dog which they sold on the continent and used in battle. If their houses were crude it was because they moved frequently in search of fresh pastures and their villages were occupied only for short periods. Caesar`s first attempt to land on the Kent coast had been caused by his discovery that the Britons were sending military aid to his enemies in Gaul, and here he was met by some four thousand chariots and a vast army of united tribes, so that even then there must have been roads and some form of organized government.
This soldier of Rome – who could boast that he had slain a million men and sent another million into the abject misery of slavery – came now in the desire for adventure and the ambition for personal renown and was met by Cassivellaunus the Briton, chieftain of St. Albans. Fortune was against the Roman. After the first clash of arms the proud chieftains of the island tribes had sued for peace; but then a storm broke in the channel, battering Caesar`s anchored ships and preventing his reinforcements from landing. One morning a sentry saw on the horizon a strange, unnatural cloud of dust. He ran back to the earthworks behind which the invaders were sheltering and warned the legions in the nick of time before the British chariots thundered down upon them. Attacking a second time, but now without the element of surprise to aid them, the native tribes were routed. But Caesar had had enough of Britain. He hastily made terms, withdrew his soldiers, squelching through the mud, and sailed for Gaul.
Next year he came again, better prepared this time, and marched through Rochester, across the Thames near Chelsea Bridge and on to St. Albans. Meantime the British tribes had been weakened by internal quarrels and Caesar twice defeated them. But on arrival at St. Albans news came that another gale had wrecked his ships, so he seized some prisoners and hostages and once more went scurrying back to Gaul.
The first defeat was inflicted near Canterbury; the second on the Thames. There was no city of London then, only a village of log huts behind an earthen rampart above the river which wound its way between dark banks overhung with trees. Wider and more shallow than today, the Thames flowed over broad marshes where now are the fields of Kent and Essex, and the settlement of London had grown up at the lowest point where the river might be forded and was little more than a resting-place for merchants waiting for the turn of the tide.
Standing on Chelsea Bridge looking up river, past Battersea Park, the embankment fringed with drab, dusty sycamores, one faces the battle scene of two thousand years ago: the rabble of native tribes drawn up where now the Royal Hospital stands, some waist-deep in the water, planting below the surface a fence of sharpened stakes, and then, on the opposite bank, the gleam of sunshine on a Roman breastplate, the steady, remorseless advance of the legionaires with shields raised to protect their faces from the hurled darts of the enemy, the river shoulder-deep, and as the invaders kick and beat a passage through the stakes, the rising excitement of the Britons rends the air with cries, orders and counter-orders; then the clash of swords – dripping Roman and war-painted Briton – ending in the sorry and undisciplined flight of the native army. And so forward to St. Albans.
At the end of the bridge are two pillars surmounted with golden ships and hung with gaily painted shields. A lady, neatly dressed in black, was gazing at them and I crossed the road to ask her what arms they represented. She looked me over with a disapproving eye and snapped, “Young man, I don`t know.” As she walked away her back protested my impertinence.
I walked along the embankment to Westminster. Two tugs, creeping under Lambeth Bridge like fat, indecent beetles, passed slowly down river, and there was a green barrel-buoy which rode cosily upon the sluggish waves. As the Houses of Parliament leap into view one is reminded that there was a time, even after the reformation, when the Commons met in the Chapter House of the Abbey and disturbed the monk`s offices with the noisiness of their debates.
I approached a benevolent-looking verger who stood near the Unknown Warrior`s grave.
“Is it possible to see the salmon, please?”
“The Chapter House was bombed,” he said.
“Yes, I know; but was the salmon destroyed?”
“Well, no, but its covered with sandbags; we`re taking no risks.”
And so I had to go away, my object unattained.
But it did not matter very much, for the Abbey lies outside the period of my pilgrimage and only creeps in because of an old legend. It is said that the site was once occupied by an Roman temple to the god Apollo which was destroyed by an earthquake in 154 A.D. London at that time was still a place of no particular importance, though a hundred years later it sprang into momentary importance when the Romans built an unwalled city where the military roads from Chester, Dover and St. Albans met and crossed the ford. In the third century the Roman governor chose it for his residence and later fortified it, but it soon sinks once more into oblivion and when, four hundred years later Offa, King of Mercia, passed by he found it ` a dreadful place`, marshy and desolate, Sebert, who was king in the time of Augustine and whose tomb stands south of the High Altar, has been named as the Abbey`s founder, but of this there is no proof. When the building was complete it is said that a stranger appeared one night on the opposite bank of the Thames and asked to ferried across; to the fishermen who rowed him over he revealed himself as St. Peter come to perform the act of consecration, and in support of his assertion they were granted a miraculous catch of fish. Certainly as late as the fourteenth century it was customary for local fishermen to bring a tithe of salmon to the monks in memory of the supposed visit of the apostle and in return they were entertained to dinner at the monastery. In the crypt of the Chapter House there is an old tile depicting the salmon.
The beginnings of Christianity in England are altogether wrapped in obscurity. Strenuous efforts were once made to prove that St. Paul himself came here to preach the Faith. The Greek Church`s calendar is so bold as to name Aristobulus, supposed father-in-law of Peter and member of the band of seventy whom Jesus sent forth, as Bishop of Britain. And at a council held in 1431 the bishops of Britain received precedence over those from Gaul because of the supposed apostolic foundation of their Church. But there is only legend to support their claim, and if you go now to St. Paul`s Cathedral by way of the Mansion House and Cornhill legend will dog your footsteps still.
Squeezed without dignity between the shops and offices of Cornhill there is a square doorway leading into the church. The congestion of buildings will prevent you seeing the spire above, reared delicately upon its shaped dome and lantern and topped by a weather-vane in the form of a key, symbol of St. Peter, the patron saint. Within you enter a delicious seventeenth century church, like a tiny miniature of St. Paul`s. A woman was sweeping the floor when I arrived there.
