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Robert Hickson

8 December 2014
Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Fortitude, Proportion, and Innocence:
Discerning Perceptions from Hilaire Belloc's The Silence of the Sea (1940)
--Epigraphs-“What I most love in the sea is its silence....Also the sailor feels that an even tenor
is normal to the sea and wildness exceptional. We think of the sea and storm
together because the emotions roused by a storm at sea are of the strongest, and
especially through the twin elements of suffering and danger, which between them
make up what is most salient in human life (and a pretty commentary on human
life it is that danger and suffering should so stand out in it!). The sea in storm is
the sea 'all out'. It is the sea with its personality at the fullest....So also Silence is
framed and underlined [accented] by the least sounds accompanying it; and the
sea [as for Homer] is more silent for the hidden murmur of it, the half-heard hint
of small foam [“salt sea foam”] whitening in the night for a moment and the
whisper of a chance air [breeze, zephyr] that is lost as it comes.” (Hilaire Belloc,
“The Silence of the Sea,” in The Silence of the Sea (New York: Sheed & Ward,
1940), pp. 1, 2-3, 4.
“All these deep personal sorrows Hans Christian [Anderson] accepted in silence.
Such was the dignity which distinguished him even as the poor shabby child of the
washerwoman [his mother], and never forsook him even when his nerves broke in
old age. 'First one suffers...then one becomes famous' [he had said as a child]. But
becoming famous meant for [the poet] Hans Andersen [1805-1875] giving the
pearl of great price, for which he had paid [as did “The Little Mermaid”
(1836)] with all that he had, and all that he could not have. Through the denial
[the human refusals!] of his individual love, the love of all mankind passed
through the poet's soul, and his little loves, that might have been passing things
and forgotten had they been successful, are left [in his literature] to the world
for as long as a child remains in it to enshrine them in his heart. (Caryll
Houselander, Guilt (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1951), p. 248—my emphasis
added) Caryll Houselander's profoundly moving and discerning chapter, entitled
“Hans Christian Andersen,” will be found in its entirety on pages 240-250.)
[As in the poignant and specific case of Hans Christian Anderson himself, and
also in the case of Hilaire Belloc, I believe:] A Genius cannot escape his destiny
of Christhood, and he cannot attempt to resist it without disaster. Other men who
attempt to resist it tend to become mediocre, they tend toward nothingness. They
shut the door of their minds against the Holy Spirit, the wind of Heaven, which
would have swept through the house of their spirit, bearing with it the seed of
life; and they shut themselves into an empty house. But the genius cannot shut the

door of his mind, because if he does so the Holy Spirit will sweep down upon him
and break open the doors and walls of his house.... It will not come to him in a
soft wind [zephyr], but in a sea of wind in storm breaking down everything
that resists it. The genius is a channel through which the universal experience of
man is poured; all human love and grief and joy, in all their forms, must pass
through him. Most men possess their own hearts, but the heart of the genius does
not belong to him, it belongs to everyone. His function in life is to give
expression to that which is secret in the hearts of all men. He [like
Dostoievsky!] must be the voice of the world, he must laugh with the delight of
the whole world, he must shed every man's tears. He must understand in a
unique way what it means to bear another's burdens. It is both his glory and
his tragedy that [like the Saint] he does not belong to himself. He is given to
mankind by God, and he is wonderfully close in his sweet and terrible vocation
[and mission] to 'The Word of God'....In the soul of the genius the Kingdom of
Heaven suffers violence....This was certainly the case with Hans Christian
Andersen. And what conflict he had to wrestle with, both within himself and in
every circumstance in his life. Poverty, ignorance, family madness and instability,
a drunken mother, a selfish and worthless step-father, his own ugliness and
oversensitivity, bullying and discouragement from his schoolmaster, failure in love
—all this and more is the background of his fairy-stories that hold the secrets
of every human heart....His [true] father was a cobbler; in him a poet was
defeated, and he suffered from almost pathological depression. But he was the
only person in his life who was close to him both in understanding and in
love. Longing to give the little boy the education that poverty had denied to
himself, the father read to him from the few books he had bought at the price of
real self-denial....Hans Christian adored him, but before he was ten years old,
the father in a fit of depression enlisted as a soldier, only to return a few months
later broken in health and spirit, and within two years, when Hans Christian was
eleven, he died.” (Caryll Houselander, Guilt, pp. 240-242—my emphasis added)
While I was last evening and this morning reading aloud to our six-year-old daughter the full 1836
text of “The Little Mermaid,” by Hans Christian Andersen, I came to think of Hilaire Belloc as well as
of Caryll Houselander and their own deep hearts for the Little Children—and for the Sea (like Hans
Christian of Odense, Denmark!). And since I have also been re-reading some of the later essays of
Hilaire Belloc, especially those published in 1940 just before his incapacitating stroke in 1941, I
thought to consider and interrelate three of his essays that are to be found near the end of our greatsouled sailor's collection, The Silence of the Sea: “On Proportion,” “Fortitude,” and “On Innocence.” 1
1 Hilaire Belloc, The Silence of the Sea (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1940). The three essays to be discussed are to be
found, respectively, on pages 234-238, 239-243, and 249-253. Page reference to these essays will be placed above in
parentheses in the main body of this essay. The first essay of this collection, moreover, “The Silence of the Sea,” may be
read in its entirety on pages 1-5—a worthy first and title essay, as “On Innocence” is a very fitting final essay in the


