Thursday, July 10, 2008

To the Chestertonian poets,
Some of us (well, me) aren't so familliar with Chesterton's poetry. I've read The Ballad of the White Horse, and that's about it. What do we need to read, and more importatntly, how?

P.S. I'm one of those creepy people who likes (horrors) Emily Dickinson :).


Hans Lundahl said...

try a google on Chesterton, online works

if you get the right site, you will see a list of works that include novels, essay collections, essays and poems

many of his shorter poems have as pointed a point as an epigram

like the one on Arthur, or the one beginning "the hucksters haggle in the mart, the cars and carts go by"

Nick Milne said...


The Ballad is a great start, and you're already miles ahead of most people simply by having read it. I've had friends who claim to like Chesterton's poetry and yet who've had no idea that the Ballad exists.

There are a number of other ways you can go as far as GKC's poetry is concerned:


1. The Flying Inn - Your blog's namesake, in spite of being a novel, is full of excellent and rollicking verse of all sorts, from the high humour of the drinking song (see especially "The Rolling English Road") to the desperate, melancholic romance of the requiem (such as "Who Goes Home?"). It's a fine book.

2. Greybeards at Play - His earliest collection of poetry, and very small. His first book, actually. Great stuff, though.

3. The Wild Knight - Also very early (1901; Greybeards was 1900), but with a lot more meat to it. It includes some very good stuff, with "The Donkey" being particularly important. That one is essential reading ("The Donkey," I mean; not the whole volume).

4. The Ballad of St. Barbara and Other Poems - This 1922 volume is not one of his better-known works, and it's also not one of his better works full stop. The "Ballad" of the title is a strange sort of thing, and is not the best poem in the book; that honour would fall, rather, to something like "The Convert," "Elegy in a Country Churchyard" or "The English Graves," which are all excellent and vital works. Check them out for sure.

4. The Ignatius Press Collected Works, vol. X - That's the first volume of the collected poetry, and it's pretty substantial. I don't know when the second volume will appear, but this shall do for now.


This list is by no means comprehensive, but should give you a good selection of excellent work from which to choose in planning your next foray into GKC's poetry. The list is in descending order of recommendation, though naturally I recommend them all. Just start at the top and work your way down.

1. "Lepanto"
2. "The Last Hero"
3. "The Donkey"
4. "A Ballade of Suicide"
5. "The Convert"
6. "The Rolling English Road"
7. "Who Goes Home?"
8. "The English Graves"
9. "Songs of Education"
10. "The Ballad of the Battle of Gibeon"
11. "The Wife of Flanders"
12. "The Song of the Strange Ascetic"
13. "The Philanthropist"
14. "The Grave of Arthur"
15. "The Aristocrat"

Also: There's not a single thing wrong with liking Emily Dickinson. Those who profess not to don't know what they're missing.

RoseinFaith said...

Goodness gracious, that's a fantastic (and very comprehensive!) list from which to start! Thank you, Nick, for compiling that for OLF. You certainly listed the essential ones: the Donkey and Lepanto, especially, should not be missed.

Indeed, I see nothing wrong with liking Emily Dickinson. Her poems are, as a general rule, beautiful and insightful. My favorite of hers is "It Dropped So Low in My Regard," which I love for the timeless truth it encapsulates, and its reminder to never idolize things of this world.

"It dropped so low in my regard,
I heard it hit the ground,
And go to pieces on the stones
At bottom of my mind.

Yet blamed the fate that fractured--less,
Than I reviled myself,
For entertaining plated wares,
Upon my silver shelf."

Plumbing the depths this pithy little verse has to offer could take up entire essays. I love the message it carries. :)

God Bless!

Algernon said...


Rob said...

The most critical is "Lepanto," if only for the way the rhythm, alliteration, and imagery build up this tidal wave of dramatic tension that somehow is peacefully and even serenely resolved in the last stanza.

After you've read that, just go ahead and read everything Chesterton ever wrote. Go on. We'll wait.

Hans Lundahl said...

Here are his works on line

Hans Lundahl said...

Sorry, here