And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

21 July

1635
Sir William Brereton,
soldier and spy

‘We came to Waterford about three hour, and baited at the King’s Head, at Mr Wardes, a good house, and a very complete gentleman-like host. This town is reputed one of the richest towns in Ireland. It stands upon a river (called Watterford River), which maintaineth a sufficiently deep and safe channel even to the very quay, which, indeed, is not only the best and most convenient quay which I found in Ireland, but it is as good a quay as I have known either in England or observed in all my travels. A ship of three hundred may come close to these quays. This quay is made all along the river side without the walls, and divers fair and convenient buttresses made about twenty yards long, which go towards the channel. I saw the river at a spring tide flow even with the top of this quay, and yet near the quay a ship of three hundred ton full loaden may float at a low water. Upon this river stand divers forts and castles which command it. At the mouth of the river is there a fort called Duncannon, wherein lieth my Lord Esmond’s company, consisting of fifty good, expert soldiers. Here is also a company of fifty soldiers, which are under the command of Sir George Flowre, an ancient knight. These are disposed of in the fort, which is placed without the gate towards Caricke, a pretty little hold, which stands on high and commands the town. There stands upon this river the Carick twelve mile, hence, and Clonmell about eight mile thence; hither (as I have heard) the river flows. There is, seated upon this river also Golden Bridge, and there is a passage by water from Cullen [?] and Limbrecke. This is no barred, but a most bold haven, in the mouth whereof is placed an eminent tower, a sea mark, to be discerned at a great distance; yet this river runs so crooked as without a W. or N.W. Hence went a great fleet to Bristoll fair, who stayed long here waiting for a wind.

This city is governed by a mayor, bailiffs, and twelve aldermen. Herein are seven churches; there have been many more. One of these, Christ Church, a cathedral; St. Patrick’s, Holy Ghost, St. Stephen’s, St. John - but none of these are in good repair, not the cathedral, nor indeed are there any churches almost to be found in good repair. Most of the inhabitants Irish, not above forty English, and not one of these Irish goes to church. This town trades much with England, France, and Spain, and that which gives much encouragement hereunto is the goodness of the haven.

This town double-walled, and the walls maintained in good repair. Here we saw women in a most impudent manner treading clothes with their feet; these were naked to the middle almost, for so high were their clothes tucked up about them. Here the women of better rank and quality wear long, high laced caps, turned up round about; these are mighty high; of this sort I gave William Dale money to buy me one. Here is a good, handsome market-place, and a most convenient prison that I ever saw for the women apart, and this is a great distance from the men’s prison. Herein dwells a judicious apothecary, who hath been bred at Antwerpe, and is a traveller; his name is (as I take it) Mr Jarvis Billiard, by whose directions and good advice I found much good, and through God’s mercy recovered from my sickness. After I had dined here, I went about four or five hour towards Caricke, where I stayed at a ferry about a mile from Waterford a whole hour for the boat, wherein we and our six horses were carried over together.’

Drawing up the sluices

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1770
Charles Burney,
music historian

‘It did not feem foreign to my bufinefs in Italy to vifit the Palazzo Simonetto, a mile or two from Milan, to hear the famous echo, about which travellers have faid fo much, that I rather fufpected exaggeration. This is not the place to enter deeply into the doctrine of reverberation; I fhall referve the attempt for another work; as to the matter of fact, this echo is very wonderful. The Simonetto palace is near no other building; the country all around is a dead flat, and no mountains are nearer than thofe of Swifferland, which are upwards of thirty miles off. This palace is now uninhabited and in ruin, but has been pretty; the front is open, and fupported by very light double Ionic pillars, but the echo is only to be heard behind the houfe, which, next to the garden has two wings. [Illustration . . .]

Now, though it is natural to fuppofe that the oppofite wails reflect the found, it is not eafy to fay in what manner; as the form of the building is a very common one, and no other of the fame confruction, that I have ever heard of, produces the fame effects. I made experiments of all kinds, and in every fituation, with the voice, flow, quick; with a trumpet, which a fervant who was with me founded; with a piftol, and a mufquet, and always found agreeable to the doctrine of echos, that the more quick and violent the percuffion of the air, the more numerous were the repetitions; which, upon firing the mufquet, amounted to upwards of fifty, of which the ftrength feemed regularly to diminifh, and the diftance to become more remote. Such a mufical canon might be contrived for one fine voice here, according to father Kircher’s method, as would have all the eifect of two, three, and even four voices. One blow of a hammer produced a very good imitation of an ingenious and practifed footman’s knock at a London door, on a vifiting night. A fingle ha! became a long horfe-laugh; and a forced note, or a found overblown in tire trumpet, became the moft ridiculous and laughable noife imaginable.’