In these three brief essays, Belloc presents with clarity some especially refreshing approaches to
important matters—at least matters that should be important to Catholics, such as: Analogy (the
analogy of being, as well as the meaning of true analogical predications); Final Perseverance (as a
Great Gift of Grace, a “Magnum Donum” according to the Council of Trent); and Purity (also in its
fundamental connection with the Fourth Cardinal Virtue of Temperantia, and thus with a guilelessly
Innocent, Sincere Heart, a Cor Sincerum sine Dolo). For, Belloc with fairness and fresh discernments
helps us to consider in a variety of ways the importance of “Proportion,” (“Proportio” is also the Latin
word for “Analogia”). Convinced that, for us men, truth resides in proportion, Belloc will show us his
specific meaning with vivid examples both in the writing of true history and biography, and in the
expression of beauty, to include Proportion's relation both to Ars (Art) and to Prudentia (the first
Cardinal Virtue or Prudence, or Practical Wisdom). He will even touch upon the most fitting and
gracious proportions in architecture, the most public of art forms. When he then later speaks of
Fortitude (Fortitudo), he will also help us understand the Third Cardinal Virtue, as well as one of the
seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost—most especially in its aspect and quality of Endurance, or patient
perseverance. When he speaks of Innocence, Hilaire Belloc will again make us think of the purity and
innocence which are very movingly glimpsed and never thereafter forgotten—especially when it comes
from the look in the innocent eyes of a child. To include the pure tears in the eyes of an innocent child
—the pure tears of sorrow and also the tears of joy!
Our Belloc begins his essay “On Proportion” with a direct affirmation and then an immediate
explanation and exemplification of his meaning. For, to some persons, the truth of his unqualified
contention is not so immediately manifest, but, rather, a seemingly incongruous (and hyperbolic) claim:
Truth lies in proportion. This is so obvious that one would think that everyone
would appreciate it at once. You are not telling the truth about any matter if
your statement is out of proportion; that is, if it does not put most important
things first and all others in their due place. (234—my emphasis added)
(For example, if someone, as a professed Catholic, purports to be teaching the reality and
importance of Our Lord's Incarnation and Redemption and Restoration of Life, but never mentions the
actuality and indispensability of Sanctifying Grace or Sacramental Grace, his propagated doctrine is, in
Belloc's sense, “out of proportion” and he is “not telling the truth.”)
Our Belloc now gives, also with great fairness, his own clarifying example, however:
If someone who has never heard of Bismarck were to ask you who Bismarck was

