Saturday, April 04, 2015

"The streets of this antique city are narrow and crooked, and the pointed, ornamented gables of the houses, produce a novel impression on one who has been accustomed to the green American forests." B Taylor #QotD

2015.03.31-DSC00570The streets of this antique city are narrow and crooked, and the pointed, ornamented gables of the houses, produce a novel impression on one who has been accustomed to the green American forests. Then there was the endless sound of wooden shoes clattering over the rough pavements, and people talking in that most unmusical of all languages, low Dutch. Walking at random through the streets, we came by chance upon the Cathedral of Notre Dame. I shall long remember my first impression of the scene within. The lofty gothic ceiling arched far above my head and through the stained windows the light came but dimly — it was all still, solemn and religious. A few worshippers were kneeling in silence before some of the shrines and the echo of my tread seemed like a profaning sound. On every side were pictures, saints and gilded shrines. A few steps removed one from the bustle and din of the crowd to the stillness and solemnity of the holy retreat.

We learned from the guide, whom we had engaged because he spoke a few words of English, that there was still a treckshuyt line on the canals, and that one boat leaves to-night at ten o'clock for Ghent. Wishing to try this old Dutch method of travelling, he took us about half a mile along the Ghent road to the canal, where a moderate sized boat was lying. Our baggage deposited in the plainly furnished cabin, I ran back to Bruges, although it was beginning to grow dark, to get a sight of the belfry; for Longfellow's lines had been running through my head all day:

"In the market place of Bruges, stands the belfry old and brown, Thrice consumed and thrice rebuilded, still it watches o'er the town."

2015.03.31-DSC00622 And having found the square, brown tower in one corner of the open market square, we waited to hear the chimes, which are said to be the finest in Europe. They rang out at last with a clear silvery tone, most beautifully musical indeed. We then returned to the boat in the twilight. We were to leave in about an hour, according to the arrangement, but as yet there was no sound to be heard, and we were the only tenants. However, trusting to Dutch regularity, we went to sleep in the full confidence of awakening in Ghent.  pp. 48-49

Bayard Taylor (1825-1878) was an American poet, literary critic, translator, and travel author. He published a couple of books on Egypt which is where I'd first heard of him when writing my book on Egyptian travel accounts, Nile Notes of a Howadji (1992).

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