The wonderful echo

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1821
Benjamin Haydon,
artist

‘What a scene was Westminster Hall on Thursday last! It combined all the gorgeous splendour of ancient chivalry with the intense heroic interest of modern times; every thing that could effect or excite, either in beauty, heroism, grace, elegance, or taste; all that was rich in colour, gorgeous in effect, touching in association, English in character or Asiatic in magnificence, was crowded into this golden & enchanted hall!

I only got my ticket on Wednesday at two, and dearest Mary & I drove about to get all I wanted. Sir George Beaumont lent me ruffles & frill, another a blue velvet coat, a third a sword; I bought buckles, & the rest I had, and we returned to dinner exhausted. [. . .] I dressed, breakfasted, & was at the Hall Door at half past one. Three Ladies were before me. The doors opened about four & I got a front place in the Chamberlain’s box, between the door and Throne, & saw the whole room distinctly. Many of the door keepers were tipsey; quarrels took place. The sun began to light up the old gothic windows, the peers to stroll in, & the company to crowd in, of all descriptions; elegant young men tripping along in silken grace with elegant girls trembling in feathers and diamonds. Some took seats they had not any right to occupy, and were obliged to leave them after sturdy disputes. Others lost their tickets. Every movement, as the time approached for the King’s appearance, was pregnant with interest. The appearance of the Monarch has something the air of a rising sun; there are indications which announce his approach, a whisper of mystery turns all eyes to the throne! Suddenly two or three run; others fall back; some talk, direct, hurry, stand still, or disappear. Then three or four of high rank appear from behind the Throne; and interval is left; the crowds scarce breathe! The room rises with a sort of feathered, silken thunder! Plumes wave, eyes sparkle, glasses are out, mouths smile. The way in which the King bowed was really monarchic! As he looked towards the Peeresses & Foreign Ambassadors, he looked like some gorgeous bird of the East.

After all the ceremonies he arose, the Procession was arranged, the Music played, and the line began to move. All this was exceedingly imposing. After two or three hours’ waiting, the doors opened, and the flower girls entered, strewing flowers. The exquisite poetry of their look, the grace of their actions, their slow movement, their white dresses, were indescribably touching; their light milky colour contrasted with the dark shadow of the archway. The distant trumpets & shouts of the people, the slow march, and at last the appearance of the King under a golden canopy, crowned, and the universal burst of the assembly at seeing him, affected every body.’

Thirst after grandeur

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1809
Maria Nugent,
wife of soldier

‘Went to Broadstairs, Kingsgate, &c. and then set off, in the evening, for Deal. Met Lady Wellesley, &c. there, and had a nice walk on the beach. The Downs full of ships, and the sight altogether magnificent. The poor fellows cheering as they embarked, and I don’t know why, but I could scarcely refrain from shedding tears at their joy; it seemed, indeed, so thoughtless when they were so soon to meet an enemy, &c. But soldiers, I believe, never think, and perhaps it is fortunate for them that they do not.’

Walcheren Fever

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1913
Franz Kafka,
writer

‘Don’t despair, not even over the fact that you don’t despair. Just when everything seems over with, new forces come marching up, and precisely that means that you are alive. And if they don’t then everything is over with here, once and for all.

I cannot sleep. Only dreams, no sleep. Today, in my dream, I invented a new kind of vehicle for a park slope. You take a branch, it needn’t be very strong, prop it up on the ground at a slight angle, hold one end in your hand, sit down on it side-saddle, then the whole branch naturally rushes down the slope, since you are sitting on the bough you are carried along at full speed, rocking comfortably on the elastic wood. It is also possible to use the branch to ride up again. The chief advantage aside from the simplicity of the whole device, lies in the fact the branch, thin and flexible as it is, can be lowered or raised as necessary and gets through anywhere, even where a person by himself would get through only with difficulty.

To be pulled in through the ground-floor window of a house by a rope tied around one’s neck and to be yanked up, bloody and ragged, through all the ceilings, furniture, walls, and attics, without consideration, as if by a person who is paying no attention, until the empty noose, dropping the last fragments of me when it breaks through the roof tiles, is seen on the roof.’

