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The World of Romance being Contributions to The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, 1856   By: (1834-1896)

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In the tales . . . the world is one of pure romance. Mediaeval customs, mediaeval buildings, the mediaeval Catholic religion, the general social framework of the thirteenth or fourteenth century, are assumed throughout, but it would be idle to attempt to place them in any known age or country. . . Their author in later years thought, or seemed to think, lightly of them, calling them crude (as they are) and very young (as they are). But they are nevertheless comparable in quality to Keats's 'Endymion' as rich in imagination, as irregularly gorgeous in language, as full in every vein and fibre of the sweet juices and ferment of the spring . J. W. MACKAIL

In his last year at Oxford, Morris established, assuming the entire financial responsibility, the 'Oxford and Cambridge Magazine,' written almost entirely by himself and his college friends, but also numbering Rossetti among its contributors. Like most college ventures, its career was short, ending with its twelfth issue in December, 1856. In this magazine Morris first found his strength as a writer, and though his subsequent literary achievements made him indifferent to this earlier work, its virility and wealth of romantic imagination justify its rescue from oblivion.

The article on Amiens, intended originally as the first of a series, is included in this volume as an illustration of Morris's power to clothe things actual with the glamour of Romance.


I was the master mason of a church that was built more than six hundred years ago; it is now two hundred years since that church vanished from the face of the earth; it was destroyed utterly, no fragment of it was left; not even the great pillars that bore up the tower at the cross, where the choir used to join the nave. No one knows now even where it stood, only in this very autumn tide, if you knew the place, you would see the heaps made by the earth covered ruins heaving the yellow corn into glorious waves, so that the place where my church used to be is as beautiful now as when it stood in all its splendour. I do not remember very much about the land where my church was; I have quite forgotten the name of it, but I know it was very beautiful, and even now, while I am thinking of it, comes a flood of old memories, and I almost seem to see it again, that old beautiful land! only dimly do I see it in spring and summer and winter, but I see it in autumn tide clearly now; yes, clearer, clearer, oh! so bright and glorious! yet it was beautiful too in spring, when the brown earth began to grow green: beautiful in summer, when the blue sky looked so much bluer, if you could hem a piece of it in between the new white carving; beautiful in the solemn starry nights, so solemn that it almost reached agony the awe and joy one had in their great beauty. But of all these beautiful times, I remember the whole only of autumn tide; the others come in bits to me; I can think only of parts of them, but all of autumn; and of all days and nights in autumn, I remember one more particularly. That autumn day the church was nearly finished and the monks, for whom we were building the church, and the people, who lived in the town hard by, crowded round us oftentimes to watch us carving.

Now the great Church, and the buildings of the Abbey where the monks lived, were about three miles from the town, and the town stood on a hill overlooking the rich autumn country: it was girt about with great walls that had overhanging battlements, and towers at certain places all along the walls, and often we could see from the churchyard or the Abbey garden, the flash of helmets and spears, and the dim shadowy waving of banners, as the knights and lords and men at arms passed to and fro along the battlements; and we could see too in the town the three spires of the three churches; and the spire of the Cathedral, which was the tallest of the three, was gilt all over with gold, and always at night time a great lamp shone from it that hung in the spire midway between the roof of the church and the cross at the top of the spire... Continue reading book >>

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