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A CITY IN WAR TIME, Issue 15689, 31 December 1914
A CITY IN WAR TIME
LONDON BY NIGHT. [By St. John 0. Ekvjne, in the ' Daily News.'J The war has caused all of us to make many strange discoveries. . Things which had seemed of immense importance to us during many years became in an instant so trivial that we forgot about them, while things to which we had not paid any attention became dominant in our lives. I walked into Trafalgar square a night or two ago with some tho'mht Mich as that in my mind, and when I had crossed the mad liv St. Martin's Church and was about to na>s along the pavement in front of the National Callery 1 suddenly realised thai 1 was seeing Trafalgar square in n light in which 1 had never seen it before tli.it moment. That shapeless place which is tailed a square, although it is neither square, nor round, nor oblong, looked lovely in tit- dimness of the dusk. Tho uncouth buildings and the dispirited statc.es and the great strips of < onerete pavement were sol't"ii.-'d and refined bv the shadows and halt-luthts 0 f the ('veiling; and the sky line of tiie high houses that stand where Northumberland avenue meets Whitehall bad lost, the riiri.l look that they have in daylight. Imperceptibly the buildiiitrs luvaine merged in the clouds. Trafalgar .-qunre had the look of an Alvin I -iiigdon (,'ohurn photographthat is to say, it had that night, in my eyes, the look that it really has. the look which none of us had ever seen and might never have seen but for the war. —The City Beautiful.— I rnuld not understand why it was that I had never seen the beauty of this place before, and 1 turned to a friend whom I met by chance and asked him if lie could explain the mystery to me; but he. too, was without understanding. All we knew was that for the lir.-.t time in our lives wp had seen the beauty of Trafalgar square, at night : we had seen with our own eyes t ' '■ miracle of the transfiguration of the National Gallery and that lifeless statue of Kin.: Charles the First, which is ;,!'iv:all\ <l< ■-orated by the .!.-h,,bites, though a . lea.vr veneration tor that monarch would cause then, to destroy the miserable monument. . . . And quite
suddenly, while wo stood leaning over I the parapet, of the square itself, we learned why it was that we are now able to see the beauty of tho place. ..\ll the flaring tlnmes had been put out by tiewar, bcause tlev made London too plain a mark for any hostile airmen who might he hovering over it,: and wo who have lived in this city for years, and have loved it because we could not do otherwise, had discovered fop the (irst time how beaut it'll! is cur town at night. -The Pi-covey of London. - I wuit down to tho Embankment, remembering wrathfully thai the ri\er haj for years been dclilcd by running light; j and flaming advorti-cments. Those lights, I too, were e\t iiig:ii-hcl. and the beauty of | the river ve mi-tained. Nothing, indeed, can ever wholly de-troy the loveliness of Ihe Thames Embankment, but l many of the a nt'endago- of commerce have I contriver! to throw a jarring note into the j peculiar harmony of that widr, hendiig J river. Nov.'. however, when tile night s I down, there i- nothing to disturb the cveni nr-5 of the composition. The tramoir; move along tho Embankment idic glwc.i worm- or ■ .-hoe. ~i light."' a- Mr YV. l'l. 1 Uavis one" styU'.i vl'a-i\i i\\ .' pli:a-;r.it poem, 1 and they do net assault, th" eyi> a- the ugly advertisement- do. I'.vpii Charing I i'ro-s railwav -tation ami that horrible iron bridge which servrs to carry the trains across the Thames become beautiful these nijlits. when the war ha- extinguished the sky-sign--. The bridge lies like a big. thick shadow on the river, and the dusk and dark cover up it- harsh line-. .Von,' of to has r\ev seen this London before, and had it not been for the war none of ir ever would have seen it 1 have read of men discovering a great pic e of painting hidden under the clumsy work n! .oine incompetent painter who lias not scrupled to cover a masterpiece with hi-n-.es-y daub-. i feci that the war has served a- a -crapcr. Tie London we have . s een and known all our lives, a thing of harsh, artili-ial lights, a clumsy, affronting thing, has -uddenly been scraped oil the canvas-, and the beautiful old picture that wit-, there all the time has been re vcaled. It is as though someone had discovered a picture by Velasquez underneath a picture by a Cifted Young Lady. --I're-erviug a Ma-terpiece.— Ma. v "'" not hope that this real and very beautiful I.' i don may be prr-erved to u- .' "H'e have found it by an extraordinary accident, just as a masterpiece ha.- sometimes been found because the varnish or the paint of the covering picture hacracked or chipped. Will we permit the bunglers to cover it again? Are the sky signs to be relit when the war is over? IT tho sky to bo affronted once more? It often happens that a nation is careless of its beauty, and it may be that, we will to content to let the duskv beauty of London at I'.ight be destroyed by raw lights. 'To do that will be as horrible a crime against Tieauty as if one were to permit a (Jifted Young Lady to paint a. View of tho Welsh .Mountains over a Turner sun-et. If there is anv love of London in (he hearts of Londoners those skv-signs will never be relit.
A CITY IN WAR TIME, Issue 15689, 31 December 1914
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