Sunday, 7 January 2018

'The Aristocrat' and other poems - by G.K.Chesterton.


Wishing one and all a very happy and blessed New Year.

I was recently talking to Brother Dominic Mary F.SS.R, from our good neighbours at Golgotha Monastery, Papa Stronsay, on the subject of G.K.Chesterton,  when out of the blue and quite spontaneously, he recounted to me the warning tale of the Aristocrat, who was not all that he might seem:-

The Aristocrat

The Devil is a gentleman, and asks you down to stay
At his little place at ‘What’sitsname’ (it isn’t far away).
They say the sport is splendid; there is always something new,
And fairy scenes, and fearful feats that none but he can do;
He can shoot the feathered cherubs if they fly on the estate,
Or fish for Father Neptune with the mermaids for a bait;
He scaled amid the staggering stars, that precipice the sky,
And blew his trumpet above heaven, and got by mastery
The starry crown of God Himself, and shoved it on the shelf;
But the Devil is a gentleman, and doesn’t brag himself.

O blind your eyes and break your heart and back your hand away,
And lose your love and shave your head; but do not go to stay
At the little place in ‘What’sitsname’ where folks are rich and clever;
The golden and the goodly house, where things grow worse for ever;
There are things you need not know of, though you live and die in vain,
There are souls more sick of pleasure than you are sick of pain;
There is a game of April Fool that’s played behind its door,
Where the fool remains for ever and the April comes no more,

Where the splendour of the daylight grows drearier than the dark,
And life droops like a vulture that once was such a lark:
And that is the Blue Devil that once was the Blue Bird;
For the Devil is a gentleman, and doesn’t keep his word.

                                                               G K Chesterton

NB. I was so impressed by Brother Dominic’s virtuosity, that I decided to post this work as a reminder to myself, and indeed everyone, that aristocrats, no more nor less than others, are not always what they seem!  Thank you Brother, for the warning!

This poem  has left me wanting more, so I dedicate this first post of the New Year to a little more of GKC’s poetry, of similar ilk.

The Song of the Children

The world is ours till sunset,
Holly and fire and snow;
And the name of our dead brother
Who loved us long ago.

The grown folk, mighty and cunning,
They write his name in gold;
But we can tell a little
Of the million tales he told.

He taught them laws and watchwords,
To preach and struggle and pray;
But he taught us deep in the hayfield
The games that the angels play.

Had he stayed here for ever,
Their world would be wise as ours –
And the king be cutting capers,
And the priest be picking flowers.

But the dark day came: they gathered:
On their faces we could see
They had taken and slain our brother,
And hanged him on a tree.

                 G K Chesterton

The Holy of Holies

‘Elder father, though thine eyes
Shine with hoary mysteries,
Canst thou tell me 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.’

           G K Chesterton


Commercial Candour
(on the outside of a sensational novel is printed the statement:
  “ the back of the cover will tell you the plot”)

Our fathers to creed and tradition were tied,
They opened a book to see what was inside,
And of various methods they deemed not the worst
Was to find the first chapter and look at it first.
And so from the first to the second they passed,
Till in servile routine they arrived at the last.
But a literate age, unbenighted by creed,
Can find on two boards all it wishes to read;
For the front of the cover shows somebody shot
And the back of the cover will tell you the plot.

Between, that the book may be handily padded,
Some pages of mere printed matter are added,
Expanding the theme, which in case of great need
The curious reader might very well read
With the zest that is lent to a game worth the winning,
By knowing the end when you start the beginning:
While our barbarous sires, who would read every word
With a morbid desire to find out what occurred
Went drearily drudging through Dickens and Scott.
But the back of the cover will tell you the plot.

The wild village folk in earth’s earliest prime
Could often sit still for an hour at a time
And hear a blind beggar, nor did the tale pall
Because Hector must fight before Hector could fall;
Nor was Scheherazade required, at the worst,
To tell her tales backwards and finish them first;
And the minstrels who sang about battle and banners
Found the rude camp-fire crowd had some notion of manners.
Till Forster (who pelted the people like crooks,
The Irish with buckshot, the English with books),
Established the great educational scheme
Of compulsory schooling, that glorious theme.
Some learnt how to read, and the others forgot,
And the back of the cover will tell you the plot.

O Genius of Business!  O marvellous brain,
Come in place of the priests and the warriors to reign!
O Will to Get On that makes everything go –
O Hustle!  O Pep!  O Publicity!  O!
Shall I spend three and sixpence to purchase the book,
Which we all can pick up on the bookstall and look?
Well, it may appear strange, but I think I shall not,
For the back of the cover will tell you the plot.

                                      G.K.Chesterton


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