and you were to answer that he was a rather talkative German with gooseberry
eyes and a high voice, you would not have told the truth about Bismarck [i.e.,
“suppressio veri, suggestio falsi”!]. However small the space allowed you for
describing him, you would have to say that he was the first statesman of his day;
you would have to give, however roughly, the dates of his activity; you would
have to say that he was of the same stature in his own profession as William Cecil
(Lord Burleigh) or Richelieu. You would have to say that he put his talents to the
service of his master, the King of Prussia, and rapidly raised his master to the first
place in Europe.2
After presenting such essential facts and judgment, one could also go on to speak of lesser things,
says Belloc, while also still keeping a proper proportion:
After this [set of essentials] you might add in their order any number of other
things about him, but you would not be telling the truth if you did not put the
first things first; and if you left out the major matters, so as to leave the
inquirer ignorant, you would be telling that inquirer a falsehood [once again,
“suppressio veri, suggestio falsi vel ignorantiae”].
True history is simply history which puts the past in its right proportion.
False history is always “put across” by undue emphasis on this or that and by
the suppression of this or that which is essential to your narrative. (234-235—my
emphasis added)
Aware of the wounded nature and various temptations of man, and, thus, of the understandable
distortions of most “national history,” he goes on to speak of some reasons, even tragic reasons, for the
thriving of false history:
That is why...most national history is false; because national history is written
[disproportionately] as though the general events of the world could be referred to
the fate of one nation alone, and, on top of that, national history is nearly always
written with the object of exalting the particular nation concerned. False history
will usually have a greater effect and a much more lasting one than true
history. It will be more interesting through its passion. Wrong proportion
here is all to the advantage of literature, but all to the disadvantage of that
prime service which history should render—the teaching of men how to
conduct the present through experience of the past. (235—my emphasis added)
After this expression of fairness and understanding, Belloc will present us with some other
surprising insights, namely about the reality and enhanced perception of beauty because of proportion:

2 See Hilaire Belloc's fine and fair and extensive comparison of Cardinal Richelieu and Otto von Bismarck in Chapter II
of the “First Part” of Belloc's 1929 book, entitled Richelieu (Garden City, New York: Garden City Publishing Company.
Inc., 1929). The First Part of this magnanimous book is entitled “The Nature of the Achievement” and the lucid second
Chapter of that first part is entitled “Richelieu and Bismarck,” pp. 31-45. Our Belloc is a just man—even when dealing
with such open enemies or the more obliquely subtle subverters of the Faith. Chapter II will convince us of that, for sure.


Now, if truth lies in proportion (which I say should almost be self-evident,
although it is hardly ever said), it is also true that beauty lies in proportion—
and this is much less easy to grasp, for there seems to be no rational connection
between the one and the other. Yet so it is; by a blunder in, or an ignorance of,
proportion, you will always mar beauty and produce its opposite: the ludicrous,
the grotesque, and the repulsive. But why should this be so?....I suppose the
ultimate reason [when “one looks eagerly for proportion in the works of man and
finds repose and satisfaction therein” (235)] is that beauty must be consonant to
creation in general. (235—my emphasis added)
In the remainder of his essay, Belloc gives, along with some stunningly negative examples, his
own grateful and specific comments on “the nave of St. Peter's” in Rome and on the beautiful Gothic
Cathedral of Beauvais in France—as he considers proportion and scale and the limits of largeness in
the public expressions of architecture and, thus, “the true and complete satisfaction in the
fulfilling of a purpose.” (236) For, he says:
There is also in human art a certain element of proportion which consists in its
relationship to man [i.e., to the proportions of the human form]; man made it and
man made it [on “a scale”] to be enjoyed [not just used] by man....In the same
way, Beauvais is just on the extreme of Gothic height. Not that you might not
have an ogival arch much higher and of less effect, but that Beauvais, looking
up and eastward from the transept at the crossing which the Black Death [13461353 A.D.] left forever unfinished, seems to me, from its [i.e., “that sublime
thing's] exact use of proportion, the highest thing in the world....[and thus also
could and] would produce...such [an] emotion of aspiration and maturity.(236
—my emphasis added)
To preserve always in mind a sense of just proportion, whether it be in history or biography or in
art, man also needs fortitude, that strength of character to remain truthful even in adversity.
Therefore, let us now consider the most important portions of Hilaire Belloc's brief essay on
He first presents us again with a cathedral, this time with one that he once encountered in the
high hills of Central France when he was some years ago then wandering afoot:
In Perigueux, which is the capital of Perigord, in the hill districts of Central
France, there is a strange building....This building is the cathedral of Perigueux
and of Perigord....It is built of huge blocks of stone almost without ornament....A
man might feel, looking on those exactly squared, precisely sawn, unchiselled
stones, that they would never weather....Huge blocks, enormously solid, and
apparently without story or legend, and almost without meaning. Yet their
meaning is profound, and those huge stone blocks are connected with my theme,
which is Fortitude. (240)

