The clotted woods are dim, the day
Ever expires and still expands:
The River finds its wandering way
From what unfathomable lands,
And God who made our hearts so great,
Our little hearts that hold the world,
Hangs this high moment with a weight
Of banners drooping, but not furled.
For we too broaden though we fade,
And we too deepen though we die,
Waste in what fashion we were made
And die of immortality –
And something rooted like the tree
Can hear unquelled, although it quiver,
Ancestral voices of the sea
That call the unreturning river.
Wide windows of the soul enlightened
Of these wide waters and the light –
Seeing whatever stars have brightened
Since eyes of men were sad and bright.
Fear not the dust or dusk hereafter
That darkens this dear land and leaves
The loves that found us and the laughter
Upon so many summer eves.
For not in rains of weeping rotten
Nor choked in thorns of thwarting, ends
The greatness of the unforgotten,
The silence of the pride of friends.
And sad with songs yet good and gay
And weak with no ignoble things
We look on this white waste of day
Where silence is alone and sings.
The clustered trees are all a cloud,
A vision and a voiceless wraith;
Fading in fulness, like a cloud
Of final thoughts that fade to faith:
But richer than the jewelled nights
That build beyond Southampton Bar
A ladder for the harbour-lights
From England to the evening star.
~ Chesterton, 1917
He speaks of good things, he speaks the truth, and he can put it into verse. Those three are monumental. But wait- there’s more; can you see it? He sees things in their true proportion (the big things big, and the small things small), and he does not forget any of the things that God has made. Not only does he make the right marks on a piece of paper, somehow when he hits those notes, an image, like a harmony, springs forth from the page. The picture comes to life, and we are suddenly transported to a larger space, dealing with real things at last. That’s what makes a man golden in my eyes. Few men hit the notes for me like Chesterton does. (Two others are headlined in this group.) Thank God for the golden ones- they show us the way. Not from a pedestal on high, but simply- and beautifully, as fellow travelers and brothers of the road, who have gone before.
*Chesterton accompanied Winston Churchill on a trip to Warsash on the Solent. Freda Spencer, Churchill’s cousin and Chesterton’s secretary, fell into the water and was rescued by her cousin, who was inspecting sea-plane production. (The Collected Works, Vol. X, 3)