In Chesterton’s Ballad of the White Horse, the fugitive King Alfred enters the Danish King Guthrum’s camp, and takes a turn with the harp – as a Ninth Century Rapper – and addresses the assembled war lords:
“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.
Alfred is called the Great, a thousand and more years on, because he had a song to sing, a warm heart prepared to live and die for his people, and a sense of his own role as a servant of his people through the bad times as well as the good. A King whose reign was rooted in God’s Mercy.
May we have hearts of flame burning within us on the road (Luke 24:32), may we recognise the Lord in each other.
Flaming colours on the radiant Cross, Chichester. MMB.