Preparing us further for his insights, he also reveals his recollections and those sensitive
perceptions that suddenly surprise a man—an attentive man:
It has been remarked by men from the beginning of time that chance connections
may determine thought: a chance tune heard in unexpected surroundings, a chance
sentence not addressed perhaps to oneself and having no connection with the
circumstances around, the chance sight of an unexpected building appearing round
the corner of a road, the chance glance of an eye that will never meet ours
again—any one of these things may establish a whole train of contemplation
which takes root and inhabits the mind for ever. (240-241—my emphasis
Bringing us then back to his vivid memory of the inside of that massive cathedral and to “a side
altar of the north transept”—where there unexpectedly stood “the mosaic of an elephant” and “under it
also in mosaic,...the word Fortitudo” and thus for Belloc a suddenly added enhancement of “the
presence of Strength” (240)—he says: “So it was with me all those years ago in the matter of the
elephant of Perigueux and his Fortitudo.” (241—my emphasis added)
With this transition from that abiding memory, Belloc goes deeper into his theme, and by means
of his lucid and eloquent terseness he draws us into “a whole train of contemplation” (240-241):
Fortitude (and her elephant) were here set up in a Christian church because
fortitude is entitled one of the great virtues. Now what is fortitude? It is
primarily Endurance: that character which we need the most in the dark business
of life. But if fortitude be endurance, it is also creative endurance, and at the
same time it involves some memory of better times and some expectation of their
return. It involves, therefore, fidelity and hope; and without these two, fortitude
would be of little use; but above all fortitude is endurance. (241—emphasis added)
Writing when he was then almost seventy years of age (i.e., in 1940), he continues to write with
lucid compactness and with his fitting and inspiring allusions to Christian history, as well:
Fortitude is the virtue of the menaced [like the British then amidst World War
II], of the beleaguered. It is the virtue of them that man the wall, or are called
upon to last out [as at Rhodes or Malta], for all extremes; it is the converse to
and opposite of aggressive, flamboyant courage, yet it is the greater of the
two, though often it lacks action. Fortitude wears armour and holds a sword. It
stands ready rather than thrusts forward. It demands no supplement [except from
Grace?]; it is nourished not from without [except for the fertilizing Gift of the
Holy Ghost?] but from within. It is replenished of its own substance. Fortitude
does not envisage new things; rather does it tenaciously preserve things known
and tried. It builds, but builds unwittingly, not following an inspired plan nor a
mere vision, but of necessity; and from stone to stone of daily conservative