“Might I go into your vestry to see the King Lucius tablet?” I asked.
“Put away for the war,” she replied.
Once more disappointment. For in the vestry there is normally tablet stating that St. Peter`s occupies the site of a church built by a certain King Lucius who wrote, according to Nennius, to `Pope Eucharistus` in 167 A.D., and, according to Bede, to `Pope Eleutherus` in 156 A.D., asking that missionaries might be sent to preach the Faith in Britain, and in response came two Italians who baptized `all the rulers of the British tribes` and left on their departure a strongly organized Church. But Eleutherus was not pope until twenty years after the date given by Bede to the king`s request, and no gentleman of the name of Echaristus was ever pope at all.
It has been said, too, that King Lucius was descended from Brutus `the founder of Britain` and was buried at Gloucester, and on the strength of the legend the rector of St. Peter`s used to claim precedence over all the city rectors, walking last in the Whitsuntide processions of clergy, supposing that his church was the most ancient foundation in London.
But the Romans were in power in 156 A.D., and it is very unlikely that any native Briton would be reigning as king in London. Had there been, it would have proved much simpler for him to send to nearby Gaul for missionaries. Most probably the fable of King Lucius was bolstered up to strengthen the case for the papal authority in England, a claim strongly resisted by the native bishops when they rejected Augustine as their metropolitan. And the origin of the fables lies, perhaps, in a careless misreading by Bede of the conservation of Britio in Edessa under its ruler Lucius Abgar.
There is no view in London so beautiful and so satisfying as the view of St. Paul`s dome, with its massive golden cross raised high above the city, which faces you as you walk down Cornhill. Once, it is said, when London lay encircled by great forests filled with all manner of game, there stood here a temple to Diana, goddess of hunting, and an ancient altar carved with the figure of the goddess and her greyhounds was once excavated in the city, while in the thirteenth century the scalps of many oxen were dug up near the cathedral, remnants of pagan sacrifices. But certainly there was a Saxon cathedral on the site at the commencement of the seventh century. Probably this first cathedral was built by the influence of Ethelbert, King of Kent and royal convert of Augustine, who was overlord of a great part of south and central England. Under the Christian king Sabert, who ruled on the northern bank of the Thames, Bishop Mellitus, consecrated by Augustine, preached the Faith here in 604 A.D., but apparently without great effect, for on the death of Sabert the people showed themselves quite unsympathetic to the bishop, and the three sons of the king sent him fleeing home to Kent. Bede tells how when Mellitus was celebrating the Communion the three sons burst in upon the service and demanded to receive the Sacrament.
“Why do you not give us also that white bread, which you used to give to our father Saba (for so they used to call him), and which you still continue to give to the people in the church?”
“If you will be washed in the laver of salvation,” replied Mellitus, referring of course to Baptism, “you may also partake of the holy bread.”
“We will not enter that laver,” they said truculently, “yet we will eat of that bread. If you will not comply with us you shall not stay in our province.”
Later, when the sons of Sabert were dead, slain in battle, the new king, Sigebert, nephew and deputy of Ethelbert, attempted to restore the Faith but the Londoners would have none of it, and it remained for Cedd, brother of the more famous Bishop Chad, to reconvert the city in 653 A.D.
The St. Paul`s which the Normans erected was destroyed by fire, and the present magnificent building, surely the finest in London, was raised at the close of the seventeenth century by Wren. On one of the walls of the crypt is a modern bronze of exquisite workmanship, by J. S. Sargent, depicting the crucified Christ, a man and a woman bound to Him in attitudes symbolic of the mystery of the Blessed Sacrament.
Whether or not London had any Christian buildings in Roman times must remain a matter of conjecture, but it is almost beyond doubt that the Faith was preached in this land before the close of the second century. Irenaeus, writing in 150 A. D., gives a list of places where the Gospel had triumphed and Britain is not among them. Sixty years later Tertullian writes that `places in Britain not yet visited by the Romans are subjected to Christ`. Some time, then, between these two dates missionaries, not apostles of course but humbler men, may have come from Gaul to give the message of Jesus, since through Lyons passed the road of the tin merchants from Cornwall to Marseilles; there was a persecution at Lyons in 175 A. D., and some of the Christians may have found refuge over here. In 137 A. D., three bishops travelled to Arles to attend a conference at which it is significant that though the pope`s deputy attended, he did not occupy the chair; and British pilgrims were visiting Jerusalem and finding hospitality at the house of a certain Melanias on the Mount of Olives.
Constantius, who resided for a time at York and married a lady named Helen who may have been a Briton, some say the daughter of an innkeeper whose hostelry was on the Roman road, some say the daughter of Coel, king of St. Albans and the `merry soul` of the nursery rhyme, was at least favourable to the new religion. It is recorded that on one occasion, requiring some soldiers for a special work, he demanded that those who were Christians should first step forward and then, instead of fulfilling popular expectation by denouncing them, chose them for the task because, he said, their bold loyalty to their Faith was proof also of their courage and loyalty as soldiers of the Empire. To his wife – whom he divorced in 292 A. D., and who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land at the age of eighty – and attributed the discovery of the True Cross; while his son, the Emperor Constantine, was to reverse the policy of Diocletian the persecutor and raise Christianity to the established Faith of the Empire.
It is open to doubt whether Constantine was ever himself baptized, but Sozomen, the lawyer-historian of Constantinople, asserts that he received the Sacrament while resident at York.
But the ancient British Church remains throughout the Roman occupation hidden and obscure, like a poor relation, producing neither writers nor missionaries, having to seek its saints among the continental Christians and attending the great conferences in silence. Yet out of this humble womb were to arise shortly after the withdrawal of the Romans great and daring missionaries whose lives and words would carry the Cross victorious to Ireland, Wales and Scotland.
