Today is the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, and so, I try to always read on this day (though I often forget), the final poem of Hilaire Belloc's remarkable pilgrimage from his birthplace in Alsace-Lorraine to Rome (he arrived on today's feast), recorded in his travelogue, A Path to Rome.
Given recent events and decisions, this poem speaks loudly this year:
LOUD AND FINAL SONG
DITHYRAMBIC EPITHALAMIUM OR THRENODY
In these boots, and with this staff
Two hundred leaguers and a half--
(That means, two and a half hundred leagues. You follow? Not two hundred and one half league.... Well--)
Two hundred leaguers and a half
Walked I, went I, paced I, tripped I,
Marched I, held I, skelped I, slipped I,
Pushed I, panted, swung and dashed I;
Picked I, forded, swam and splashed I,
Strolled I, climbed I, crawled and scrambled,
Dropped and dipped I, ranged and rambled;
Plodded I, hobbled I, trudged and tramped I,
And in lonely spinnies camped I,
And in haunted pinewoods slept I,
Lingered, loitered, limped and crept I,
Clambered, halted, stepped and leapt I;
Slowly sauntered, roundly strode I,
And ... (Oh! Patron saints and Angels
That protect the four evangels!
And you Prophets vel majores
Vel incerti, vel minores,
Virgines ac confessores
Chief of whose peculiar glories
Est in Aula Regis stare
Atque orare et exorare
Et clamare et conclamare
Clamantes cum clamoribus
Pro nobis peccatoribus.)
Let me not conceal it... Rode I.
(For who but critics could complain
Of 'riding' in a railway train?) Across the valleys and the high-land,
With all the world on either hand.
Drinking when I had a mind to,
Singing when I felt inclined to;
Nor ever turned my face to home
Till I had slaked my heart at Rome.