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1944
Charles Augustus Lindbergh,
aviator

‘The Japanese stronghold on the cliffs of Biak is to be attacked again in the morning. Several hundred Japs are still holding out in caves and crevices in an area about 300 yards wide and 1,000 yards long. So far, they have thrown back all of our attacks, and inflicted nearly one hundred casualties on our infantrymen. They have as perfect a natural defensive position as could be devised - sharp coral ridges overlooking and paralleling the coast, filled with deep and interlocking caves and screened from our artillery fire by coral ledges. This area is clearly visible from the top of the coral cliff, ten feet from the back door of the officers quarters where I am staying - a brown ridge surrounded by green jungle on the coast of Biak about three miles across the water from Owi Island.

The intense artillery fire has stripped the trees of leaves and branches so that the outline of the coral ridge itself can be seen silhouetted against the sky. Since I have been on Owi Island, at irregular intervals through the night and day, the sound of our artillery bombarding this Japanese stronghold has floated in across the water. This afternoon, I stood on the cliff outside our quarters (not daring to sit on the ground because of the danger of typhus) and watched the shells bursting on the ridge. For weeks that handful of Japanese soldiers, variously estimated at between 250 and 700 men, has been holding out against overwhelming odds and the heaviest bombardment our well-supplied guns can give them.

If positions were reversed and our troops held out so courageously and well, their defense would be recorded as one of the most glorious examples of tenacity, bravery, and sacrifice in the history of our nation. But, sitting in the security and relative luxury of our quarters, I listen to American Army officers refer to these Japanese soldiers as “yellow sons of bitches.” Their desire is to exterminate the Jap ruthlessly, even cruelly. I have not heard a word of respect or compassion spoken of our enemy since I came here.

It is not the willingness to kill on the part of our soldiers which most concerns me. That is an inherent part of war. It is our lack of respect for even the admirable characteristics of our enemy - for courage, for suffering, for death, for his willingness to die for his beliefs, for his companies and squadrons which go forth, one after another, to annihilation against our superior training and equipment. What is courage for us is fanaticism for him. We hold his examples of atrocity screamingly to the heavens while we cover up our own and condone them as just retribution for his acts. [. . .]

We must bomb them out, those Jap soldiers, because this is war, and if we do not kill them, they will kill us now that we have removed the possibility of surrender. But I would have more respect for the character of our people if we could give them a decent burial instead of kicking in the teeth of corpses, and pushing their bodies into hollows in the ground, scooped out and covered up by bulldozers. After that, we will leave their graves unmarked and say, “That’s the only way to handle the yellow sons of bitches.”

Over to the 35th Fighter Squadron in the evening to give a half hour’s talk to the pilots on fuel economy and the P-38.’

Our civilization’s survival

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1976
Paul K Lyons,
journalist and writer

‘BREATHLESS MACHU PICCHU

The river fjords, peaks and pikes, moss-covered cliffs. A hawk glides a spiral upwards, upwards, 1,000ft above the meandering Urubamba. Once people lived here in the sky, carving building bricks, hiding from the ground, from the river. Once people toiled here in the sky and worshiped the sun. A sun that came sometimes to warm, to grow, to live. A sun that came through the mists. And a myth that grew with gold. A myth grew and crumbled. And now is grass. A pasture for hungry tourists, for ego-hunting travellers. A pasture for writers and artists to see the mountains, the river, the sky. Few walls of interlocking stone are left, few Inca building bricks, but more a crumbling cottage stone of a poor man built, the Inca slave, the Inca beggar. Some flowers grow, and Peruvian government llamas or alpacas graze. A yellow pipeline sprints upon another mountain. Specks of colour dawdle from wall to stone from hut to rock from step to step.

And I am unimpressed. I am here but I am unimpressed. Sitting on a rock, watching the play of every day: red-helmetted grass cutters, drifting wind-carried chatter, people strolling, like in a park. I was talking a while with Didier just now - as we watched the tourist train pull in - about the Buddhist ruins I investigated near Peshawar. It was a very hazy memory. Didier is not interested in the old stone but likes the green mountains and green river. Jim sits on the other side of the saddle meditating. Annabelle takes photographs for a granny. The wind is smiling. Machu Picchu.

Have you seen this old old city
Have you seen, have you seen
This old old city, have you seen.’

Breathless Machu Picchu

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In general, these diary extracts are quoted as given in the published (book or online) source referred to in the reference articles. Each extract may be all, a large part of, or a small part of the complete entry for that day. I have tried to indicate where text has been removed from within a quote by the use of trailing dots in square bracket.

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