During the eighty-seven years which elapsed between the second coming of Julius Caesar and the eventual conquest of the country the British chieftains seems to have developed friendly relations with the Empire, some of them visiting Rome. One chieftain, smarting under a grievance, crossed to Gaul where the Emperor, mad Caligula, was staying at the time and suggested to him that he should attempt an invasion. Caligula thereupon brought over handful of soldiers, commanded them to fill their helmets with seashells and took them back to the continent.
But it was with much more aggressive purpose that under Claudius in 43 A. D., once more
Romans came across the channel
All dressed up in tin and flannel
and finally established their iron rule upon the land. Some of the first people to suffer were the Druids whose doctrines of patriotism, courage and fortitude were naturally distasteful to the conquerors, desirous, as they were, of perverting the natives into willing slaves. It seems quite unlikely that the tales of human sacrifices offered by the Druids at temples such as Stonehenge – which, incidentally, was probably standing on Salisbury Plain long before the arrival of the first Druid priest – are no more than malicious fables. These bearded, white-robed men were the doctors, teachers and statesmen of the British; they taught that the soul of man was immortal, and mistletoe may have played some part in their devotions, cut on certain festivals with a golden knife from the oak groves in which they offered worship. Their influence would be on the side of native independence and self-respect, and no doubt Rome recognized in them a dangerous barrier to the policy of degradation and enslavement by which she planned to rule.
The general Suetonius marched with his legions to exterminate these Druids in their last stronghold of Anglesey. As the soldiers approached the straits in the uncertain light of evening they saw the Druids gathered upon the gathered upon the opposite shores, while women were streaming and dishevelled hair, holding torches which flared against the sombre background of the trees, ran among them crying charms and witcheries. For a time the superstitious Romans refused to cross the dividing waters until swimmers, bolder than the rest, plunged in and seized a beach upon which the landing-crafts might be run. A bloody and merciless massacre ensued, and the Druids were utterly defeated.
So the curtain is rung down upon Druidism, but the proud nationalism for which it stood lived on in the tribes, and risings and rebellions had frequently to be suppressed. Claudious, visiting the island in person, tried to frighten the natives into subjection by using elephants in his military operations, the first time no doubts that the beasts had ever been seen by the islanders. It was left to Agricola, whose memorial is the line of forts he built to mark the northern boundary of the province, to find the means finally to subdue the people. Pacing the mosaic floors of his luxurious villa, he released suddenly that this race would never be conquered by force of arms; a subtler means was necessary. From that moment a new policy was introduced. The able-bodied men were drafted into the legions and sent abroad where, settled among foreigners who looked upon them as Romans, they would soon so look upon themselves. The youth were meantime introduced to the vices and luxuries, the arts and pleasures of a civilization which was already sown with the corruption which in later centuries would bring it crashing to ruin. So were a hardy and independent people bled of their manhood, softened and curbed. It is of grave significance that, during the four centuries of Roman occupation, there is not one single instances of any native being given an office of responsibility or leadership. But it was a policy which was to spell ruin not only to the native Britons, but to Rome herself. When her legions had first landed in them south there had been a spirited resistance; some of the names of the valiant patriots are handed down – Cassivellaunus, Boadicea, Caractacus. When, after four centuries of this vicious rule Rome deserted the land, there was only a drunken Welshmen to lead the natives against their Saxon foe. Rome had to fight for her possession; the Saxons found no opposition worth the name, for the character of the people had been sapped of its vitality and vilely smeared with the evil influence of the Italian city.
The St. Paul`s of Ethelbert was a wooden building. Later there came a saintly bishop named Erkonwald, of royal Saxon blood, who replaced it with a grander edifice of stone. He was responsible, too, for the building of a nunnery at Barking and a monastery at Chertsey, near Windsor. Erkonwald, who is commemorated by a tablet in St. Paul`s crypt, died at Barking, and immediately the Chertsey monks went to claim the bones of the saint for burial in their house, but the people of London had other ideas and rose in a body to seize the poor remains, by force if necessary, for internment in their own cathedral. It is said that an unseemly quarrel was prevented by the sudden uprising of the River Lea as the bearers of the saint`s body, followed by tearful nuns and furious monks, attempted to cross, and the waters only subsided when, after prayer, it had been amicably and justly decided that the rightful ownership of the corpse belonged to the cathedral. After Erkonwald St. Paul`s disappears from recorded history until Norman times, but in that interval the many endowments and gifts of land which it received indicate how high a place its bishops held in popular esteem. Nearly half the present revenue of the Ecclesiastical Commission may be traced back to this period.
I went out to St. Albans by way of Highgate Hill and Barnet. On the hill which rises into the town there is a pleasant inn which served me excellently with cheese and coffee. To a casual observer St. Albans appears the laziest city in the world. Everybody loiters; no one ever seems to be in the slightest hurry, while to obtain attention in a shop or cafe takes an interminable time and all the patience it is possible to muster. To irritate me further I kept losing the cathedral. Because the town stands on the peak of a hill there is no view of the cathedral from the London side; there is only a narrow approach between houses and all at once the whole vast edifice seems to leap up as though to crush you. But, to compensate, there is a spreading tree above green, velvet grass which slopes away towards Verulam, the city of Cassivellaunus and the Romans. Directly I turned back into the shopping centre I had to enquire my ways before I could find the cathedral again, and somehow one always seems to pick on complete strangers when lost in the city.
The cathedral itself is intensely disappointing. It boasts the greatest length from east to west of any in Europe. Architecturally it appears to an amateur so bewildering a jumble of styles that all beauty is lost in the perplexing attempt to classify them. Behind the High Altar the mediaeval shrine of the patron saint, ruthlessly smashed at the Reformation, has been pieced together from such broken fragments as have been recovered, and lovely, faded colouring still adheres to the desecrated stones. A kneeler has been placed at the west end of the shrine for those who wish to pray, but the atmosphere is made spiritually sterile by the constant procession of sight-seers who come only to stare and ignorantly gape. One turns away infinitely depressed. Today no one would care enough to execute St. Alban; they would merely ignore and pity him.
