Gothic Architecture in England and France

By George Herbert West | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

LET us now glance back at the results of our study. In spite of some resemblance, there can hardly be a greater contrast than that between the French and English cathedral. In the exterior of the former, which is generally the obvious result of one great effort the walls are standing in slices at right angles to the building which they support but do not enclose, towering high above it, and seeming to push and thrust with all their power to keep up its enormous height. It is very wonderful, and very beautiful, but leaves a sense of constant effort to overcome difficulties, after all only partially vanquished. What a difference is there in the peace of the long, low English cathedral, with its insignificant buttresses and unambitious lines, with no traceried canopies, or wealth of sculpture, and, except for the upward pointing of its central spire, seeming content to remain on earth, and telling in its unequal parts and varied styles, not of a mighty impulse which faltered all too soon, of a lofty enthusiasm which died down to mere mechanical dexterity, but of successive generations of commonplace yet earnest men, each bringing its little stone and saving:

Add this to the rest. Take it and try its worth; here dies another day.

And in the interior also the story is the same. In the English church we trace the stolid acceptance of existing facts, which preserves all that has gone before, however imperfect, and, adding here and changing there, makes up a building, humble-minded, as it were with a wooden roof perhaps, content to suffice for the needs of the present, telling in every corner of the makeshifts of' the past, with

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