Laurence Sterne,-A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy

 
-1-----

[8]

THE MONK.

CALAIS

I HAD scarce utter'd the words,
when a poor monk of the order
of St. Francis came into the room to
beg something for his convent. No
man cares to have his virtues the
sport of contingencies---or one man
may be generous, as another man is
puissant--- sed non, quo ad hanc--- or be
it as it may---for there is no regular
reasoning upon the ebbs and flows of
our humours; they may depend
upon the same causes, for ought
I know, which influence the tides
themselves---'twould oft be no dis-

                      credit

[9]

credit to us, to suppose it was so:
I'm sure at least for myself, that in
many a case I should be more highly
satisfied, to have it said by the world,
"I had had an affair with the moon,
in which there was neither sin nor
shame," than have it pass altogether
as my own act and deed, wherein
there was so much of both.

---But be this as it may. The
moment I cast my eyes upon him, I
was predetermined not to give him
a single sous; and accordingly I put
my purse into my pocket---button'd
it up---set myself a little more upon
my centre, and advanced up gravely
to him: there was something, I fear, forbidding in my look: I have his

                      figure

[10]

figure this moment before my eyes,
and think there was that in it which
deserved better.

The monk, as I judged from the
break in his tonsure, a few scatter'd
white hairs upon his temples, being
all that remained of it, might be
about seventy---but from his eyes,
and that sort of fire which was in
them, which seemed more temper'd
by courtesy than years, could be no
more than sixty---Truth might lie
between---He was certainly sixty-five;
and the general air of his counte-
nance, notwithstanding something
seem'd to have been planting wrinkles
in it before their time, agreed to the
account.

                      It

[11]

It was one of those heads, which
Guido has often painted---mild, pale
--- penetrating, free from all com-
mon-place ideas of fat contented ig-
norance looking downwards upon the
earth---it look'd forwards; but look'd,
as if it look'd at something beyond
this world. How one of his order
came by it, heaven above, who let
it fall upon a monk's shoulders, best
knows: but it would have suited a
Bramin, and had I met it upon the
plains of Indostan, I had reverenced
it.

The rest of his outline may be
given in a few strokes; one might
put it into the hands of any one to
design, for 'twas neither elegant or

                      otherwise,

[12]

otherwise, but as character and ex-
pression made it so: it was a thin,
spare form, something above the
common size, if it lost not the dis-
tinction by a bend forwards in the
figure---but it was the attitude of
Intreaty; and as it now stands pre-
sented to my imagination, it gain'd
more than it lost by it.

When he had enter'd the room
three paces, he stood still; and lay-
ing his left hand upon his breast, (a
slender white staff with which he
journey'd being in his right)--- when
I had got close up to him, he intro-
duced himself with the little story of
the wants of his convent, and the
poverty of his order---and did it with

                      so

[13]

so simple a grace--- and such an air
of deprecation was there in the whole
cast of his look and figure---I was be-
witch'd not to have been struck with
it---

---A better reason was, I had pre-
determined not to give him a single
sous.


                     


next section