He was a Roman soldier who lived in the reign of Diocletian. The Emperor was not at heart an enemy of the Faith, for both his wife and daughter are said to have been baptized , but Galerius who had charge of the Eastern Empire persuaded him that Christians were a danger to the state. The persecution in Britain seems to have been a very half-hearted affair, and though a thousand souls were martyred at Lichfield, the name of which is from the Saxon `Lyke-field`, meaning `Field of the Dead`, such was quite an exceptional act. An unknown priest had need to fly for his life and found shelter and protection for several days at Alban`s house. In that time the soldier came to admire the character of his guest that when the persecutors arrived to search his house he seized the priest`s cloak and gave himself up instead of the Christian. He was tried at Verulam where he declared before the court that he desired to be baptised, and in consequence was condemned to torture and death. The trial seems to have aroused considerable interest in the town, for when they came to lead him across the river to the hill of execution the throng upon the bridge was so dense that they were forced to cross by a ford some distance upstream. The executioner then created a sensation by refusing to perform the act, and another had to be found. It is said that the pavement of the north aisle is laid upon the place of martyrdom.
Meantime, the priest fled by the Roman road to Wales and there he also was caught, seized and martyred with two other Christians named Julius and Aaron.
The first church of St. Albans was erected at the close of the Roman occupation when once more the city springs into the limelight, though now for a very different reason. There arose a heretic named Pelagius, British by race, although he had been educated at Rome and spent most of his life outside the country. Pelagius had been reared in the city which claimed to be the very centre of Christianity, and he had been shocked and offended by the laxity and worldliness of the conduct of many who claimed to follow Christ. In making a sincere and honest attempt to rebuke and correct these formal and indifferent members of the Church he fell into an error of exaggeration which would have undermined the foundation-truth of the Faith had it not been quickly contradicted. Pelagius taught that a man might save his soul by his own efforts alone, and therefore there was an urgent need to discipline the willpower in the service of God. By belittling – no doubt unintentionally – the need for divine grace he was making Christ`s own contribution a thing of no essential worth.
The great St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, opposed Pelagius, but at the same time he remarked, “I have not only loved him, but I love him still,” a generous tribute to the Briton`s sincerity. Jerome who, despite his scholarly work in the translation of the Scriptures into Latin, was a foolish and disagreeable old gentleman capable, for instance, of talking such nonsense as “I praise marriage and wedlock, but only because they beget celibates,” remarked with his customary rudeness and bad temper that Pelagius was “full of Scots` porridge”, a silly and unhelpful observation. Ceolestius, who aided the spreading of heresy, Jerome refers to as “Pelagius` mastiff”.
Pelagianism was taught in Britain by a man named Agricola. The British Church, frightened by the new doctrine, but apparently too intellectually weak to combat it, sent hastily for aid to Gaul, and the bishops there – not the pope, who has no part in this picture – deputed the Bishop of Auxerre, Germanius, to visit the country. He arrived at St. Albans in 429 A. D., and at a conference summoned there routed the enemy. Afterwards a service of thanksgiving was held in the church and the tomb of the martyr was opened in order that the bishop might take home some of the dust which, says Bede, was still stained with Alban`s blood.
Germanius occupied a prominent position in his generation. He was born of Christian parents and educated at Rome where he studied for the bar. After his marriage he rose to be one of the six governors of Gaul. Then suddenly he decided to be ordained, distributed his possessions among the poor and separated himself from his wife, apparently with her agreement; by popular acclamation he was elected bishop of the province over which formerly he had been ruler, a very high tribute to his character. While passing through Paris on his way to Britain he met St. Genevieve, then a little girl, and through him she found her spiritual vocation; later he was to consecrate St. Patrick for Ireland. Now, according to Bede, he moved across England to the north of Wales, and there for the moment we must leave him.
As for Pelagius, it is pleasant to read that he died at the goodly age of seventy in Palestine. The Church was not yet sufficiently powerful to make her heretics into martyrs; that was to come later.
I walked away from the cathedral down the little white path which crosses the broad grassland and dips into the valley. A slow, pleasant stream, with rushes at its edges and graced with swans, ambled beside me, and there was a paddling pool and gay, childish laughter and sun-lit beds. Past the oldest hostelry in the country, a short way up the road, there is a Roman theatre, one of the few which Britain could boast, telling of the prosperity and leisure which characterized the life of Verulam. For the rest, you may find a few shattered strips of Roman wall, but the broad, paved streets, the great villas with their shady courtyards and quiet gardens, the temples and the inns which once made Verulam a peaceful city of the well-to-do – their ruins lie buried underground. Yet the quietude of Verulam remains.
There were houses of stone here and at Colchester probably at an earlier date than anywhere in the island, for long before Claudius launched his invasion the chieftains of Essex and Hertfordshire crossed the Channel frequently to Gaul and came under the influence of Roman civilization.
But in 61 A. D., the tribes stirred restlessly beneath the imperial heel and the eyes they cast upon the settlements of their conquerors were full of hatred and bitter thirst for liberty. The colony of veteran soldiers at Colchester caught the uneasiness which hung indefinably upon the air. There were rumours of strange portents – the sea appeared at sunset as though filled with blood, a statue crashed without warning from its pedestal, a woman had jabbered incoherently and then become ominously articulate again. Northwards, the Iceni were ominously quiet.
But there was grumbling among the Iceni like the rising thunder of an approaching earthquake. The king had died and left his estate to Roman vassalage; an officer was reported to have struck his widow, Boadicea; members of the leading families had been unceremoniously thrown into prison, and it was said that both the queen`s daughters had been assaulted. Then Senecca the Spaniard began pressing her for the repayment of a debt which she had no means of settling.
