By Fr. Michael O'Dwyer
NORTH OF ROME, by Richard Church. Decorations by Michael Ayrton (Hutchinson, 21s.). "A SERIES of poems on some of the cities of Italy" is an attractive idea, and heaven knows, a welcome change from travel books of the standard sort. A poet's eye too is a special thing. When it wanders over Italy, "Thou Paradise of Exiles," we can expect enchantment.
Mr. Richard Church does not disappoint us. Genoa "the kneeshaped city jutting on the sea [how accurate he is] is passed by many travellers. Few alight". More will alight now, for Mr. Church and Mr. Waugh, between them, have reminded us how wrong it is to rush away from Genoa.
"Turin is a woman's paradise", but Aosta "mountain birthplace of sainted Brother Anselm" has become a latterday inferno "belching foundries smelting ore for iron".
WHAT Milan still shows today, "illustrates that human craving, for something not to be supplied, by moral and material slaving".
Mr. Church goes his way through a score of great Italian cities, and writes refreshingly of them. He includes the Lakes and ends movingly on Rome.
Pisa "the forlorn city, the widow of liberty . . . remains veiled, formal, austere". Bologna is a city where "history congeals . . . an old bottle brimming with the newest wine".
AND Venice, what does he say of Venice? "At first sight, she is reduced; she is a tiny queen, shabbily dressed". But this is a mere trick of the light. "Venice, quietly, in the habit of the wise and old with reticence begins to reveal her history".
Siena "is a ctiy spun, from liquid silk-stone. set to cool, upon a corrugation of hills".
This is a delightful book from which I could go on quoting. But enough. Of Rome the authors says "I wept, turning my back on the Holy City". But why? For him "The symbol means too much".
For his reverent approach he deserves a day when this will not be