Warsash, 1917

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.

~Watergirl 🌸

*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)

When the Sleepers Shall Rise

“The stars are spinning their threads,

And the clouds are the dust that flies,

And the suns are weaving them up

For the time when the sleepers shall rise.

The ocean in music rolls,

And gems are turning to eyes,

And the trees are gathering souls

For the day when the sleepers shall rise.

The weepers are learning to smile,

And laughter to glean the sighs;

Burn and bury the care and guile,

For the day when the sleepers shall rise.

Oh, the dews and the moths and the daisy red,

The larks and the glimmers and flows!

The lilies and sparrows and daily bread,

And the something that nobody knows!”

– George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie (Chapter 8)

ADVENIAT REGNUM TUUM

Not that the widespread wings of wrong brood o’er a moaning earth,

Not from the clinging curse of gold, the random lot of birth;

Not from the misery of the weak, the madness of the strong,

Goes upward from our lips the cry, “How long, oh Lord, how long?”

Not only from the huts of toil, the dens of sin and shame,

From lordly halls and peaceful homes the cry goes up the same;

Deep in the heart of every man, where’er his life be spent,

There is a noble weariness, a holy discontent.

Where’er to mortal eyes has come, in silence dark and lone,

Some glimmer of the far-off light the world has never known,

Some ghostly echoes from a dream of earth’s triumphal song,

Then as the vision fades we cry, “How long, oh Lord, how long?”

Long ages, from the dawn of time, men’s toiling march has wound

Towards the world they ever sought, the world they never found;

Still far before their toiling path the glimmering promise lay,

Still hovered round the struggling race, a dream by night and day.

Mid darkening care and clinging sin they sought their unknown home,

Yet ne’er the perfect glory came—Lord, will it ever come?

The weeding of earth’s garden broad from all its growths of wrong,

When all man’s soul shall be a prayer, and all his life a song.

Aye, though through many a starless night we guard the flaming oil,

Though we have watched a weary watch, and toiled a weary toil,

Though in the midnight wilderness, we wander still forlorn,

Yet bear we in our hearts the proof that God shall send the dawn.

Deep in the tablets of our hearts he writes that yearning still,

The longing that His hand hath wrought shall not his hand fulfil?

Though death shall close upon us all before that hour we see,

The goal of ages yet is there—the good time yet to be:

Therefore, tonight, from varied lips, in every house and home,

Goes up to God the common prayer, “Father, Thy Kingdom come.”

G.K. Chesterton – 17 years old

The Spirit of Love

There breathes not a breath from the morning air,

But the Spirit of Love is moving there,

Not a trembling leaf on the shadowy tree

Mingled with thousands in harmony;

But the Spirit of God doth make the sound.

And the thoughts of the insect that creepeth around

And the sunshiny butterflies come and go.

Like beautiful thoughts moving to and fro;

And not a wave of their busy wings

Is unknown to the Spirit that moveth all things.

And the long-mantled moths, that sleep at noon-

All have one being that loves them all;

Not a fly in the spider’s web can fall,

But He cares for the spider and cares for the fly;

And He cares for each little child’s smile or sigh.

How it can be, I cannot know;

He is wiser than I; and it must be so.

– George MacDonald

Nearly They Stood

Nearly they stood who fall.
Themselves, when they look back
see always in the track
One torturing spot where all
By a possible quick swerve
Of will yet unenslaved–
By the infinitesimal twitching of a nerve–
Might have been saved.

Nearly they fell who stand.
These with cold after-fear
Look back and note how near
They grazed the Siren’s land
Wondering to think that fate
By threads so spidery-fine
The choice of ways so small, the event so great
Should thus entwine.

Therefore I sometimes fear
Lest oldest fears prove true
Lest, when no bugle blew
My mort, when skies looked clear
I may have stepped one hair’s
Breadth past the hair-breadth bourn
Which, being once crossed forever unawares
Forbids return.

C.S. Lewis, Poems; Nearly They Stood, The Pilgrim’s Regress (1933)

To Hilaire Belloc

For every tiny town or place

God made the stars especially;
Babies look up with owlish face
And see them tangled in a tree:
You saw a moon from Sussex Downs,
A Sussex moon, untravelled still,
I saw a moon that was the town’s,
The largest lamp on Campden Hill.

Yea; Heaven is everywhere at home
The big blue cap that always fits,
And so it is (be calm; they come
To goal at last, my wandering wits),
So is it with the heroic thing;
This shall not end for the world’s end,
And though the sullen engines swing,
Be you not much afraid, my friend.

This did not end by Nelson’s urn
Where an immortal England sits
—
Nor where your tall young men in turn
Drank death like wine at Austerlitz.
And when the pedants bade us mark
What cold mechanic happenings
Must come; our souls said in the dark,
”
Belike; but there are likelier things.”

Likelier across these flats afar
These sulky levels smooth and free
The drums shall crash a waltz of war
And Death shall dance with Liberty;
Likelier the barricades shall blare
Slaughter below and smoke above,
And death and hate and hell declare
That men have found a thing to love.

Far from your sunny uplands set
I saw the dream; the streets I trod
The lit straight streets shot out and met
The starry streets that point to God.
This legend of an epic hour
A child I dreamed, and dream it still,
Under the great grey water-tower
That strikes the stars on Campden Hill.

G. K. C.

The Shapes

A Confession

I am so coarse, the things the poets see

Are obstinately invisible to me.

For twenty years I’ve stared my level best

To see if evening — any evening — would suggest

A patient etherized upon a table;

In vain. I simply wasn’t able.

To me each evening looked far more

Like the departure from a silent, yet a crowded, shore

Of a ship whose freight was everything, leaving behind

Gracefully, finally, without farewells, marooned mankind.

Red dawn behind a hedgerow in the east

Never, for me, resembled in the least

A chilblain on a cocktail-shaker’s nose;

Waterfalls don’t remind me of torn underclothes,

Nor glaciers of tin-cans. I’ve never known

The moon look like a hump-backed crone–

Rather, a prodigy, even now

Not naturalized, a riddle glaring from the Cyclops’ brow

Of the cold world, reminding me on what a place

I crawl and cling, a planet with no bulwarks, out in space.

Never the white sun of the wintriest day

Struck me as un crachat d’estaminet.

I’m like that odd man Wordsworth knew, to whom

A primrose was a yellow primrose, one whose doom

Keeps him forever in the list of dunces,

Compelled to live on stock responses,

Making the poor best that I can

Of dull things… peacocks, honey, the Great Wall, Aldebaran

Silver weirs, new-cut grass, wave on the beach, hard gem,

The shapes of horse and woman, Athens, Troy, Jerusalem.

– C.S. Lewis

Lewis found Mr. Eliot’s Comparison of an evening to a patient on an operating table unpleasant, one example of the decay of proper feelings. He mistrusted, in fact, the free play of mere immediate experience. He believed, rather, that man’s attitudes and actions should be governed by, what he calls in the same poem, Stock Responses (e.g. love is sweet, death bitter, and virtue lovely). Man must, for his own safety and pleasure, be taught to copy the Stock Responses in hopes that he may, by willed imitation, make the proper responses. He found this perfectly summed up in Aristotle’s “We learn how to do things by doing the things we are learning to do.”

(Exerpt from the preface to Poems, by Walter Hooper.)