But storm broke without warning. News came that Colchester had fallen; its houses were charred ruins reddened with the blood of the massacred inhabitants. And the Iceni were moving on. Where next? Caesaromagus, Londinium, Verulam? Unguarded, unprotected Verulam? Did some citizen, crossing the wooded peaks above the valley where the houses lay, see one day, like Julius Caesar`s sentry, an unnatural cloud of dust above the eastern road? Bad tidings travel fast. There is panic in the streets, at the theatre pandemonium; men leap for the arena rush for the exits, trampling others under-foot in their terror to escape. A few precious possessions snatched from homes, a wild flight to the inhospitable woods and open country. The laughter of little children is turned to plaintive cries, the agony of mothers, the horror of the aged and sick. . . . And out of the distance the growing thunder of innumerable hoofs.
“Iceni! Iceni!” There is hideous doom in the hopelessness of that cry.
Then other news: the Ninth Legion is being hurried from York. They meet the Iceni somewhere outside Verulam; there is a breathing-space, a tiny pause. And then again, calamity. The Iceni have cut the legion to pieces, churned their corpses in the mud – not one survivor. Once more the thunder of the hoofs , nearer, nearer . . .
There were 150,000 of them, grim, merciless, utterly without pity. There cannot have been less than twenty or thirty thousand chariots, for horse-breeding was their trade. And so they come, terrible in their war-paint, making the air resound hideously with cries. None will they spare. The men leap from the chariots, running out along the shafts, cutting, slashing, stabbing, as they tear through the streets, flinging blazing torches into the hoses, loading themselves with spoil. And in their midst the grim and terrible figure of their queen, her yellow hair streaming in the wind, her harsh voice calling them on, her dress bespattered with blood and scorched by fire. Against the darkness of the night sky the flames of Verulam are red and gold and orange, the mighty funeral pyre of those who once walked its pleasant streets and lived at ease in the luxurious villas.
One turns away, sickened by the imagination. Yet Boadicea stood for justice against tyranny, freedom against oppression.
I hitched a little car back to London and we followed the course of the Roman road by way of Elstree. My driver chattered incessantly, glad of companionship, but I am afraid my thoughts were centuries away.
I saw the vast army of the Iceni gathering south of what had once been happy, gay Verulam, heard the voice of Boadicea give the command, “Londinium,” and the name taken up exultantly, “Londinium! Londinium!” Again the thunder of the hoofs through the thick forests long since disappeared, churning the mud where now runs a metalled road, crashing and tearing southwards to the Thames.
Meanwhile, in London there is panic. News of the danger has reached the city, then but a village of merchants behind an earthen wall. Horsemen have carried the tidings with desperate speed to Suetonius, and the Romans, with a bare ten thousand soldiers, is hurrying back from Anglesey. At London he reaches a hasty, but vital decision: he decides that he cannot defend the settlement with any hope of success. The horror of the merchants knows no bounds; they are to be left a prey to the barbarian host; they are to be given to slaughter, massacre and extermination. But Suetonius is pitiless; he has realized that the future of the Roman occupation hangs precariously upon his decision and London must be sacrificed; he gives the order to march. And to one more town the Iceni, unopposed, bring death and fire and horror.
Suetonius met Boadicea at last somewhere near King`s Cross Station, a few miles from the London of that day. The tribesmen are gorged with their triumphs, drunk with blood, for seventy thousand have fallen to their swords and their host outnumbers Suetonius` army by fifteen to one. Well might they jeer at the pale, grim Romans, making a circle of wagons at their back on which to hoist their women that they might watch the battle as from a platform. But success has undermined the slight discipline they once possessed, and they have become a rabble. The legion is lined before them, the Romans shoulder to shoulder, shields held at face level, short swords ready, and so they advance, a living wall, controlled, unbreakable and desperately determined. The Iceni fling themselves forward, but a great wave might as well endeavour to batter and break the rock of Gibraltar. The rebels tremble and pause, then all is suddenly riot and confusion, the circle of wagons cutting off retreat, the awful inhuman line of Roman flesh ever steadily advancing. It is the end and Roman is victor.
Boadicea drank poison before she could be seized, and a merciful procurator, Classicianus, wrote hastily to Rome advising the immediate recall of Suetonius whose cruel vengeance threatened to overlap all bounds of decency and honour.
My goodness, how it rained! It began when I left the train at Windsor, slow, heavy drops which presently became a cold grey curtain as solid as a waterfall, soaking through my macintosh and turning my sandwiches into an unpalatable mush which I threw into a ditch.
Outside the town I hitched a van which carried me two miles/3.2km beyond Reading; my driver was taking a horse back to Bristol after the Windsor races. I left him where the by-road turns off to Mortimer, and for the next three or four hours I saw no more traffic. Indeed, I might have been the only human being in the world as I tramped the eight dreary miles/12.8km to Silchester, meeting not so much as a cyclist or a pedestrian, and all the time the rain beating down, splashing and bouncing up from the road and running in swift, whirling streams on either side. Some miles farther on the road came suddenly to open land overgrown with gorse, ferns and young conifers, which under a blazing sun would have been beautiful, but now in the continuing torrent was the picture of true desolation. At the bottom of the hill there was a signpost: SILCHESTER RUINS. That sounded hopeful and I quickened my step. After twenty minutes I saw suddenly the grey ruin of a wall in a field to the right – undoubtedly a Roman wall. I climbed the fence, crossed a strip of sodden grass and looked over the stones: beyond was nothing but a field of turnips. A mile/1.6km farther on there were houses and a farmyard, splashing through the puddles, the mud oozing over my shoes and knocked at the door of the house. Presently a young man in his shirt sleeves came.
“Could you tell me where the remains of the Roman city are?”
