A Christmas Carol

At Bethlehem, that city blest
Did Our Lady take her rest
Mary, fair and undefiled
There conceived and bore a Child
\; \; \; \; \; Mater santissima
\; \; \; \; \; Ora pro nobis

And Saint Joseph, when he saw
Christ asleep upon the straw,
In great love he worshipped there
Mary and the Child she bore
\; \; \; \; \; Ave plena gratia
\; \; \; \; \; Ave Rosa Mundi

And the beasts that were around
Knelt upon the holy ground
And in dumb amazement they
Praised the Lord on Christmas Day
\; \; \; \; \; Omnia O Opera
\; \; \; \; \; Benedicite Dominum

But the ox that kneelèd down
Nearest to the manger-throne,
When Our Lady stroked his head,
He the Holy Credo said
\; \; \; \; \; “De Maria Virgine
\; \; \; \; \; Et est Homo factus”

And the shepherds that had heard
Of the coming of the Word
From the mouth of Gabriel
On their knees before Him fell
\; \; \; \; \; Sunt beati pauperi
\; \; \; \; \; Quorum Dei Regnum

Then the kings from out of the east
Started to the Birthday feast
Came and knelt, and, as is told,

— unfinished, ca. 1896—98.

Published in: on December 28, 2016 at 12:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Lines To A Young Girl Born Before April Fool’s Day

When March went out a lion or a lamb,
And you came in, a lamb or lioness
(For which you were, when in the cot or pram,
I do not know although I partly guess),
They gave you that strong name, with other mercies,
Especially no doubt to suit my verses.

My verses, which were then, as you are, young,
More numerous than now and even worse,
But then were things less glorious to be sung,
And several things more damnable to curse;
And so in rhymes I now find crude and scrappy,
I kicked the pessimists to make them happy.

Thank Heaven you missed, and men need tell you not,
What tosh was talked when you were very small,
When Decadence, which is the French for Rot,
Turned life to an irreverent funeral.
The leaden night of that long peace is dead
And we have seen the daybreak … very red.

England, unbroken of the evil kings,
Whose line is breaking in the breaking snow,
Open your ways to large and laughing things
And the young peace be with you where you go,
And far on that new spire, new sprung in space,
St. Michael of the morning give you grace.

The Spring is with us, whose new-made election
Leaps in the beeches that baptised our Field,
Walks in the woods the ways of resurrection
In a new world washed in the wind and healed;
Young as your ancient name, more strong than death,
Strength of the House of God, Elizabeth.

— (March, 1916).

Published in: on April 1, 2015 at 10:09 am  Comments (1)  

The Trinkets

A wandering world of rivers,
A wavering world of trees,
If the world grow dim and dizzy
With all changes and degrees,
It is but Our Lady’s mirror
Hung dreaming in its place,
Shining with only shadows
Till she wakes it with her face.

The standing whirlpool of the stars,
The wheel of all the world,
Is a ring on Our Lady’s finger
With the suns and moons empearled
With stars for stones to please her
Who sits playing with her rings
With the great heart that a woman has
And the love of little things.

Wings of the whirlwind of the world
From here to Ispahan,
Spurning the flying forests,
Are light as Our Lady’s fan:
For all things violent here and vain
Lie open and all at ease
Where God has girded heaven to guard
Her holy vanities.

— (1916-21).

Published in: on March 25, 2015 at 9:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Reparation

God is great: through the tangle of scorns
In ordered seasons of suns and snows;
Slowly the thousand crowns of thorns
Shall break and redden to crowns of rose.

God is great: with a myriad throats;
Doubt’s grey seas rise high and throng,
Yet all their noise is a note ‘mid notes
Struck in the chords of his own world-song.

God is great: but not most for these
For heavens in chaos and moons in blight
I see his glory, as one that sees
Measureless forces he reins aright.

At the roots of my heart lies brown and dry,
Bitten and fragrant, an old ‘too late’
The dark dumb heat of a buried cry,
And God shall answer it — God is great.

— (late 1890s).

Published in: on February 18, 2015 at 12:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Feast of Snow

There is heard a hymn when the panes are dim,
And never before or again,
When the nights are strong with a darkness long,
And the dark is alive with rain.

Never we know but in sleet and in snow,
The place where the great fires are,
That the midst of the earth is a raging mirth
And the heart of the earth a star.

And at night we win to the ancient inn
Where the Child in the frost is furled,
We follow the feet where all souls meet
At the inn at the end of the world.

The gods lie dead where the leaves lie red,
For the flame of the sun is flown,
The gods lie cold where the leaves lie gold,
And a Child comes forth alone.

— (1900).

Published in: on December 31, 2014 at 11:20 am  Leave a Comment  

The Holy of Holies

‘Elder Father, though thine eyes
\; Shine with hoary mysteries
Canst thou tell what in the heart
\; Of a cowslip blossom lies?’

‘Smaller than all lives that be
\; Secret as the deepest sea
Stands a little house of seeds
\; Like an Elfin’s granary.’

‘Speller of the Stones and Weeds,
\; Skilled in Nature’s Crafts and Creeds,
Tell me what is in the heart
\; Of the smallest of the seeds.’

‘God Almighty and with Him
\; Cherubim and Seraphim
\; \; Filling all Eternity —
\; \; \; Adonai Elohim.’

(mid 1890s).

Published in: on November 26, 2014 at 12:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

On the Death of Gertrude Blogg

Be this thing written, e’re I write
The record of the evil time:
That day my soul repented not
One idle hour, one braggart rhyme.

The grass brought up its million spears,
Aye — for the honour of our star,
Write that no thorn or thistledown
Failed me when I went forth to war.

