Tag Archives: GK Chesterton

August 26: We’re just passing through.


Yesterday I alluded to ‘naught for your comfort’, hope against hope, citing this stanza from Chesterton’s Ballad of the White Horse. You’ll find it on the Web.

“I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.”

The words are given to Mary, mother of Jesus, appearing to King Alfred in a vision. Later Alfred calls for support from his ally Mark, a Roman living a Roman life in Wessex, who drank his own wine when all the kings drank ale.


“These vines be ropes that drag me hard,”
He said. “I go not far;
Where would you meet? For you must hold
Half Wiltshire and the White Horse wold,
And the Thames bank to Owsenfold,
If Wessex goes to war.

“Guthrum sits strong on either bank
And you must press his lines
Inwards, and eastward drive him down;
I doubt if you shall take the crown
Till you have taken London town.
For me, I have the vines.”

“If each man on the Judgment Day
Meet God on a plain alone,”
Said Alfred, “I will speak for you
As for myself, and call it true
That you brought all fighting folk you knew
Lined under Egbert’s Stone.

“Though I be in the dust ere then,
I know where you will be.”

And indeed the vines are not enough to hold Mark back when his duty lies with his King; after great bravery in battle he was killed and ‘died without a sound.’

Mark recognised, in rather more dramatic circumstances than Roger Deakin in yesterday’s post, that we are only passing through this world, though he dearly loved his corner of it – as Roger Deakin did.

Do read his book as well as GKC’s! Wildwood, a journey through trees, Penguin, 2008.




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May 7: Kingship

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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.

mercylogoAlfred 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.

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Friday 1 April: Reflections at the Lakeside.

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I’ve always found the accounts of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances extraordinarily pregnant. In all of them the atmosphere is so strong that it reaches across time and space to burst through the text and draw us in, making us privileged guests at this most singular event, inviting us all with profligate generosity to the wedding banquet, just as his blood was poured out for us all. The Spirit is not bound by space or time, and love is stronger than death. Like a magic carpet, love draws us in the spirit through the portal of the text to a beach by the Sea of Tiberias early one morning, long ago in the days when Judaea was a Roman province.


A group of men sit around a charcoal fire sharing a breakfast of fish and bread and watching as the mist slowly disperses into the pale golden sunlight. The smells of charcoal and fish mingle with the smells of salt water and the men’s bodies. Beneath the sounds of eating and talking, the water laps rhythmically on the smooth sand. Slowly, imperceptibly, it turns from silver-grey to blue. The caress of the light makes it glisten with joy.


Mini-Interruption: then is now.

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Shared fish meal in the Lake District, Easter 2014. Every meal is now a sharing in the heavenly banquet. MMB

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Christ the King III

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This scene shows the start of Holy Week, it is Palm Sunday, when Jesus was acclaimed as King by the people of Jerusalem.

Even the donkey is excited: look at his ears, look at his eyes! He is taking it all in. This is his hour:

One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

G.K.Chesterton, The Donkey.

This was not just a moment of irrelevance in the Holy Week story, but a moment of truth.

Enjoy the hour, enjoy the moment, and like Mary, treasure all these things in your heart.

Although we know what the next chapter of this story brings, treasure this hour and ponder on it.

Although you do not know what the next chapter of your own story may bring, treasure this hour in your heart and ponder on it.

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A New Heaven, A new Earth

Yesterday we had St Francis and GKC together. Time to look into Chesterton’s life of the Saint.Early on, Chesterton scans the world into which Francis was born. It could almost be our own:

It was no metaphor to say that [pagan Romans and Greeks] needed a new heaven and a new earth; [Revelation 21:1] for they had really defiled their own earth and even their own heaven …  It was no good telling such people to have a natural religion full of stars and flowers; there was not a flower or even a star that had not been stained. They had to go into the desert where they could find no flowers or even into the cavern where they could see no stars. Into that desert and that cavern the highest human intellect entered for some four centuries; and it was the very wisest thing it could do. Nothing but the stark supernatural stood up for its salvation; if God could not save it, certainly the gods could not.


Francis, Chesterton suggests, was able to contribute to a new understanding of nature as God’s creation. He can sing of Brother Sun, Sister Water, Sister Mother Earth, and even Sister Death.

We have certainly defiled our earth and our atmosphere and our street lamps blot out the stars.

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Symbols Everywhere

Michael Glover’s piece reminded me of Chesterton’s parable of a man’s sudden awareness of the crosses all around him:

Not a light shifted, not a leaf stirred, but he saw as if by a sudden change in the eyesight that this paling was an army of innumerable crosses linked together over hill and dale. And he whirled up his heavy stick and went at it as if at an army. Mile after mile along his homeward path he broke it down and tore it up. For he hated the cross and every paling is a wall of crosses. When he returned to his house he was a literal madman … He broke his furniture because it was made of crosses. He burnt his house because it was made of crosses. He was found in the river.

It’s too glib to have a Bible verse to hand, such as: ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.’ (Luke 9:23) My point is that the believer – as well as the unbeliever! – can have that sudden change in the eyesight and see what is to be seen.

So St Francis sang his Canticle of Creation, seeing God in all things:

Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation
and especially for our Brother Sun,
who brings us the day and the light;
he is strong and shines magnificently.

GK Chesterton, The Ball and the Cross, can be found at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/5265/5265-h/5265-h.htm

The whole Canticle of Creation can be found in many places, including: Catholic On Line:  http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=3188


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