He clicked his tongue. “Lor, sir, but they covered `em up forty years ago. There`s only the wall now, goin` round in a circle.”
“I thought there was a little Roman church.”
So I went back, disheartened, into the rain and mud. I picked my way past the sheds and through a gate to the old wall of Silchester just beyond, but still there were only turnips on the other side, their tops wet and gleaming above the puddle earth. I was forty years too late.
There were many towns in England in the days of the Romans. Some grew around the forts of the legions, a settlement of shops and houses built by their families and those tradesmen who catered for their needs; others, like Colchester, were formed by the retired veterans who were pensioned off with a piece of land or a small farm; yet others, probably of a simpler kind, sprang up as the centre of a British tribe and were not inhabited by Romans at all. Silchester, called then Calleva, the City of the Forest, was a residential estate with beautiful villas spaced apart, and lovely gardens gay with flowers, and quiet, paved walks, a city of the wealthy and leisured classes without military significance. Later it fell into decay owing to the failure of the water supply.
The Romans who lived here were not, of course, only Italians. Rome was international and under her sway the individualism of birth was broken down and men of all races, cultures, languages, were cemented together in the loose unity of Roman citizenship, which might be claimed by any soldier in the legions as a reward for twenty-five years` service. Thus, Agricola, the Governor of Britain, was a Gaul, Seneca was a Spaniard, Paul the Christian a Jew, Severus the Emperor an African. Rome conquered finally by a process of absorption, a refusal to recognize nationality, a gradual forcingof all the conquered tribes into the single mould of loyalty to the imperial city.
Latin was the language of the civilized world, though local dialects were also used, and in the army illiteracy was unknown. The culture of Rome was stereotyped, practical rather than inspired, her art dictated by convention and devoid of any claim to originality. Her genius was in organization, in planning and in arrangement, but artistically she could only borrow from the past. London, rebuilt after the fire of Boadicea, was better planned and laid out, with more solid buildings and efficient sanitation, than at any future time until the reign of Queen Victoria.
But the conquests of Rome were inspired by the lust for power and the greed for wealth. In one case did she ever regard herself as answerable for those whom she conquered and enslaved; they and their country were to be used, worked, developed, for the enrichment of Rome and Rome alone. Such benefits as they derived from the occupation were purely accidental, and the retirement of the legions inevitably left a country drained of its resources and so weakened that any private or buccaneer found it an easy prey. Britain suffered particularly because, time and again, claimants for the purple arose from her garrisons, so that the legions stationed in this country gained a name for their arrogance and independence. Each claimant in turn led the cream of the army to battle for his title on the continent, bleeding the province of its best and most able defenders
Albinus was proclaimed Emperor at York in 192 A. D., to be defeated by the future Emperor Severus who was to prove a tireless and implacable enemy of the Picts and who remarked as he was dying, on seeing the urn prepared for his ashes, “You are about to contain a man for whom the world was too small.” Constantius was more fortunate in his bid for the throne, and later came Maximus, taking British legions to conquer Gaul and Spain and to suffer defeat in Italy by Theodosius at whose court Ninian, the future missionary to Southern Scotland/Southern Pictland, was held hostage.
When Silchester was excavated at the beginning of the 20th century there was found in her streets a tiny British church, its altar at the west end so that the priest would celebrate the Communion facing the eastern apse and the kneeling congregation. This is the oldest church in the country, where Christians worshipped seventeen hundred years ago while paganism still held sway as the national religion.
But the paganism of Rome was of a very tolerant brand, without any real conviction, and if you would burn incense occasionally before the statue of the emperor no one cared to what god you said your prayers. Often your god would be chosen according to the place where you lived or the trade in which you were employed. Thus, the soldiers favoured Mithras, a war-god of Persian origin into whose secret circle he was initiated by a baptism of bull`s blood. At Newcastle there was a temple to Neptune, while Sylvanus had devotees in Weardale because the hunting there was good. But by the time the occupation came to an end it is at least possible that Christianity had risen to be the dominant religion, and one of the few things for which Britain had to thank Rome was for three centuries of comparative peace, almost entirely free of religious persecution, during which time the Faith was established and given roots.
The earliest Christians here were mostly Roman citizens, not native British, and the Church, though orthodox and established, was humble, weak and poor, and sometimes torn by internal strife, for in 390 A. D., the Bishop of Rouen, Victricius, had to be summoned to settle a dispute.
While the little Christian Church in Britain survived and grew, across the seas in Italy the paganism of Rome was spreading the seeds of disintegration and collapse. The seat of government had been removed to Constantinople, and the ancient capital became the prey of brigand-peasants, burdened with intolerable taxation and enervated by the superstitions of astrologers and fortune-tellers.
I tramped four miles/6.4km back toward the Bath Road, the rain still pitilessly descending, the sky grey and overcast, and when a tradesman`s van drew up ahead of me I was in so despondent a mood that I could not believe that he had really stopped for me. A young man put a cheery face out of the window and said,
“Did you or did you not give me a sign?”
“Well then, better get in.”
He talked about the war, taking his hands from the steering wheel to gesticulate so that at any moment I expected to find myself in the ditch.
“They say that it`s the most terrible war that the world has ever known – can`t see it that way myself; in the old days they cut you up with a sword or shot you with an arrow; today they blow you to pieces – pouf! – with a bomb, an` either way you`re dead, an` if you don`t want to die, well, one`s as bad as t`other. Only religion will stop it. But some of the Christians today – you ought to hear`em talk – hatred and vengeance and exterminate the Germans. We`ve been saying `Our Father` for close on two thousand years, but where`s it got us – that`s what I want to know – where`s it got us?”
But to none of his questions did he allow me opportunity to give answer, for we reached the main road before he permitted me to speak a word.
“Where are you going now?”
“Chippenham,” I said.
“That`ll be easy. Pick up a lorry, for they all go through Chippenham. Better hurry up before you`re drowned, eh? Ha Ha!”