Sometimes fortitude will earn fame, but not often. Always, however, it will earn
reward; for even when the defensive fails at the end, if it has been of an efficient
sort, it [fortitude] makes an air [atmosphere] and a name surrounding and
enshrining itself. So have the great sieges of history done [e.g., in 1522 on the
Island of Rhodes; 1565 at Malta]. So will our time to-day [in 1940], if we use it
aright [thus, with an enlivening trust and with “fidelity and hope” (241)]. (241242—my emphasis added)
Although it would be difficult to prove, it seems that our Belloc (who was soon to lose another of
his sons in war) was also then to encourage the British in 1939-1940 to remember the earlier dark times
and trials of Christian Europe:
There was a time in the long story of Christendom (which is also Europe) when
fortitude was everywhere and was known everywhere to be supreme. That time
was the ninth to the tenth century, from the death of Charlemagne to the
awakening which began with Cluny [the privileged and papally protected
Monastery of Cluny], continued through the annealed, architectural, legislative
Normans in the South [in Sicily et al.] as in the North, and rose in the flame of the
Reconquista [in Spain, a long war from 722-1492] and the enormous march of the
Crusades. Between that darkening and that sunrise lay the night of Europe,
wherein we nearly perished. (242—my emphasis added)
With such words, we cannot but think of the plight of Europe today in 2014 where the Christian
Faith and fortifying constructive influence is anemic and vestigial. But, by his specific and vivid
recollections of that earlier time of peril, Belloc's words might still re-awaken some hearts, perhaps
even some conspicuous saints:
Then indeed [during that earlier “night of Europe”] we were under siege, from the
murderous [Scandinavian and Saxon] pirates of the northern seas, from anarchy
within and the failure of law, from the Asiatic Mongol hordes riding to the Lech
and their disastrous battle [also with the Asiatic Hungarians, in 955 A.D. at
Lechfeld], even reaching the Saone [a tributary of the Rhone River] for one
moment at Tournous [in Burgundy]. The Mahomedan, our superior in seamanship
and arms, had mastered all the Levant and Africa. In all the temper of that time
was threat and the imminence of disaster. Destruction seemed native to it and
the air of defeat: invincible opponents: desperate resistance against odds filled
all that was left of our inheritance. There was no respite, no long truce, no
relief; only continual battle. There was no support at all save in ourselves [as
God's providentially distributed and resourcefully employed “Secondary Causes”]
nor even any final confidence [of temporal victory], and of prophecy hardly any
save prophecy of evil and of the end.
Yet we rallied and we conquered. We baptised the pirates when we had tamed
them; we recovered Spain; we marched 2,000 miles until we had stormed
Jerusalem. We re-established universities; we set up triumphantly the Gothic of

the pointed arch. The West rose up again in glory, having been saved by Fortitude
[which is not only a Cardinal Virtue, but is also an infused and indispensable Gift
of the Holy Ghost—still faithfully to be prayed for, and often, we may respectfully
dare to add]. (242-243—my emphasis added)
Hilaire Belloc would soon have to live and sustain such Fortitude himself once again (as in 19141918), when now his beloved son, Peter, was also to die, in 1941, in another war: World War II. May
we too be blessed to have such Fortitude in the face of seemingly overwhelming adversity and many
lost battles. In the midst of such trials, however, it is indispensable to keep robust affirmation and loyal
love close to the heart. That is what Belloc did.
Our Belloc had earlier written a memorable essay on “The Portrait of a Child,” which he then
published in his own Anthology, entitled On Something (1910)3; and, thirty years later, he now returns
to this theme in his essay, “On Innocence,” which is the final essay in The Silence of the Sea (1940).
He begins with an affirmation, while also knowing the Latin etymology of “innocent” (in +
nocens; nocere itself being the verb “to harm”):
No one can understand the value of innocence who does not appreciate its
positive quality. The word does not mean (as its derivation might make one think)
a mere absence of evil; for there would seem to be no evil in a lump of clay, yet it
has no innocence. We predicate innocence of a will which might turn evil later
on, but which has not yet done so. Therefore the word connotes a will in
action, but a will in action for good in some way. And since it is a will in action
without any evil intent, therefore it is a will wholly good—though perhaps illinstructed, as when a young child throws a stick into the spokes of a moving
bicycle, or (as happened in a sea-port town the other day) pushes a motor over the
edge of a quay into a dock for fun. Innocence depending thus on the will and
being defined by the will, being a quality attached to conscious and moral beings,
has a positive quality [as in “the Immaculate Conception”], and it is this positive
quality which is the very core and essence of it. (249—my emphasis added)
Then commenting on a rather romantic earlier picture of the preservation of innocence in this
world, Belloc says:
Our remote ancestry over 300 years ago expressed their appreciation of this
3 Hilaire Belloc, “The Portrait of a Child,” in On Something (London: Methuen & Co. LTD, 1910), pp. 233-243. A friend
who recently read for the first time this very beautiful Belloc essay wrote back to me at once, as follows: “I just read
slowly, and am re-reading parts again and again....Hauntingly beautiful...and, in the case of the Portrait of a Child,
somewhat doleful for me. Innocence remembered and lost so early. Never to be regained in this life. But, then again, we
all taste in whatever degree the burden of the Fall. So many memories of the time when I was such a portrait. What a
grace for a parent to be co-creators of little children! Belloc's gift to his daughter, especially, who nursed him in the end,
is a thing of beauty, the picture of which is itself a foretaste of beatitude.” (That deep-hearted friend's name is Brian
Kelly—and he just gave me permission to say that!)


