Loved this passage in today’s chapter of Adam of the Road. Young Adam’s father, Roger, is a minstrel in the service of Sir Edmund de Lisle. Adam has just been removed from a boys’ school at St. Alban’s Abbey and is thrilled to be travelling with his father once again.
“My faith,” said Adam, “look at the road.” It stretched ahead of them across a long, level field and up a hill so far away that the men and horses on it looked like chessmen. For the first time since they had started, Adam really knew that he was sitting behind Roger on a great war horse, with Nick at his heels and the world before him.
“The Romans made this road, hundreds and hundreds of years ago,” said Roger. “It will be here hundreds and hundreds of years after we’re gone.” He turned in the saddle so that he could see his boy’s face while he talked. Adam looked away from the road and into Roger’s keen, kindly eyes so close to him.
“A road’s a kind of holy thing,” Roger went on. “That’s why it’s a good work to keep a road in repair, like giving alms to the poor or tending the sick. It’s open to the sun and wind and rain. It brings all kinds of people from all parts of England together. And it’s home to a minstrel, even though he may happen to be sleeping in a castle.”
It was, somehow, a solemn moment. Four wild swans flew overhead just then, and made it so that Adam never forgot what Roger had said and how he looked when he said it.
This passage reminds me of the hobbits’ walking-poem in The Lord of the Rings, especially that evocative third verse Bilbo sings as he heads off to Rivendell after parting with the Ring:
- The Road goes ever on and on
- Down from the door where it began.
- Now far ahead the Road has gone,
- And I must follow, if I can,
- Pursuing it with eager feet,
- Until it joins some larger way
- Where many paths and errands meet.
- And whither then? I cannot say.
“The exquisite touch, which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting…is denied to me.”
Chesterton and Dickens
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