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from A Time of Gifts

No janitor was about. A young Benedictine, finding me loitering in the gatehouse, took me in tow, 
and as we crossed the first great courtyard, I knew I was in luck. He spoke beautiful French; he was 
learned and amusing and the ideal cicerone for all that lay ahead. 

Afterwards, it was in confused musical terms that the stages of our progress strung themselves together in my memory. This is how they resound there still. Overtures and preludes followed each other as courtyard opened on courtyard. Ascending staircases unfolded as vaingloriously as pavanes. Cloisters developed with the complexity of double, triple, and quadruple fugues. The suites of state apartments concatenated with the variety, the mood and décor of symphonic movements. Among the receding infinity of gold bindings in the library, the polished reflections, the galleries and the terrestrial and celestial globes gleaming in the radiance of their flared embrasures, music, again, seemed to intervene. A magnificent and measured polyphony crept in one’s ears. It was accompanied by woodwinds at first, then, at shortening intervals, by violins and violas and ’cellos and then double basses while a sudden scroll-work of flutes unfurled in mid-air; to be joined at last by a muted fanfare from the ceiling, until everything vibrated with a controlled and pervading splendour. Beyond it, in the church, a dome crowned the void. Light spread in the painted hollows and joined the indirect glow from the ovals and the lunettes and the windows of the rotunda. Galleries and scalloped baldachinos and tiered cornices rose to meet it; and the soft light, falling on the fluted pilasters and circles of gold spokes, and on the obelisks wreathed with their sculpted clouds, suffused the honeycomb side-chapels and then united in a still and universal radiance. Music might just have fallen silent; unless it were about to begin. In the imagination, instruments assembled—unseen cymbals just ajar that would collide with a resonance no more strident than a whisper; drums an inch below their padded sticks with palms ready to muffle them; oboes slanting, their reeds mute for a moment more; brass and woodwind waiting; fingers stretched motionless across wires of a harp and fifty invisible bows poised in the air above fifty invisible sets of strings.
Partick Leigh Fermor