Monks of Mount Athos ;I:
IBRING together this week two books as rattling good reading, each with a good deal to teach us, and each not without, its Catholic interest. They are Major W. B. Thomes's Dare to be Free (Wingate.. 12s. 6d.) and Londoners, by Maurice Gorham (Percival Marshall, 12s. 6d.). Major Thomas's hair Taising eseape story has unusual features. He was very badly wounded in Crete and imprisoned in Athens. Because. of his genius fur attempting escapes, once simulating a corpse with amusing results, he was sent to Salonika where the chances of getting away seemed hopeless. But he got away right under the noses of the Germans and through the town. After many months of aston• ishing adventure. he crossed from Mount Athos to Turkey. Immensely vivid writing makes the brief campaign of Crete live again with all its horror, bravery and hopelessness, and the same direct way of telling his story. with modesty but gusto and an unfailing eye for the unusual, reveals among other things the chivalry. patriotism and banditry of the Greeks.
It also accurately distinguishes between the good side of many an individual German soldier and the ruthlessness of many sections of the German forces.
But far and away the most fascinating pages are those which describe Major Thomas's experiences among the monks of Mount Athos. This ancient colony of many thousands of Orthodox monks distributed among many houses on the northermost finger of the hand that juts out into the .Aegean still live lives of renunciation and prayer under a common rule, though with considerable diversity of function and life.
Major Thomas, finding refuge from the Germans in one house after another, bears mitness to the monastic standard still on the whole maintained by this astonishing variety of religious recruited from all over the world, There is no question hut that he himself was deeply impressed in a spiritual way by the ideal and the fine men who aim to fulfil it.
And that spiritual impression is'. borne out in the later most exciting stages of the story when he attempted the dangerous crossing from Greece to Turkey, was first beaten back and very nearly lost his life, and then finally made it.
T is a long way indeed from Major Thomas's adventures to the delightful essays on different aspects of London's life today as told by Maurice Gorham in Londoners. The book is dedicated to his life-long friend "David Mathew in exile," And there is not a line of it which will not be appreciated in Mombasa. Maurice Gorham's sympathy, his eye for the little detail. his neverfailing geniality, and above all his deep love for London make this a little classic addition to London's literature. And there is a very pleasant undercurrent of causticity (if the word exists) about his fellowmen which brings out the flavour. Read " Trafalgar Square." the first essay, and leave it all with the happy " Meeting Trains." v,ish each essay had been much longer, My only grouse is with Ardizzone. the illustrator, who does not seem to have caught " London," except in "The Book-Shop."
ON a journey that he knew would end in death. Fr. Isaac Jogues. a Jesuit missionary. went up America's River Hudson for the last time in 1646. In The Hudson, by Carl Carrner (Hodge, 12s. 6d.), we are told the history of this great river with all its associations-'--Dutch traders, steamboats, showboats, whalers, disasters and heroic deeds. Then we hear that 230 years after the death of Fr. Joguee the land along this river, which flows from the Adironack Mountains to New York, saw the arrival of his successors. Although the Jesuits were unable to buy the land along the waterside, then valued at $1,000 an acre. times were to change. Millionaires' Row moved from the banks of the Hudson and prices.dropped. The grand way of life was forsaken and the grand houses fell empty. offering many an advantage for those seeking sites for schools, colleges and other foundations.
THE Dean and Chapter of Sarum reported to Pope Honorius in 1217 that their cathedral church, being within the line of defence in the west country. was subject to so many inconveniences that the Canons could no longer live there without danger to life. The gusts of wind through the shattered building made such a noise that the clerks could hardly hear one another sing, and mane of them had lost their eyesight because of the glare of the chalk site.
Today. moved from the cramped site of the old city, Salisbury Cathedral stands alone among those in the early English style in having been built of a piece. And today-nearly 750 years since St. Edmund attended the consecration-the Cathedral and Close at Salisbury and the immediately neighbouring Stonehenge, Wilton, Longford Castle, and Old Sarum are world famous.
Salisbury, by R. L. P. Jowitt (Batsford, 8s. 6d.) tells in full detail the story of the old city, the cathedral, and its close and all those interesting places round about.
KEITH Douglas was 24 when he was killed in Normandy shortly after D Day. His Collected Poems (Editions Poetry, 12s. 6d.) are edited by John Waller and G. S. Fraser and are a poignant commentary on the pain and confusion, thc striving for and attainment of inner peace which were the total that his short life amounted to.
Thule poems are all questions: the answer found is. perhaps, best summed in the title of one piece; SirolditY Me when I'm Dead.
This is a moving relic of a generation which faced the most testing period in history for young men; and faced it with minds and hearts split by the treason of their forebears.