positive character about innocence when they said that is was specially protected,
and that it moved unhurt in the midst of danger—an exaggeration. The emotion
aroused by the spectacle of innocence, even the aesthetic emotion, apart from
the moral emotion, should be very strong in the normal man for there is
something divine about it....But very rarely indeed will the creative man
reproduce innocence and give the reader or onlooker the same emotion as will be
produced by the presence of innocence itself. I do not mean by this that...only
the innocent man can paint or sculpt or describe or evoke innocence; but I do
mean that there must be some considerable remains of remembered innocence
at least in anyone who attempts the task. (249-250—italics in the original; my
bold emphasis added)
Recalling himself a special encounter with the work of the painter, Boticelli, Belloc leads us to
contemplate another unforgettable image, both in angels, and in man and woman:
The painters get at it [the expression or evocation of innocence] best....Of the
painters whose works I have seen, Botticelli seems to be the most successful in
this line [of trying to evoke or “catch innocence”].... [And] his younger angels
are of a ravishing innocence, and at their best when they are singing. I shall
never forget the first time I saw a Botticelli angel, not in a vision, but on canvas....
The thing itself, the innocence of a Botticelli angel, struck me like a shaft of
light when I came around the corner of a room in a house where I expected
nothing but boredom, and suddenly saw that face. For you must note that, so far
as pictures are concerned, innocence is expressed through the glance, and,
indeed, I would rather remember innocent eyes than anything else. They are
the loveliest of all lovely things....It is eyes, I say, in which you will discover
innocence more than in any other feature of the human beast. (250-251—my
emphasis added)
Once again, it seems that when Belloc comes to depict something tender and close to his heart, he
has to pull back a little. So, in the image above, instead of his speaking of the special beauty to be
glimpsed in the radiant eyes of a pure woman, he backs off and aims somewhat lower and speaks of the
“eyes...of the human beast” where “you will discover innocence more than in any other feature.” (251)
Nonetheless, Belloc modestly goes on to consider those of his own profession who attempt to
convey innocence in words:
Those who, in my trade of writing, have pulled off the effect of innocence, have
never been able to do it save in flashes....You express innocence by a side
phrase, by a chance epithet, or not at all....—and very rarely indeed does the
word suggesting real innocence discover [i.e., reveal, disclose] itself. I have
seen it in sculpture....The divinest I know of is at Brou [in France at the Royal
Monastery Chapel], where it [innocence] is very rightly evoked in the face of
St. Mary Magdalen. For it may be taken that hers is a type of innocence
recovered, and to recover innocence requires a miracle. But Brou itself is a