But I did not pick up a lorry. I travelled in a comfortable private car to Newbury, then with a young farmer in a very ancient Ford, and finally to Chippenham in a taxi. I did not realize it was a taxi until it drew up beside me, but the driver took me seven miles/11.2km without charge and then went to considerable trouble to examine his maps and discover my best route to Shepton Mallet where I had a bed booked for the night. I wanted him to have tea with me, but he said he could not wait, so we shook hands and wished each other good-bye, and I set off into Somerset down the Trowbridge road.
. . . . .
It was already late when I arrived at Frome, but at the station they told me that there was a last train to Shepton Mallet. No one informed me until it was too late that it was necessary to change, and when I got to Bruton, the next station after the juncture, I knew that there was no possibility of me seeing that night the bed I had engaged.
The porter was quite unsympathetic when I asked if there was anywhere where I might find lodging in Bruton, shrugging his shoulders with “Might – might not – better go and try.” Everybody was hurrying off in a business-like manner, sure of a fireside and a meal and somewhere warm to sleep, and I was left to the darkening village, the square tower of the church silhouetted against the blue-black sky and the long, soft shadows lying across the houses and the wet and gleaming road. I stopped a woman and asked if she could recommend me anywhere.
“But of course,” she said brightly, “you can put up at the Blue Boar. Straight along and you`ll find it on the right.”
She was the first example of Bruton`s optimism.
The proprietor of the Blue Boar shook his head; he was sorry but they were full up. I went back to the street and knocked at a cottage. A young man assured me that nothing would be simpler than to obtain a bad for the night. “The Blue Boar . . .” he began.
“I`ve tried the Blue Boar.”
“Oh. Well, then, the Crown. Down the road, round the corner. Sure to fix you up.”
But neither had the Crown a room. In the passage an old man, holding a huge tankard of beer, with yellow froth draping his moustache, overheard my enquiry.
“Go to the Blue . . .”
“I`ve tried the Blue Boar,” I told him.
“Well then, the Queen`s Head. Now, you ain`t tried the Queen`s Ead, `ave you? No, or you wouldn`t be wanting a bed here, no more you would. Just you go there. No trouble at all, an` the bed`s yours for the asking. On up the road – can`t miss it.”
I set out once more. It was almost completely dark. A shadowy figure passed on the farther side and bade me good-night; I wasn`t at all sure that it was going to be so good. The door of the Queen`s Head was locked, but beyond the glass panel there was a faint, uncertain light. I knocked and waited. Presently a shadow fell across the light and a woman`s voice said, “Who is it?”
“Could you let me have a bed for the night?”
The door was opened the fraction of an inch.
“What`s that you want?”
“A bed,” I repeated.
“Oh no, I can`t do that. Oh no, I`am sorry. I don`t think you`ll get one now, you know. It`s late, isn`t it? No, I`m afraid not, I`m very sorry. Good-night.”
The door closed. I heard her go away, shuffling down the passage, and presently another door was shut, cutting off the dim light, and I was alone in the darkness. I walked back up the road. As I passed the Crown someone was hammering on a piano `Who going to take you home tonight?” Who, indeed? I thought. Farther on I met the village policeman; he was sympathetic, but unhelpful. In desperation I decided to try the vicarage.
The vicar proved a friend indeed. He introduced me to a fourth hostelry which I had failed to discover, prevailed upon the good lady who kept it to give me a room, asked me to breakfast at the vicarage and left me with two sausage rolls for my supper. I drank a pint of cider and sat till closing time talking to the proprietress about Holland. Why it was Holland I haven`t the faintest idea.
In the sunshine of morning Bruton had the cosy atmosphere of a mediaeval town. As I walked up the street – grey, qiuet buildings either side – I felt that at nay moment I must come into view of an embattled wall and see a frowning Norman castle brooding on some hill above the town. Instead, there were lanes bordered with apple orchards, the boughs heavy with fruit, and the peace of wide fields sleeping under early dew.
Just beyond the level crossing a car stopped beside me.
“You can`t direct me to Glastonbury?” asked the driver.
“I am aiming there myself, but the road seems to be rather a roundabout one.” I showed him my tourist map.”
We drove down green, delicious lanes, apple-orchards everywhere and low, red-roofed farm-houses lying back among comfortable trees. There is no country so peaceful as Somerset. Presently we saw the strange sugar-loaf of Glastonbury Tor, crowned with its round tower, prominent for no other reason than that its rises sheer from the flat plains, the only hill for miles, at its foot the little town, with its two wide streets and the sorrowing ruins of the once lovely abbey.
Glastonbury derives its name from the Welsh word `glas`, meaning `blue`, for there was a time when it lay on an island amid stretching marshes, and in prehistoric days a great lake was situated a mile/1.6km away on the banks of which stood a village of wattle huts. The Saxons called it Avalon, meaning apple-tree Isle.
There is a legend which tells how Philip the Apostle came as missionary to the Franks and sent Joseph of Arimathea, in whose garden-tomb the body of Jesus found rest, with twelve companions to preach the Faith in Britain. As they paused at the end of their journey on Weary-All-Hill, to survey the scene of their labours, Joseph planted his staff in the ground and there it grew into a thorn bush which ever after was to flower at Christmas Day, for it is a variety native to Palestine.
Here the little band of pioneers were kindly received by the local chieftain who, although refusing to be baptized, so admired their sober manner of life that he permitted them to settle upon Avalon and to preach their doctrine. With him Joseph bought the Holy Grail, immortalized by the quest of King Arthur`s knights. It had been shaped by mermen from a ruby which fell down from Heaven and later used by Solomon in the worship in his temple, and by Jesus at the Last Supper. Thus does legend begin to weave its enchanted spell about the noble church.
