Incense in the Monasteries of France

It was in early spring that I sojourned with the Passionists of Hardinghen. Intending, originally, to abide there but a day or two in the course of an excursion through the outlying parts of the Boulonnais, my departure was nevertheless deferred from time to time, till nearly a month had slipped by before I took my leave. The season was remarkable for its warmth and brilliancy, and for the consequent forwardness of vegetation. Thus the convent garden was already redolent with the perfumes, and tinted with the delicate blossoms, of peach and plum, and of pears and apples; while its flower beds exhibited a profusion of gracefully pendant dielytra in full bloom, bordering the main walk on either side, together with tulips, and other early flowers in plenty. Glancing over the sprouting shoots of a quickset hedge that separates the garden from a paddock beyond, one's eye rested with pleasure on its rich verdure, bespangled with myriads of golden cowslips. Often have I strolled dreamily in the monastery^rounds,—along the shingly paths of the flower garden, it may be, or over the mossy greensward of meadow and orchard,—enjoying the soft breezes and fragrant odours of the season, and listening to the monotonous note of the cuckoo, or, at eveningtide, to the sweeter music of a nightingale; or to the gentle rippling of a clear, running spring by which the monks' domain is watered. These sounds from the world of nature, animate and inanimate, would, perhaps, be broken in upon by the tolling of the convent bell to summon the fraternity to private prayer; whilst at another time the belfry echoed with a merrier peal to advertise the "faithful" in the adjoining village and scattered homesteads around, of some approaching public service—calling them
"To mass, or some high festival."*
At such a service I have repeatedly been a spectator; now, according as the fancy took me, making one of the little crowd that filled the nave, or now occupying a retired nook among the brotherhood in their modest chancel. And when the choral chant was hushed, and the tapers extinguished, and the fumes of incense were dissolving into thin air, and the peasant congregation dispersed, more than once have I betaken myself to the organ-like harmonium—organ-like *
in its multiplicity of stops and fulness of tone— and there, with the church to myself, enjoyed some simple melody, or the accords of a favourite harmony, as the shades of night were falling fast and thick; the setting sun's last rays, which, but anon, were tinged with prismatic colours in their passage through the painted glass, now fading rapidly away, and giving place to deepening twilight.
Scenes in French Monasteries: With Illustrations
 By Algernon Taylor
 
The last echoes of the monastery bell were dying away, when subdued notes of the organ broke softly on the ear, gradually swelling into a full burst of triumphant harmony, as a strange, half-spectral procession crossed the threshold of the priory church. Walking at a measured step, two abreast, a train of unearthly looking beings, shrouded in white, issued from the monastery, and, preceded by the tall capitular cross, and a couple of acolytes bearing lofty silver candlesticks with lighted tapers, advanced slowly up the peasant-thronged nave to the choir at its further end. The eifect of this sepulchral procession in the dead of night was heightened by a galaxy of wax-lights, and a rich display of gold and silver wrought vestments, but more than all by soul-stirring strains of music, harmonizing with the joyous occasion that called them forth—the festival of the NatiVity.
Mingling with the organ's swell, rose the chant of monks, who sang—
"With music strong and saintly song,''* their gruff bass voices modified by the alto notes of a few chorister boys. Grouped before the altar, stood the officiating clergy and their attendants, apparelled in copes of cloth of gold; handsome carpets had been specially spread for the occasion over the chancel floor; and vapoury clouds of incense, ascending from gilded thuribles, swung to and fro by acolytes, made up the complement of this ecclesiastical spectacle. An imposing spectacle it certainly Was, however such an exhibition of sensorial religion may jar with Protestant principles and practice. Fine music, brilliant illumi- nation, and a variety of pleasing effects of colour— the result of profuse gilding, in combination with gorgeous robes and bright tapestry—all contributed, when taken in connection with the quaint figures ranged on either side of the choir, and with the romance of the midnight hour, to form an unusual and striking scene. 
Scenes in French Monasteries: With Illustrations
 By Algernon Taylor
 
It was early afternoon when Louise first stopped before the mission. The high walls, with their lonely, carven saints, looked down upon her, and the wind rustled the long leaves of the pepper trees. Beneath, in the sunlight, lay Santa Barbara and the sea, dancing and sparkling in the tropic light. Where the white road wound past the mission and lost itself among the eucalyptus trees, the mountains cut the sky like gigantic, restless teeth.
A monk, in brown habit and knotted cord, came out of the doorway. His profile, against the lemon-colored walls, had all the purity of a Florentine carving. When Louise followed him inside with the other tourists, she had the sensation of a door closing behind her, shutting out the hot sunlight and the flickering trees. Here was only dimness and a faint fragrance of incense. Spanish pictures hung from the walls, crude drawings covered the ceiling and the floor was made up of countless stones, which were the graves of monks long dead. Clumsy as the work of a child, yet appealing in its childishness, the little chapel held all the sanctity of a cathedral.
The monk led them through one of the heavy doors into a garden. Here the sun lay in broad splashes on the grass, tickled the rose trees climbing to the roof, and made little pathways among the graves. Yet it was not like a cemetery, Louise reflected. It was but a garden underneath the loving walls of the mission. Only the sun could climb to the tops of those walls, and to an occasional mountain peak, pale and faintly blue with the exertion. The scent of the acacias was overpowering, and a clump of grave cypress trees guarded a crucifix that rose, tall and black, from their midst.
The Bellman, Volume 22