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Wonders Of The World:
St. Mark's Church
Tower Of London
Cathedral Of Antwerp
The Taj Mahal
Cathedral Of Notre Dame
Cathedral Of York
Mosque Of Omar
Cathedral Of Burgos
Saint Peter's Cathedral
Cathedral Of Strasburg
The Shway Dagohn
Cathedral Of Siena
Town Hall Of Louvain
Cathedral Of Seville
Cathedral of Cologne
Palce Of Versailles
Cathedral Of Lincoln
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Half a mile below London Bridge, on ground which was once a bluff, commanding the Thames from St. Saviour's Creek to St. Olave's Wharf, stands the Tower; a mass of ramparts, walls, and gates, the most ancient and most poetic pile in Europe.
Seen from the hill outside, the Tower appears to be white with age and wrinkled by remorse. The home of our stoutest kings, the grave of our noblest knights, the scene of our gayest revels, the field of our darkest crimes, that edifice speaks at once to the eye and to the soul. Grey keep, green tree, black gate, and frowning battlement, stand out, apart from all objects far and near them, menacing, picturesque, enchaining; working on the senses like a spell; and calling us away from our daily mood into a world of romance, like that which we find painted in light and shadow on Shakespeare's page.
Looking at the Tower as either a prison, a palace, or a court, picture, poetry, and drama crowd upon the mind, and if the fancy dwells most frequently on the state prison, this is because the soul is more readily kindled by a human interest than fired by an archaic and official fact. For one man who would care to see the room in which a council met or a court was held, a hundred men would like to see the chamber in which Lady Jane Grey was lodged, the cell in which Sir Walter Raleigh wrote, the tower from which Sir John Oldcastle escaped. Who would not like to stand for a moment by those steps on which Ann Boleyn knelt; pause by that slit in the wall through which Arthur De la Pole gazed; and linger, if he could, in that room in which Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley, searched the New Testament together?
The Tower has an attraction for us akin to that of the house in which we were born, the school in which we were trained. Go where we may, that grim old edifice on the Pool goes with us; a part of all we know, and of all we are. Put seas between us and the Thames, this Tower will cling to us like a thing of life. It colours Shakespeare's page. It casts a momentary gloom over Bacon's story. Many of our books were written in its vaults; the Duke of Orleans' " Poesies," Raleigh's " Historie of the World," Eliot's " Monarchy of Man," and Penn's " No Cross, No Crown."
Even as to the length of days, the Tower has no rival among palaces and prisons; its origin, like that of the Iliad, that of the Sphinx, that of the Newton Stone, being lost in the nebulous ages, long before our definite history took shape. Old writers date it from the days of Caesar; a legend taken up by Shakespeare and the poets, in favour of which the name of Caesar's Tower remains in popular use to this very day. A Roman wall can even yet be traced near some parts of the ditch. The Tower is mentioned in the Saxon Chronicle, in a way not incompatible with the fact of a Saxon stronghold having stood upon this spot. The buildings as we have them now in block and plan were commenced by William the Conqueror; and the series of apartments in Caesar's tower,- hall, gallery, council-chamber, chapel,-were built in the early Norman reigns, and used as a royal residence by all our Norman kings. What can Europe show to compare against such a tale?
Set against the Tower of London - with its eight hundred years of historic life, its nineteen hundred years of traditional fame - all other palaces and prisons appear like things of an hour. The oldest bit of palace in Europe, that of the west front of the Burg in Vienna, is of the time of Henry the Third. The Kremlin in Moscow, the Doge's Palazzo in Venice, are of the Fourteenth Century. The Seraglio in Stamboul was built by Mohammed the Second. The oldest part of the Vatican was commenced by Borgia, whose name it bears. The old Louvre was commenced in the reign of Henry the Eighth; the "I'uileries in that of Elizabeth. In the time of our Civil War Versailles was yet a swamp. Sans Souci and the Escurial belong to the Eighteenth Century. The Serail of Jerusalem is a Turkish edifice. The palaces of Athens, of Cairo, or Tehran, are all of modern date.
Neither can the prisons which remain in fact as well as in history and drama-with the one exception of St. Angelo in Rome-compare against the Tower. The Bastile is gone; the Bargello has become a museum; the Piombi are removed from the Doge's roof. Vincennes; Spandau, Spilberg, Magdeburg, are all modern in comparison with a jail from which Ralph Flambard escaped so long ago as the year 1100 the date of the First Crusade.