Old tunes of revelry and sport
Dance on my deaf’ning drums of fight,
The hoarded sunlight of spring days
Blazed for my beacon all the night.

After, the days were grey and long,
But for the hour life battled well,
And all the trumpets of her tower
Answered the horns of Azrael.

We fought, although our dearest fell —
We stood, although the planets reeled —
No sullen doubts, no empty days
Can wipe that blazon from our shield.

And yet to me, doubtless to me —
The miracle of time shall come,
My thoughts grow light as thistledown
Once more: but after years in sum

God keep some mark upon my brow,
Though song be loud, though wine be red,
Of one who met Man’s oldest foe
And did not faint till he had fled.

— (1899).

Gertrude Blogg was the sister of Frances Blogg, whom Chesterton married in 1901. Gertrude died on 2 July 1899 after having been struck in the street by a horse-drawn omnibus.

Published in: on July 2, 2014 at 11:17 am  Leave a Comment  

The Calvary

In the dark of this cloud-laden even
Still upraised, son of man, still alone
Yea, ‘mid empires still shifting and breaking
This place is thine own.

All thrones are left fallen and naked
All treasures corrupt and all gains
O Prince of four nails and a gibbet
Thy Kingdom remains.

On an age full of noises and systems
Where comfortless craze follows craze
Where the passions are classified forces
Where man is a phrase.

On an age where the talkers are loudest
From thy silence, thy torment, thy power
O splendour of wrath and of pity
Look down for an hour.

Go hence: To your isles of the blessed
Go hence, with the songs that you sing:
For this is the kingdom of pity
And Christ is the king.

— (c.1892).

Published in: on April 16, 2014 at 9:56 am  Leave a Comment  

The Towers of Time

Under what withering leprous light
The very grass as hair is grey,
Grass in the cracks of the paven courts
Of gods we graved but yesterday.
Senate, republic, empire, all
We leaned our backs on like a wall
And blessed as strong as strong and blamed as stolid —
Can it be these that waver and fall?

And what is this like a ghost returning,
A dream grown strong in the strong daylight?
The all-forsaken, the unforgotten,
The ever-behind and out of sight.
We turned our backs and our blind flesh felt it
Growing and growing, a tower in height.

Ah, not alone the evil splendour
And not the insolent arms alone
Break with the ramrod, stiff and brittle,
The sceptre of the nordic throne:
But things of manlier renown
Reel in the wreck of throne and crown,
With tyrannous tyranny, tyrannous loyalty,
Tyrannous liberty, all gone down.

(There is never a crack in the ivory tower
Or a hinge to groan in the house of gold
Or a leaf of the rose in the wind to wither
And She grows young as the world grows old.
A Woman clothed with the sun returning
To clothe the sun when the sun is cold.)

Ah, who had guessed that in a moment
Great Liberty that loosed the tribes,
the Republic of the young men’s battles
Grew stale and stank of old men’s bribes;
And where we watched her smile in power
A statue like a starry tower
The stone face sneers as in a nightmare
Down on a world that worms devour.

(Archaic incredible dead dawns breaking
Deep in the deserts and waste and wealds,
Where the dead cry aloud on Our Lady of Victories,
Queen of the Eagles, aloft on the shields,
And the sun is gone up on the Thundering Legion
On the roads of Rome to the battlefields.)

Ah, who had known who had not seen
How soft and sudden on the fame
Of my most noble English ships
The sunset light of Carthage came
And the thing I never had dreamed could be
In the house of my fathers came to me
Through the sea-wall cloven, the cloud and dark,
A voice divided, a doubtful sea.

(The light is bright on the Tower of David,
The evening glows with the morning star
In the skies turned back and the days returning
She walks so near who had wandered far
And in the heart of the swords, the seven times wounded,
Was never wearied as our hearts are.)

How swift as with a fall of snow
New things grow hoary with the light.
We watch the wrinkles crawl like snakes
On the new image in our sight.
The lines that sprang up taut and bold
Sag like primordial monsters old,
Sink in the bas-reliefs of fossil
And the slow earth swallows them, fold on fold,

But light are the feet on the hills of the morning
Of the lambs that leap up to the Bride of the Sun,
And swift are the birds as the butterflies flashing
And sudden as laughter the rivulets run
And sudden for ever as summer lightning
the light is bright on the world begun.

Thou wilt not break as we have broken
The towers we reared to rival Thee.
More true to England than the English
More just to freedom than the free.
O trumpet of the intolerant truth
Thou art more full of grace and ruth
For the hopes of the world than the world that made them,
The world that murdered the loves of our youth.

Thou art more kind to our dreams, Our Mother,
Than the wise that wove us the dreams for shade.
God is more good to the gods that mocked Him
Than men are good to the gods they made.
Tenderer with toys than a boy grown brutal,
Breaking the puppets with which he played.

What are the flowers the garden guards not
And how but here should dreams return?
And how on hearths made cold with ruin
the wide wind-scattered ashes burn —
What is the home of the heart set free,
And where is the nesting of liberty,
And where from the world shall the world take shelter
And man be master, and not with Thee?

Wisdom is set in her throne of thunder,
The Mirror of Justice blinds the day —
Where are the towers that are not of the City,
Trophies and trumpetings, where are they?
Where over the maze of the world returning
The bye-ways bend to the King’s highway.

— (1925).

Published in: on January 15, 2014 at 6:46 am  Leave a Comment  

The House of Christmas

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost — how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.

This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

— (1905-14).

Published in: on December 25, 2013 at 11:54 am  Leave a Comment