Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Poetry... Tuesday! (:

Well, there has been, thanks to your humble servant, a shocking lack posts in the poetry department of late, actually the posts department in general as well. It is for that reason that I am posting poetry now, instead of putting off until Friday. And this isn't just any poetry, not even just any Chesterton poetry. This is, in my opinion at least, among the most wonderful, beautiful and hope-filled passages, in one of Chesterton's greatest works, The Ballad of the White Horse. However, it's even better in context, so I would highly recommend clicking here, and reading the entire ballad, or at least the third book, in which this quote is located.

So without further ado...

When God put man in a garden
He girt him with a sword,
And sent him forth a free knight
That might betray his lord;

He brake Him and betrayed Him,
And fast and far he fell,
Till you and I may stretch our necks
And burn our beards in hell.

But though I lie on the floor of the world,
With the seven sins for rods,
I would rather fall with Adam
Than rise with all your gods.

What have the strong gods given?
Where have the glad gods led?
When Guthrum sits on a hero's throne
And asks if he is dead?

Sirs, I am but a nameless man,
A rhymester without home,
Yet since I come of the Wessex clay
And carry the cross of Rome,

I will even answer the mighty earl
That asked of Wessex men
Why they be meek and monkish folk,
And bow to the White Lord's broken yoke;
What sign have we save blood and smoke?
Here is my answer then.

That on you is fallen the shadow,
And not upon the Name;
That though we scatter and though we fly,
And you hang over us like the sky,
You are more tired of victory,
Than we are tired of shame.

That though you hunt the Christian man
Like a hare on the hill-side,
The hare has still more heart to run
Than you have heart to ride.

That though all lances split on you,
All swords be heaved in vain,
We have more lust again to lose
Than you to win again.

Your lord sits high in the saddle,
A broken-hearted king,
But our king Alfred, lost from fame,
Fallen among foes or bonds of shame,
In I know not what mean trade or name,
Has still some song to sing;

Our monks go robed in rain and snow,
But the heart of flame therein,
But you go clothed in feasts and flames,
When all is ice within;

Nor shall all iron dooms make dumb
Men wondering ceaselessly,
If it be not better to fast for joy
Than feast for misery.

Nor monkish order only
Slides down, as field to fen,
All things achieved and chosen pass,
As the White Horse fades in the grass,
No work of Christian men.

Ere the sad gods that made your gods
Saw their sad sunrise pass,
The White Horse of the White Horse Vale,
That you have left to darken and fail,
Was cut out of the grass.

Therefore your end is on you,
Is on you and your kings,
Not for a fire in Ely fen,
Not that your gods are nine or ten,
But because it is only Christian men
Guard even heathen things.

For our God hath blessed creation,
Calling it good. I know
What spirit with whom you blindly band
Hath blessed destruction with his hand;
Yet by God's death the stars shall stand
And the small apples grow.

4 comments:

Algernon said...

I once dipped into The Battle of Lapanto and emerged completely bewildered. Obviously something's changed because I found this highly enjoyable.

Algernon

Love2Learn Mom said...

That's good to hear, Algy. We've found that it also helps to read it aloud - actually, quite loud. :)

Ria said...

I'm glad you liked it! And yes I agree, Lepanto simply must be read (or shouted) aloud. And the same is true of the Ballad, although shouting is not mandatory(:

The Duchess

Mapaz said...

Thank you for posting it! I really love it!