Lecture 93: Laughing in Rhyme

G.K. Chesterton’s first book was nonsense poetry. His first book of prose had an essay in defense of nonsense. W.H. Auden did not encounter that first book, Greybeards at Play, until about seventy five years later. He said that it contained “some of the best pure nonsense verse in English.” He went on to say, [...]

Lecture 51: The Collected Poems

When his Collected Poems appeared in 1927, G.K. Chesterton had been recognized as a major English poet for well over a decade. Most of the poems in this collection had already been published in book form, including the charmers such as “The Donkey,” the rousers such as “Lepanto,” and the epic Ballad of the White Horse. However, [...]

Lecture 38: The Ballad of St. Barbara and Other Poems

While Chesterton's prose is usually rewarding on the first reading, his poetry often demands two or three readings before it really starts bearing fruit. There is much to miss the first time around and always more to discover upon returning again and again. It is a pity that so much of it is not only [...]

Lecture 21: The Ballad of the White Horse

Chesterton may have considered The Ballad of the White Horse his greatest literary accomplishment. I have two reasons for saying that. First of all, it is a masterpiece. But it was the only one of his works that he felt worthy enough to dedicate to his wife. The Ballad of the White Horse is one [...]

Oscar Wilde

The time has certainly come when this extraordinary man, Oscar Wilde, may be considered merely as a man of letters. He sometimes pretended that art was more important than morality, but that was mere play-acting. Morality or immorality was more important than art to him and everyone else. But the very cloud of tragedy that [...]

The Song of Right and Wrong

Feast on wine or fast on water And your honour shall stand sure, God Almighty's son and daughter He the valiant, she the pure; If an angel out of heaven Brings you other things to drink, Thank him for his kind attentions, Go and pour them down the sink. Tea is like the East he [...]

Elegy in a Country Churchyard

The men that worked for England They have their graves at home: And bees and birds of England About the cross can roam. But they that fought for England, Following a falling star, Alas, alas for England They have their graves afar. And they that rule in England, In stately conclave met, Alas, alas for [...]

A Hymn: O God of Earth and Altar

O God of earth and altar, Bow down and hear our cry, Our earthly rulers falter, Our people drift and die; The walls of gold entomb us, The swords of scorn divide, Take not thy thunder from us, But take away our pride.   From all that terror teaches, From lies of tongue and pen, [...]

The Rolling English Road

Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode, The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road. A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire, And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire; A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread The [...]

A Child of the Snows

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 [...]