The church which Joseph built at the command of the Angel Gabriel was a very simple one of twisted wattles, which once grew abundantly in this district and from which the inhabitants customarily made their houses. Since it was the first Christian church in the country our Lord came Himself to consecrate it. Four centuries later David came from Wales and added a chapel, and Paulinus, the companion of Augustine and pioneer-missionary of the north, roofed the building with lead.
Patrick retired to Glastonbury after his work in Ireland, and finding there twelve hermits living separately in beehive cells grouped around the church, he instructed them in the monastic life and appointed himself their first bishop, which position he held for many years until his death.
Here, too, were brought the bodies of King Arthur and Guinevera, his queen, to rest in the monks` graveyard. In 1191 A. D., the tomb was opened and the two bodies were found in an oak coffin above which lay a leaden cross inscribed with the words `Here lies buried in the island of Avalonia the renowned King Arthur.` A century later the bodies were removed in the presence of king Edward I to a black marble tomb before the altar in the church and there remained until the Reformation. Among the coffins which have recently examined in the monk`s graveyard was one containing a skeleton over eight feet/2.4m in length.
After the churches of Joseph and David a third church was built by `twelve men from the north`, and towards the close of Saxon times a fourth and more magnificent building was erected by Ine, king of Wessex, at the cost of thirty thousand pounds, an immense sum in those days. The present ruins of St. Joseph`s chapel are believed to stand on the site of the original church.
Here, then, is legend interwoven with history, for while it is certain that Patrick never came to Glastonbury, and most improbable that either Joseph or David did – indeed, it was not until after the year 1200 A. D., that the story of Joseph was told at all – yet, in this green island of apple-orchards, there has been a Christian church from very early times. Possibly its true origin may have been that at some time in the second century a pilgrim by the name of Joseph came from Gaul, fleeing, perhaps, from the persecution at Lyons, and raised in this sacred spot the first church of Christ in Britain.
Who can know where legends ends and truth begins? Always there will be mystery at Glastonbury, the calm and peaceful mystery of holy, half-forgotten lives and reverent worship offered here from most ancient times, and the love and work and prayers of long-dead Christians for ever hallowing the quiet and fruitful plain.
As you wander over the smooth grass caressed by the graceful shadows of the ruins you will feel the mystery that must ever belong to Glastonbury`s charm. You will stand above the deep cavity where once lay the coffin of King Arthur and wonder how much is true that we know of him, how much is only myth. You will touch the sacred thorn and speculate silently upon the lost identify of the man who brought it from Palestine and chose – who knows why? – to plant it on the summit of Weary-All-Hill. You will look up at Tor Hill sharp-set against the blue sky and remember that when they hanged the last abbot there it was probably because he refused to reveal to them the hiding-place of the renowned and fabulous treasures of the abbey, and somewhere – beneath the mown turfs on which you walk, perhaps – that treasure still lies hid, its secret sealed for evermore, unless it be revealed one day by chance. And as you turn from the grey stones wonderfully carved, past the site of the High Altar, through the silent choir and down the gentle slope of grass of others who, eighteen centuries ago and on, trod where you walk- ghosts of saints and humble monks, ghosts of kings and powerful lords, ghosts of the faithful multitude of simple folk who found in these walls refreshment for their souls and new hope and courage to face again the battle of the world. And, maybe, you will hear very faintly voices lifted in the eternal praise, echoed by broken walls where ivy clings, caught up now only by birds which sing and fly about the unglazed windows and the tender loveliness of stones in the green silences of Avalon.
As you turn away the mystery of Glastonbury will lie heavy on your heart, and you will care little to differentiate between the truth and the legend, for here most certainly is a haunted vale close-knit with a living Christ. Out of the distant centuries – centuries of worship and of praise – the hallowed spirit of Avalon will speak to you of the abiding and eternal things, for among the stately ruins the voice of its spirit is still vibrant and alive.
The Saxons came to Glastonbury in 658 A. D., but they came now as Christians conquerors, no more as pagans, and thirty years later there arrived at Exeter, a few miles away, a youth named Boniface, who was to return the visit of the Teutons and carry the Gospel to Germany, planting it there in the blood of martyrdom.
With the lengthening centuries the fame of Glastonbury grew, and always there were pilgrims, so that it became in time one of the loveliest and most richly endowed of Christian shrines. It was thus inevitable that when Henry VIII commenced the dissolution of the monasteries and filled his pockets and those of his cronies with wealth which had previously been dedicated to the worship of God and the relief of the poor, he should cast envious, greedy eyes upon this monastery.
They accused the abbot, who was renowned both for the magnificence of his entertainment and the holiness of his character, of writing a book against the king`s divorce, but his real crime was that he succeeded in hiding the abbot`s treasures from the desecrators. They flung him in prison at Wells, and at his trial mocked him by accusing him of appropriating the wealth of his monastery for his personal use. Then, they lashed him – old, sickly and tired – to a hurdle, dragged him up Tor Hill and hanged him there. His body was torn into four parts and sent about the county, and his head stuck upon the gateway of the abbey which the king was now free to rob to his heart`s content. Finally, they came and cut down the sacred thorn, but a splinter flew into the eye of the man who performed the deed and he died of poisoning.
. . . . . .
I walked out along a straight, flat road bordered with new council houses, and hitched a lorry travelling north. As we rose up the hill beyond Wells there was a wide, clear view of the vale spreading far below, the Tor leaping from its midst and the emerald of field and orchard set brilliantly against a thunderous sky. Rain began to patter down, and low clouds, scurrying before a rising wind, tore the last colour from the sky and settled like a grim curtain about the scene of so much splendour, so much tragedy. I crept under the tarpaulin as the shower increased to a downpour, and there, warm and dry, the motion of the lorry sent me to sleep. When I awoke we were driving into Bristol, and the first thing I saw was a great commotion beside the road where two policemen, very red and hot, were arresting a soldier who was violently resisting them.