Standing on Tower Hill, looking down on the dark lines of wall-picking out keep and turret, bastion and ballium, chapel and belfry - the jewel-house, the armoury, the mounts, the casemates, the open leads-the Bye-ward gate, the Belfry, the Bloody tower-the whole edifice seems alive with story; the story of a nation's highest splendour, its deepest misery, and its darkest shame. The soil beneath your feet is richer in blood than many a great battlefield; for out upon this sod has )wen poured, from generation to generation, a stream of the noblest life in our land. Should you have come to this spot alone, in the early day, when the Tower is noisy with martial doings, you may haply catch, in the hum which rises from the ditch and issues from the wall below you -broken by roll of drum, by blast of bugle, by tramp of soldiers - some echoes, as it were, of a far-off time; some hints of a Mayday revel; of a state execution; of a royal entry. You may catch some sound which recalls the thrum of a queen's virginal, the cry of a victim on the rack, the laughter of a bridal feast. For all these sights and sounds-the dance of love and the dance of death -are part of that gay and tragic memory which clings around the Tower.
From the reign of Stephen down to that of Henry of Richmond, Caesar's tower (the great Norman keep, now called the White tower) was a main part of the royal palace; and for that large interval of time, the story of the White tower is in some sort that of our English society as well as of our English kings. Here were kept the royal wardrobe and the royal jewels; and hither came with their goodly wares, the tiremen, the goldsmiths, the chasers and embroiderers, from Flanders, Italy, and Almaigne. Close by were the Mint, the lions' dens, the old archery-grounds, the Court of King's Bench, the Court of Common Pleas, the Queen's gardens, the royal banqueting-hall; so that art and trade, science and manners, literature and law, sport and politics, find themselves equally at home.
Two great architects designed the main parts of the Tower; Gundul the Weeper and Henry the Builder; one a poor Norman monk, the other a great English king...
Henry the Third, a prince of epical fancies, as Corffe, Conway, Beaumaris, and many other fine poems in stone attest, not only spent much of his time in the Tower, but much of his money in adding to its beauty and strength. Adam de Lamburn was his master mason ; but Henry was his own chief clerk of the works. The Water gate, the embanked wharf, the Cradle tower, the Lantern, which he made his bedroom and private closet, the Galleyman tower, and the first wall, appear to have been his gifts. But the prince who did so much for Westminster Abbey, not content with giving stone and piles to the home in which he dwelt, enriched the chambers with frescoes and sculpture, the chapels with carving and glass; making St. John's chapel in the White tower splendid with saints, St. Peter's church on the Tower Green musical with bells. In the Hall tower, from which a passage led through the Great hall into the King's bedroom in the Lantern, he built a tiny chapel for his private use - a chapel which served for the devotion of his successors until Henry the Sixth was stabbed to death before the cross. Sparing neither skill nor gold to make the great fortress worthy of his art, he sent to Pur beck for marble, and to Caen for stone. The dabs of lime, the spawls of flint, the layers of brick, which deface the walls and towers in too many places, are of either earlier or later times. The marble shafts, the noble groins, the delicate traceries, are Henry's work. Traitor's gate, one of the noblest arches in the world, was built by him; in short, nearly all that is purest in art is traceable to his reign: . . .
The most eminent and interesting prisoner ever lodged in the Tower is Raleigh; eminent by his personal genius, interesting from his political fortune. Raleigh has in higher degree than any other captive who fills the Tower with story, the distinction that he was not the prisoner of his country, but the prisoner of Spain.
Many years ago I noted in the State Papers evidence, then unknown, that a very great part of the second and long imprisonment of the founder of Virginia was spent in the Bloody tower and the adjoining Garden house; writing at this grated window; working in the little garden on which it opened; pacing the terrace on this wall, which was afterwards famous as Raleigh's Walk. Hither came to him the wits and poets, the scholars and inventors of his time; Johnson and Burrell, Hariot and Pett; to crack light jokes; to discuss rabbinical lore; to sound the depths of philosophy; to map out Virginia; to study the shipbuilder's art. In the Garden house he distilled essences and spirits; compounded his great cordial; discovered a method (afterwards lost) of turning salt water into sweet; received the visits of Prince Henry; wrote his political tracts; invented the modern warship; wrote his History of the World.
The day of Raleigh's death was the day of a new English birth. Eliot was not the only youth of ardent soul who stood by the scaffold in Palace Yard, to note the matchless spirit in which the martyr met his fate, and walked away from that solemnity-a new man. Thousands of men in every part of England who had led a careless life became from that very hour the sleepless enemies of Spain. The purposes of Raleigh were accomplished, in the very way which his genius had contrived. Spain held the dominion of the sea, and England took it from her. Spain excluded England from the New World, and the genius of that New World is English.
The large contest in the new political system of the world, then young, but clearly enough defined, had come to turn upon this question - Shall America be mainly Spanish and theocratic, or English and free? Raleigh said it should be English and free. He gave his blood, his fortune, and his genius, to the great thought in his heart; and, in spite of that scene in Palace Yard, which struck men as the victory of Spain, America is at this moment English and free.