Hilaire Belloc the Sailor and His Salty “Song of the Pelagian Heresy”

Dr. Robert Hickson

12 September 2022

The Holy Name of Mary

Epigraphs

[Expressed Manly Love for the 1902-1912 Sussex, England:] “The Southern Hills and the South Sea / They blow such gladness into me, / That when I get to Burton Sands / And smell the smell of the Home Lands, / My heart is all renewed and fills / With the Southern Sea and the South Hills.” (Hilaire Belloc, Complete Verses, page 89.)

***

“So that no one may be shocked, my song [said the Sailor] shall be of a religious sort, dealing with the great truths. And perhaps that will soften the heart of the torturers….For this song that I [the Sailor] am proposing to sing [at the Inn] is of a good loud roaring, but none the less it deals with the ultimate things….Now it cannot be properly sung unless the semi-chorus (which I will indicate by raising my hands) is sung loudly by all of you together…for dear life’s sake….Such is the nature of the song.” (The Four Men (1912), pages 89-90.)

***

“Oh, he didn’t believe / In Adam and Eve, / He put no faith therein! / His doubts began / With the fall of man, / And he laughed at original sin!” (The Four Men, page 93—an emphatic “semi-chorus” character mark of the Pelagian Man, as it was first sung aloud and then led more fully by the Sailor himself.)

***

In the concise doctrinal essay—along with its salty and robust songs—as they are presented immediately below this compact introduction, we may also fittingly read some four pages of Hilaire Belloc’s own 1912 book, entitled The Four Men1 about the dominant aspects of the four symbolized named characters (Myself, the Poet, the Sailor, and the elderly—and often wise—Grizzlebeard).

In the preparatory surrounding 1902-1912 context, “the Sailor” himself takes the initiative to compose and deliver the “Song of the Pelagian Heresy” to their three companions and to the growing onlookers at their inviting Inn.

Moreover, the Sailor stipulates that the growing audience’s response to each of three semi-chorus’ must be heartfelt, robust, and loud! We shall further discuss the context and aftermath—and the Sailor’s ongoing reflections—after closely we also now read the vivid “Song of the Pelagian Heresy.”2 We may now also consider the various 1902 and 1912 Modernisms already sabotaging the Catholic Faith. Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius X were clear about what is, sub gratia, at stake. Both, for example, were attentive lest a “rally to Democracy” could and would subtly become a “rally to the Revolution”!

SONG OF THE PELAGIAN HERESY FOR THE STRENGTHING OF MEN’S BACKS AND THE VERY ROBUST OUT-THRUSTING OF DOUBTFUL DOCTRINE AND THE UNCERTAIN INTELLECTUAL

Pelagius lived in Kardanoel,

And taught his doctrine there:

How whether you went to Heaven or Hell,

It was your own affair.

How whether you found eternal joy,

Or sank forever to burn,

It had nothing to do with the Church, my boy,

But was your own concern.

Semi-Chorus

Oh, he didn’t believe

In Adam and Eve,

He put no faith therein!

His doubts began

With the fall of man,

And he laughed at original sin!

Chorus

With my row-ti-tow, ti-oodly-ow,

He laughed at original sin!

Whereat the Bishop of old Auxerre —

(Germanus was his name),

He tore great handfuls out of his hair,

And called Pelagius Shame:

And then with his stout Episcopal staff

So thoroughly thwacked and banged

The heretics all, both short and tall,

That they rather had been hanged.

Semi-Chorus

Oh, he thwacked them hard and he banged them long,

Upon each and all occasions,

Till they bellowed in chorus, loud and strong,

Their orthodox persuasions!

Chorus

With my row-ti-tow, ti-oodly-ow,

Their orthodox persu-a-a-sions!

Now the Faith is old and the Devil is bold —

Exceedingly bold indeed;

And the masses of doubt that are floating about

Would smother a mortal creed.

But we who sit in a sturdy youth,

And still can drink strong ale,

Ohlet us put it away to infallible truth,

That always shall prevail!

Semi-Chorus

And thank the Lord

For the temporal sword,

And for howling heretics too;

And whatever good things

Our Christendom brings,

But especially barley brew!

Chorus

With my row-ti-tow, ti-oodly-ow,

Especially barley brew!

–Finis–

© 2022 Robert D. Hickson

1Hilaire Belloc, The Four Men (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1912)—310 pages. The setting is in 1902 A.D.

2See Complete Verse: Hilaire Belloc (London: PIMLICO, 1970 and 1991), pages 90-92 for the complete and compact “Song of the the Pelagian Heresy.” We shall later add some reflections on the context and incentive for the big “Song.”

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