Somewhere in England
July 10th, 1940
Dear Mom and Dad,
I have just received your letter of June 11th today (the one in which you give me such a terrific bawling out) for - so you thought, taking up farming. Now let me set your mind at rest right now by telling you that I have no more idea of farming than I have of flying to the moon. I have already decided to start writing as soon as I possible can and have also decided to take up journalism as my profession. But that poem was inspired by a speech of Earl Baldwin's delivered in 1933. I thought it particularly appropriate at this time when the English government is trying to make every English person land conscious. That was not a personal poem at all. I wrote it very impersonally and I thought of myself as an Englishman appealing to his fellow countrymen to get back to farms. That is always the way with you Mom, you are so quick to jump to conclusions without giving me a chance to explain myself. I think I have had all the farming I want in my short life. And anyway it does not appeal to me at all.
You say you have not received a description of Westminster Abbey or St. Paul's Cathedral yet. I know I wrote you a letter about them the same day that I visited them so I guess something must have happened to that mail although Clarence got my letter mailed at the same time OK. But there has been an awful mix up in the mails somewhere. This letter of yours is the first from you for two wks. and I haven't got one from Sadie for 7 weeks, Clarence's letters are the only one's that are coming in regularly. By the way, I am still receiving letters from people in Manitoba who wish to write to me after seeing those poems I had published. Now to get back to the Abbey and St. Paul's.
I was not terribly impressed by Westminster Abbey. I can't say why. Perhaps it was because it was very much smaller and - dirtier, than I had expected. There was a service going on when I was there so I had not much opportunity to look around. But when I came to St. Paul's, it so far surpassed my expectations that it more than made up for the disappointments of the Abbey.
As you know St. Paul's Cathedral stand at the top of Ludgate Hill and commands a view of the whole of London which is spread out at its feet like a host of worshippers at the base of their idol. And I think that that simile is particularly apt for St. Paul's Cathedral is worthy of the adoration of a whole city.
It is a huge building but so marvelously is it proportioned that no idea of its size can be obtained from a distance. It is only when you compare yourself to it that you realize how infinitely small you seem. When I walked in the great door I was confronted by a long dark hallway that seemed to lead to a bowl of brilliant sunlight about 150 ft. ahead of me. Halfway down this hall I stopped before a wonderful oil painting called the "Light of the World". It is a masterpiece and the figure of Christ - particularly the eyes, seem to be alive and glowing.
I advanced on down the hall and passed into the great central room immediately beneath the great dome. I had advanced nearly to the centre of this vast room before I realized the immensity of everything about me. I seemed to be crushed beneath a heavy weight, my mind literally staggered trying to gain some conception of the vastness and yet peculiarly delicate beauty of this room. It is a very hard feeling to describe but to the end of my life I will remember that first vivid impression. The immense height of the dome - 300 and some odd ft. is almost dwarfed by its width. All around the secondary dome are huge murals of the prophets. And they are huge! Each figure to nearly four times life size yet each is so delicately executed and the distance lends to them the proper perspective, that they seem to be floating in the air.
I was not allowed to go out onto the balcony at the top of the dome because that was closed, but I did see the famous "Whispering Gallery" and experienced the peculiar sensation of hearing my friend's voice apparently issuing from the wall beside my ear.
Then I went down into the crypt and visited the tombs of famous personages buried there. The tombs of many of England's great are buried here - among them Wellington and Nurse Edith Cavall. I think if I had my choice I would rather be buried here than any other place on earth for the Cathedral forms a very wonderful and beautiful tombstone - greater than any other conceived by man: greater than even the Great Pyramid of Egypt.
I was particularly impressed by the plaque over the tomb of Sir Christopher Wren, the builder of this beautiful place. It was just a simple copper plate set into the wall and surrounded as it was by all the elaborate tombs of other Englishmen, it seemed very small and insignificant for such a great man. But when I read the inscription I realized that no great elaborate monument could so well express the love and veneration Londoners have for their greatest builder than this simple bras plate: for on it was inscribed
SIR CHRISTOPHER WREN
Architect and Builder
If you ask for his monument
LOOK ABOUT YOU
When I went upstairs again I got talking to one of the vergers and when I told him I was particularly fond of music he conducted me through the organ loft and explained how everything worked. The organ is supposed to be the best toned instrument in the world. He showed me where all the pipes were. The huge bass pipes which are nearly 5 ft. across are situated right at the top of the huge dome and when they speak, the building thunders as with the "voice of God". If ever I get a chance to hear them played I will certainly do so.
Since I last wrote I received another letter from Blake and he says you haven't been writing him regularly. Must be something wrong there. Say, did Sadie ever write you a letter? She said she was going to but I don't know whether she did so or not.
My old head trouble has come back upon me again. This time it is the one directly over my right eye. Sometimes my head aches so badly that my right eye is blinded and I can't see out of it at all. My head throbs continually, every time my heart beats the pulse feels like a hammer over my right eyeball. The thing isn't draining. I have been sick with it twice but all the MO had done is to give me an aspirin and tell me it was a severe headache. I'll have to keep trying till I get some attention but if it doesn't come soon I'll go nuts, for I can't stand this pain much longer. We have had a terrible amount of accidents and sickness lately too.
The other night a truck with about 20 fellows in it overturned and eight of the boys were sent to hospital. Another went mad the other night, had fits and was removed to hospital. Hardly a day passes without someone going away.
Well I haven't had any more news regarding the seven day leave. I probably won't get mine till the last because I was AWOL. I guess that's all so Goodbye for now.
Love to all,