Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Chesterton's Poetry

In honor of the terrific time the Omaha Chesterton Society (well, part of it anyhow) had at last night's meeting as we read aloud and discussed GKC's poetry, I print here (alas) just three of the consensus favorites.

The Donkey

When fishes flew and forests walked

And figs grew upon thorn,

Some moment when the moon was blood

Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry

And ears like errant wings,

The devil's walking parody

On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,

Of ancient crooked will;

Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,

I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;

One far fierce hour and sweet:

There was a shout about my ears,

And palms before my feet.

The Song of Quoodle

They haven't got no noses,
The fallen sons of Eve;

Even the smell of roses

Is not what they supposes;

But more than mind discloses

And more than men believe.

They haven't got no noses,

They cannot even tell

When door and darkness closes

The park a Jew encloses,

Where even the law of Moses

Will let you steal a smell.

The brilliant smell of water,

The brave smell of a stone,

The smell of dew and thunder,

The old bones buried under,

Are things in which they blunder

And err, if left alone.

The wind from winter forests,

The scent of scentless flowers,

The breath of brides' adorning,

The smell of snare and warning,

The smell of Sunday morning,

God gave to us for ours

And Quoodle here discloses

All things that Quoodle can,

They haven't got no noses,

They haven't got no noses,

And goodness only knowses

The Noselessness of Man.

The Hunting of the Dragon

When we went hunting the Dragon

In the days when we were young,

We tossed the bright world over our shoulder

As bugle and baldrick slung;

Never was world so wild and fair

As what went by on the wind,

Never such fields of paradise

As the fields we left behind:

For this is the best of a rest for men

That men should rise and ride

Making a flying fairyland

Of market and country-side,

Wings on the cottage, wings on the wood,

Wings upon pot and pan,

For the hunting of the Dragon

That is the life of a man.

For men grow weary of fairyland

When the Dragon is a dream,

And tire of the talking bird in the tree,

The singing fish in the stream;

And the wandering stars grow stale, grow stale,

And the wonder is stiff with scorn;

For this is the honour of fairyland

And the following of the horn;

Beauty on beauty called us back

When we could rise and ride,

And a woman looked out of every window

As wonderful as a bride:

And the tavern-sign as a tabard blazed,

And the children cheered and ran,

For the love of the hate of the Dragon

That is the pride of a man.

The sages called him a shadow

And the light went out of the sun:

And the wise men told us that all was well

And all was weary and one:

And then, and then, in the quiet garden,

With never a weed to kill,

We knew that his shining tail had shone

In the white road over the hill:

We knew that the clouds were flakes of flame,

We knew that the sunset fire

Was red with the blood of the Dragon

Whose death is the world's desire.

For the horn was blown in the heart of the night

That men should rise and ride,

Keeping the tryst of a terrible jest

Never for long untried;

Drinking a dreadful blood for wine,

Never in cup or can,

The death of a deathless Dragon,

That is the life of a man.