As one passes down the long college corridors, the eyes fall upon palm and statue, upon frieze and fresco, and the carbon copies of immortal paintings. Everywhere there are the inspirations of sculpture and architecture, of music, literature, and art. Beauty is in and about the place in which one thinks and works. This is the undying charm of Oxford—the gathering traditions of centuries, the gleaming spires, the age-worn walls and buttresses, the clinging vine, the tremulous light and shadow on the ancient halls, the sculpture of porch and clerestory, and the light that falls through richly tinted windows.
This beauty should not be monopolized by any one class. About the places where we work, we should have, as far as possible, something of the beauty of the world. We should have wide, shaded streets and parks, even in great cities; towers and pinnacles; sky-lines of vigor, grace, and massive strength. Cannot department stores be artistically fashioned and built? Cannot market-houses have arches and arabesques? May not even the Bourse have something about it suggestive of great art? Cannot our streets have curves and storied cross-ways? Cannot porters and draymen have somewhat to arouse and satisfy aesthetic instincts? Cannot our day-laborers be granted vision?
Why should we have the Gothic cathedral, with its exquisite traceries and carvings, pillars and reredos and screen, for men to pray in, one or two hours a week, and the hideous, grime-covered, foul-smelling, overheated factories, in which men and women spend their working-lives? This is what Christianity must do: it must implant joy and beauty, as well as honesty and fidelity, in the way, place, and thought of work! When religion, education, art, and brotherly affection have joined hands in a charmed circle, we shall have new ideas of working-places, as well as of praying-places, and of living-places! It is not enough that a factory should be situated, as the best factories now are, in the open country, with sunshine and fresh air. The blockhouse parallelograms and squares should be replaced by something that has intrinsic beauty and the haunting completeness of memory and association, so that the place where a man works shall no more be to him a nightmare, but the atmosphere and inspiration of his dreams!
And those we love shall work beside us! Here is another thought: Shall all association in work be arbitrary? Is there not a more human way than the chain-gang way? Could not friends work more together, so that one’s daily work should be, not a time of separation from all we love most, but a time of intellectual sympathy and helpfulness, of companionship and true-hearted loyalty? This, and many other good things, it is not too much to hope for. Truly, as Morris writes, “The Day is Coming.”
“Then a man shall work and bethink him, and
the deeds of his handy
Nor yet come home in the even too faint and weary to