Archive for Gentian Hill

Compassion; A Prayer for Our Times

“This thing that was happening now had happened so often before and would happen so often again in the history of the world. The evil, like a volcano, broke through the crust of things, and the foul lava flooded the earth, while over the roads of the world the refugees fled from the known to the unknown horror, from darkness into darkness again, with always the unconquerable hope in their souls that in the night ahead there would be some star.”
(Gentian Hill published 1949)

These words taken from Elizabeth’s novel Gentian Hill, have been resonating through my head for the last couple of weeks. Written about the French revolution for people who had just gone through the second world war, they now sound a trumpet call for our times. Elizabeth’s compassion for the dispossessed haunted her all her life. With her strong attachment to home and community, the trauma of losing both seemed to her one of the greatest tragedies of life, and many of her works deal with this theme.

Elizabeth never shirked the harsh realities, and here I believe lies one of her greatest talents. She can take myths and legends which are relevant to the location of place she is writing about and transform them into symbols and guidelines to help us through the mundane world of work and striving.

At present our sympathies are with the people of the Ukraine. But there are many others in their terrible position, from Syria to Palestine, from India to Africa. Whomever is fleeing from war and persecution, all are refugees of our modern world and need our compassion and to be welcomed to a new life without fear or favour.

Stained Glass in Elizabeth’s church Peppard Common

Happy New Year

Open a book and let Elizabeth speak…..
“During the next twenty minutes he passed through one of the oddest experiences of his life. As he moved up and down before the bars, trying ceaselessly for another sight of that boy, he began to recognise some of the faces that came and went in front of him. One hulking brute of a fellow had the bluest Irish eyes he had ever seen. Another, a boy, with the face of a depraved old man, had a mouth as sensitively cut as Stella’s own. A third, hunchbacked and deformed, had a pock marked face that startled the Abbe by suddenly splitting into a grin. He noticed other eyes, other mouths, other gallant attempts at cheerfulness. Occasionally, when he slipped a coin into a wooden spoon, his eyes would meet the eyes of the poor devil that held it, and he had the sensation that the trivial act was not trivial at all but an actual entering in of himself into the being of the man before him”

(Gentian Hill p 378)

Front cover of 1st Edition Gentian Hill

Like many of us, we were taken out for dinner over the festive break and went to a small market town to enjoy it. The town is a pretty and ancient one, the evening cool enough to be seasonal and the Christmas lights added their glamour to the occasion.

As we walked up the charming narrow street soaking up the atmosphere, we passed in a doorway a hump of sleeping bag and blankets, and a man looked up and gave me a cheerful wave as we passed. Not behind bars, but a prisoner none the less; of circumstances, of fate, from a society that had locked him out. In 2020, I am appalled, ashamed and amazed that this is one of the problems that not only has not been eradicated, but sadly is on the rise.

Elizabeth spoke to me through the medium of the random page of the first of her works I pulled off the shelf. Many of her works contain prisoners, their inner turmoil, their crimes and punishment. Prisoner welfare was a cause close to her heart, one that she carried out quietly, consummately away from the public eye, all her life.

One of her favourite quotes was: – “what the dead had no speech for, when living, they can tell you, being dead: the communication of the dead is tongued with fire..”
(T. S. Eliot Little Gidding). I have no doubt that Elizabeth would have had similar feelings towards the homeless as my own.

She would also have taken away the gifts of his smile, the total lack of judgement he displayed, the fact that in his destitution, he could look up and be happy for us. She would also have enjoyed the other aspects of the evening just as keenly; companionship and the importance of family, the quiet appreciation of the beauty of starlight over old roofs.

Thank you for the companionship of like minds. We wish all of you a safe, peaceful and happy New Year.

Belgium Fan

Hello,

I have been a fan of Elizabeth Goudge’s since the age of sixteen when my mother gave me “Island magic” translated in French as “L’arche dans la temp’te”.
I’ve got nearly all her books either in French or in English,and have lent them to a lot of persons.
I am now 58, and they had been constant friends to me for I often re-read them especially when I needed comfort.
I still do for the  pleasure of finding again her enchanted worlds.
I was delighted to find your site and hear that she is still loved and admired.
I’ve recently heard that some of her books are reprinted in French, e.g. “Gentian Hill”, (la Colline aux gentianes)
Her works deserve to be better known for they have a real literary value.
She was more than a popular storyteller.
Thanks for your interesting site.
Josie Natalis from Li’ge
Belgium