And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

lørdag 29. oktober 2011

Life's Little Oddities, part I - The Fountain

Drink, Pilgrim, here; Here rest! and if thy heart
Be innocent, here too shalt thou refresh
Thy spirit,
- Inscription for a Fountain on a Heath, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

In this blogpost I want to present one of York's many minor monuments, one of those oddities you can pass by a hundred times without noticing but which, once they have been noticed, you treasure greatly precisely because they are obscure, because you may feel that these little secrets belong to you and you alone, that you, by finding them, have become acquainted with York in a manner reserved for the elect few. However, as an explorer of the world I ought to be considered unforgivably self-centred were I to keep such secrets as my own.The very purpose of exploration - scholarly or not - is to present your findings to an audience and to bring your findings out of darkness and into the light. The gem this time is a small 19th century fountain and although it is far less awe-inspiring than the mythical fountain of youth it is at least real and can therefore properly be enjoyed for what it is.

Admittedly the fountain in question is not situated on a heath unlike the one alluded to in the epigraph. It is, however, found near the ruins of a Medieval hospital dedicated to St. Leonard and as such does have a tenuous link to the pilgrim part of Coleridge's poem. The structure came to my attention by chance on one of my walks early in September and I found very pleasing, chiefly - I believe - because I thought it a very charming attempt to emulate the carved stones of ages past, so very typical of the Victorian era.

Seemingly fallen into desuetude this fountain is situated near one of the entrances to Yorkshire Museum and Garden, close to Lendal Bridge. Aside from its year of construction I have been unable to find any further information, sadly.

And now my heart is as a broken fount,
Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
From the dank thoughts that shiver
Upon the sighful branches of my mind.
- The Hound of Heaven, Francis Thompson

And you, all shapes beside, that fishy be
- The Fish, the Man and the Spirit, Leigh Hunt

On the whole I have an unfortunate tendency to yield to prejudice and discard Victorian Medievalesque architecture as naïve, childish, emulating the splendour of past ages while wearing a romantic veil distorting reality beyond what can be condoned. In this case, however, I have decided not to be swept away by pretentious snobbery and I declare I quite enjoy this little treasure

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