miracle, or rather a collection of miracles. I was once told how many statues there
are in this amazing little desolate chapel. I have forgotten the number—I know it
is many hundreds—and I take the Magdalen to be the loveliest of all. (252—my
emphasis added)
Without mentioning Grace, or the imagined innocent eyes of the Blessed Mother turned to us (as
in the Salve Regina), Belloc can still convey to us the moral miracle of an “innocence recovered.”
In addition to rare pieces of sculpture, Belloc then mentions Music, but as an amateur only:
Innocence has been expressed in music, and I for my part have felt it most in
Mozart; but it is not for me to say anything about music, which has become of late
a special study for experts, and of which (in that sense) I know nothing.
A smile [like the eyes] will express innocence, but then a smile is not a work of
art, or at least, when it is, it is a million miles from innocence. But of human
handiwork I still return to the doctrine that innocence has been presented only
by the painters, and by these, I think, but rarely.
So it would seem that innocence is a gem [a Pearl of Great Price], a hidden
treasure, rarely to be brought to light, and something too precious for
mankind, or at any rate for the common possession of mankind. That is a
pity, is it not? (252—my emphasis added)
May we, too, be so blessed as to come to discover innocence, and to cherish it fully as well as to
perceive its evocative (and provocative) and purifying nuances. May we always enter and sustain our
combats for Christ and His Church with a pure and restored innocent heart, with a deep sense of justice
and proportion, and with much fortitude and, God willing, with final perseverance, under Grace.
May we also remember the great painters and the coruscating and ravishing eyes of their little
angels, especially when they are singing. And then there are the radiant innocent eyes of a man or a
gracious woman of purity—and especially those eyes of a little child full of light. Even with its tears of
sorrow, yet especially with its smile and flowing tears of joy.
Sinite parvulos pulchros ac lucidos ad nos venire.
And let us remember as well the resonant meaning of the “Lacrimae Christi.” Tears of sorrow and
of joy.
“Tantus labor non sit cassus” (Dies Irae)—“et tantum gaudium non sit cassum.”


It is fitting to conclude this essay with an introduction to, and presentation of, Hilaire Belloc's
own verse, entitled “Ballade of Illegal Ornaments.” For he too is still attentive to the eyes of a pure
woman and child; and he also knows how a humble soul, through a veil of tears, might yearn for
someone of great goodness and blessedness.
On the previous page we imagined, in light of the words of the Salve Regina, how the innocent
eyes of the Blessed Mother might ineffably look to us, were she to turn to us and serenely behold us
with her merciful and loving eyes, both before the end of our lives and certainly at the very end of our
lives (if we were to make it to Beatitude): “Eia ergo advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad
nos converte” (“turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us”)!
Belloc's verse will now be especially attentive, while in this valley of tears (“in hac lacrymarum
valle”), to the final clause of the Salve Regina: “Et Jesum benedictum fructum ventris tui, nobis post
hoc exsilium ostende.” (“And after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb,
Jesus.”) We thus ask the Blessed Mother to show us (and to teach us more how to love) her own
beloved Son—the Mother and Child there together. Imagine the innocent eyes of Our Lady then, with
her tears of joy.
In his own framing words to his poignant Ballade verse, Belloc first refers to an authoritative,
though unmistakably iconoclastic (if not apostatic), ecclesiastical document; and gives us the following
incisive report: “...the [Incarnational-Trinitarian] controversy was ended [sic] by His Lordship [who
is an Anglican Bishop ostensibly, and not a Roman Catholic one], who wrote to the Incumbent [one of
his subordinate Anglican ministers or vicars] ordering him to remove from the Church all Illegal
Ornaments at once, and especially a Female Figure with a Child.” (my emphasis added)
Presenting now his own profoundly humble poetic Persona, Hilaire Belloc's Ballade verse
constitutes his memorable response to this intrusive and shameful Episcopal iconoclasm and apostasy:
When that the Eternal deigned to look
On us poor folk to make us free
He chose a Maiden, whom He took
From Nazareth in Galilee;
Since when the Islands of the Sea,
The Field, the City, and the Wild
Proclaim aloud triumphantly
A Female Figure with a Child.

These mysteries profoundly shook
The Reverend doctor Leigh, D.D.,
Who therefore stuck into a Nook
(or Niche) of his Incumbency
An Image filled with Majesty
To represent the Undefiled,
The Universal Mother—She—
A Female Figure with a Child.
His Bishop, having read a book
Which proved as plain as plain could be
That all the Mutts had been mistook
Who talked about the Trinity,
Wrote off at once to Doctor Leigh
In manner very far from mild,
And said: “Remove them instantly!
A Female Figure with a Child!”
Prince Jesus, in mine Agony,
Permit me, broken and defiled,
Through blurred and glazing eyes to see
A Female Figure with a Child.4

--Finis-© 2014 Robert D. Hickson

4 Hilaire Belloc, Complete Verse (London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. LTD, 1970), p. 133, the “Ballade of Illegal
Ornaments”—my emphasis added.