Friday, September 16, 2005

The Ballad of the White Horse by G.K. Chesterton 1

I still have not read the Ballad of the White Horse but I have read little parts of it.
I am going to read it all the way through soon.
This is one of my favorite parts which is also in The Shadow of the Bear by Regina Doman:

The Men of the East May spell the stars
and times and triumphs mark
But the men signed of the Cross of Christ
Go gaily in the dark.

The other part is much longer.
This is it's setting.

King Alfred is fighting a losing battle with the Danes.
He is disguised as a poor singer and is in the enemy camp.
Many Danish lords perform their songs or poems for the king
After they had finished King Alfred disguised as the beggar asks to perform.
This is his song:

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 lead?
When Guthrum sits on a hero's throne
And asks if he is dead,

Sirs I am but a nameless man,
A rhymster without a home
But 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
Then we are tired of shame,

That though you hunt the Christian man
Like a hare on the hillside
The hare has still more heart to run
Then 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
then you to win again,

Your lord sits high in the sadle
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 clothed in rain and snow
But the heart of flame therein
But you go clothed in feasts and flames
While all is ice within,

Nor shall all iron dooms make dumb
Men wondering ceaslessly
If it be not better to fast for joy
Then 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 human man,

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
On you and on your kings
Not for a fire in Elly 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.

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