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See But Can’t Touch August 15, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern , trackback

Beach travelled by plane earlier this summer with little Miss B to the UK. Aged just four his daughter marvelled as she looked out of the window at the cloudlands that stretched away in every direction: Beach remembers a similar marvelling when he was about ten and went on his first long plane journey. Things that can be seen but not reached…

The following comes from a medieval collection of marvels

Now in the kingdom of Arles and the diocese of Grenoble, near the boundary of the diocese of Die, there is a very high crag, in the district which the inhabitants call Trièves.  Close by is another crag facing it, which bears the name Equal to That, because it is as high as the first; but its steepness makes it inaccessible . Well, people looking from the opposite crag can see a clear spring on this [inaccessible] one, which tumbles down a rocky gully; and on the very top of the crag there is a patch of green grass like a meadow, and pure white garments are sometimes seen spread over the ground, having been put out to dry, just in the way washerwomen do. Whence that phenomenon comes, or what it signifies, or by whose agency it appears, was easy to ask, but very difficult to discover.

Ecce in regno Arelatensi et episcopatu Grationopolitano, iuxta Diensis diocesis confinium, est rupes altissima in territorio quod incole Treues nominant, quam altera e uicino rupes respicit, cui nomen Equa Illi, eo quod sit equalis illi; sed inaccessibilis in sua altitudine. Ex opposita igitur ruppe conspicientibus apparet illic fons perspicuus qui scopulosa scabre delabitur, et in summo rupis apice ad modum prati herba uiret, in quo nonnumquam panni superextensi candidissimi uisuntur ad exsicandum expositi, sicut lotrices in usu habent. Istud unde prodeat aut quid signet aut quo ministrate compareat querele facile fuit, sed inuenire difficilimum.

Another see-but-can’t-reach reference from the south-west of Britain: Beach has been spending a lot of his reading time there recently… This is nineteenth century.

If the adventurous traveller who visits the Land’s End district will go down as far as he can on the south-west side of the Logan Rock Cairn, and look over, he will see, in little sheltered places between the cairns, close down to the water’s edge, beautifully green spots, with here and there some ferns and cliff-pinks. These are the gardens of the Small People, or, as they are. called by the natives, Small Folk. They are beautiful little creatures, who appear to pass a life of constant enjoyment amongst their own favourite flowers… To prove that those lovely little creatures are no dream, I may quote the words of a native of St Levan:

‘As I was saying, when I have been to sea close under the cliffs, of a fine summer’s night, I have heard the sweetest of music, and seen hundreds of little lights moving about amongst what looked like flowers. Ay! and they are flowers too, for you may smell the sweet scent far out at sea. Indeed, I have heard many of the old men say, that they have smelt the sweet perfume, and heard the music from the fairy gardens of the Castle, when more than a mile from the shore.’

Strangely enough, you can find no flowers but the sea-pinks in these lovely green places by day, yet they have been described by those who have seen them in the midsummer moonlight as being covered with flowers of every colour, all of them far more brilliant than any blossoms seen in any mortal garden.’

Any other see but can’t reach references gladly received: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com