The Riddle of Love

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There is but one thing

Which is both work and wage,

Both wound and healing,

Both journey and inn,

Both motive and method,

Both master and servant,

Both giving and receiving,

Both law and freedom,

Both antiquity and novelty,

Both tradition and revolution,

Both mystery and familiarity,

Both innocence and knowledge,

Both germ and consummation,

Both child and ancient,

Both origin and aim.

~ GK Chesterton, mid 1890’s

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How Hardly Things go Right

Alas, how easily things go wrong!

A sigh too much, or a kiss too long,

And there follows a mist and a weeping rain,

And life is never the same again.

Alas, how hardly things go right!

'Tis hard to watch on a summer night,

For the sigh will come and the kiss will stay,

And the summer night is a winter day.

—George MacDonald, Phantastes

GLORIA IN PROFUNDIS

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There has fallen on earth for a token

A god too great for the sky.

He has burst out of all things and broken

The bounds of eternity:

Into time and the terminal land

He has strayed like a thief or a lover,

For the wine of the world brims over,

Its splendour is spilt on the sand.

 
Who is proud when the heavens are humble,

Who mounts if the mountains fall,

If the fixed stars topple and tumble

And a deluge of love drowns all-

Who rears up his head for a crown,

Who holds up his will for a warrant,

Who strives with the starry torrent,

When all that is good goes down?

 
For in dread of such falling and failing

The fallen angels fell

Inverted in insolence, scaling

The hanging mountain of hell:

But unmeasured of plummet and rod

Too deep for their sight to scan,

Outrushing the fall of man

Is the height of the fall of God.

 
Glory to God in the Lowest

The spout of the stars in spate-

Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest

And the lightning fears to be late:

As men dive for sunken gem

Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,

The fallen star has found it

In the cavern of Bethlehem.

 
~G.K. Chesterton

A Wedding in War Time

 

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Our God who made two lovers in a garden,

And smote them separate and set them free,

Their four eyes wild for wonder and wrath and pardon

And their kiss thunder as lips of land and sea:

Each rapt unendingly beyond the other,

Two starry worlds of unknown gods at war,

Wife and not mate, a man and not a brother,

We thank thee thou hast made us what we are.

 

Make not the grey slime of infinity

To swamp these flowers thou madest one by one;

Let not the light that was thine enemy

Mix a mad twilight of the moon and sun;

Waken again to thunderclap and clamour

The wonder of our sundering and the song,

Or break our hearts with thine hell-shattering hammer

But leave a shade between us all day long.

 

Shade of high shame and honourable blindness

When youth, in storm of dizzy and distant things,

Finds the wild windfall of a little kindness

When the one head that turns the heavens in turning

Moves yet as lightly as a lingering bird,

And red and random, blown astray but burning,

Like a lost spark goes by the glorious word.

 

Make not this sex, this other side of things,

A thing less distant than the world’s desire;

What colour to the to the end of evening clings

And what far cry of frontiers and what fire

Fallen too far beyond the sun for seeking,

Let it divide us though our kingdom come;

With a far signal in our secret speaking

To hang the proud horizon in our home.

 

Once we were one, a shapeless cloud that lingers

Loading  the seas and shutting out the skies,

One with the woods, a monster of myriad fingers,

You laid on me no finger of surprise.

One with the stars, a god with myriad eyes,

I saw you nowhere and was blind for scorn:

One till the world was riven and the rise

Of the white days when you and I were born.

 

Darkens the world: the world-old fetters rattle;

And these that have no hope behind the sun

May feed like bondmen and may breed like cattle,

One in the darkness as the dead are one;

Us if the rended grave give up its glory

Trumpets shall summon asunder and face to face:

We will be strangers in so strange a story

And wonder, meeting in so wild a place.

 

Ah, not in vain or utterly for loss

Come even the black flag and the battle-hordes,

If these grey devils flee the sign of the cross

Even in the symbol of the crossing swords.

Nor shall death doubt Who made our souls alive

Swords meeting and not stakes set side by side,

Bade us in the sunburst and the thunder thrive

Earthquake and Dawn; the bridegroom and the bride.

 

Death and not dreams or doubt of things undying,

Of whose the holy hearth or whose the sword;

Though sacred spirits dissever in strong crying

Into Thy hands, but Thy two hands, O Lord,

Though not in Earth as once in Eden standing,

So plain again we see Thee what thou art,

As in this blaze, the blasting and the branding

of this wild wedding where we meet and part.

 

— GK Chesterton (1918-19)

 

 

 

A Second Childhood

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When all my days are ending

And I have no song to sing,

I think that I shall not be too old

To stare at everything;

As I stared once at a nursery door

Or a tall tree and a swing.

 
Wherein God’s ponderous mercy hangs

On all my sins and me,

Because He does not take away

The terror from the tree

And stones still shine along the road

That are and cannot be.

 
Men grow too old for love, my love,

Men grow too old for wine,

But I shall not grow too old to see

Unearthly daylight shine,

Changing my chamber’s dust to snow

Till I doubt if it be mine.

 
Behold, the crowning mercies melt,

The first surprises stay;

And in my dross is dropped a gift

For which I dare not pray:

That a man grow used to grief and joy

But not to night and day.

 
Men grow too old for love, my love,

Men grow too old for lies;

But I shall not grow too old to see

Enormous night arise,

A cloud that is larger than the world

And a monster made of eyes.

 
Nor am I worthy to unloose

The latchet of my shoe;

Or shake the dust from off my feet

Or the staff that bears me through

On ground that is too good to last,

Too solid to be true.

 
Men grow too old to woo, my love,

Men grow too old to wed;

But I shall not grow too old to see

Hung crazily overhead

Incredible rafters when I wake

And I find that I am not dead.

 
A thrill of thunder in my hair:

Though blackening clouds be plain,

Still I am stung and startled

By the first drop of the rain:

Romance and pride and passion pass

And these are what remain.

 
Strange crawling carpets of the grass,

Wide windows of the sky;

So in this perilous grace of God

With all my sins go I:

And things grow new though I grow old,

Though I grow old and die.

 

—GK Chesterton

Master, Thou Workest 

Master, thou workest with such common things—Low souls, weak hearts, I mean—and hast to use,

Therefore, such common means and rescuings,

That hard we find it, as we sit and muse,

To think thou workest in us verily:

Bad sea-boats we, and manned with wretched crews—

That doubt the captain, watch the storm-spray flee.

— George MacDonald

The Naked Seed

My heart is empty. All the fountains that should run

With longing, are in me
Dried up. In all my countryside there is not one
That drips to find the sea.
I have no care for anything thy love can grant
Except the moment’s vain
And hardly noticed filling of the moment’s want
And to be free of pain.
Oh, thou that art unwearying, that dost neither sleep
Nor slumber, who didst take
All care for Lazarus in the careless tomb, oh keep
Watch for me till I wake.
If thou think for me what I cannot think, if thou
Desire for me what I
Cannot desire, my soul’s interior Form, though now
Deep-buried, will not die,
—No more than the insensible dropp’d seed which grows
Through winter ripe for birth
Because, while it forgets, the heaven remembering throws
Sweet influence still on earth,
—Because the heaven, moved moth-like by thy beauty, goes
Still turning round the earth.

CS Lewis