Ireland, by the way, mentions a whimsical sign-board which he saw somewhere in Holland, but which I regret to say I did not find. “It was a tree bearing fruit, and the branches filled with little, naked urchins, seemingly just ripened into life, and crying for succour: beneath, a woman holds up her apron, looking wistfully at the children, as if intreating them to jump into her lap. On inquiry, I found it to be the house of a sworn midwife, with this Dutch inscription prefixed to her name:—
‘Vang my, ik zal zoet zyn,’
that is, ‘Catch me, I’ll be a sweet boy’. This new mode of procreation, so truly whimsical, pleased me,” Ireland adds, “not a little.”
Let me close this chapter by quoting from an essay by my friend, Mr. Belloc, a lyrical description of the Old Church’s wonderful wealth of bells: “Thirdly, the very structure of the thing is bells. Here the bells are more even than the soul of a Christian spire; they are its body, too, its whole self. An army of them fills up all the space between the delicate supports and framework of the upper parts. For I know not how many feet, in order, diminishing in actual size and in the perspective also of that triumphant elevation, stand ranks on ranks of bells from the solemn to the wild, from the large to the small, a hundred, or two hundred or a thousand. There is here the prodigality of Brabant and Hainaut and the Batavian blood, a generosity and a productivity in bells without stint, the man who designed it saying: ’Since we are to have bells, let us have bells; not measured out, calculated, expensive, and prudent bells, but careless bells, self-answering multitudinous bells; bells without fear, bells excessive and bells innumerable; bells worthy of the ecstacies that are best thrown out and published in the clashing of bells. For bells are single, like real pleasures, and we will combine such a great number that they may be like the happy and complex life of a man. In a word, let us be noble and scatter our bells and reap a harvest till our town is famous in its bells,’ So now all the spire is more than clothed with them; they are more than stuff or ornament: they are an outer and yet sensitive armour, all of bells.
“Nor is the wealth of these bells in their number only, but also in their use—for they are not reserved in any way, out ring tunes and add harmonies at every half and a quarter and at all the hours both by night and by day. Nor must you imagine that there is any obsession of noise through this; they are far too high and melodious, and (what is more) too thoroughly a part of all the spirit of Delft to be more than a perpetual and half-forgotten impression of continual music; they render its air sacred and fill it with something so akin to an uplifted silence as to leave one—when one has passed from their influence—asking what balm that was which soothed all the harshness of sound about one.”