June 13, 2009


Epic Chesterton (Hal G.P. Colebatch, 6.11.09, American Spectator)

What is perhaps his greatest imaginative book, The Ballad of the White Horse, is available from Ignatius Press in San Francisco.

In its style, though not in its ultimate concerns, The Ballad of the White Horse is a rather different work from the adventures of Father Brown. It is not perfect as poetry but it is one of those works -- there are not very many -- that can actually change the reader's life and is a perennial source of inspiration and hope.

Some say Chesterton wrote it in inspired haste over a few days, though the introduction to the present edition says it took ten years. It was published in 1911, and is a vast (173-page), sweeping, heroic account in ballad form of King Alfred the Great's hopeless war, crushing defeat and final "eucastrophic" victory over the Great Army of the marauding Danes in "the Thornland of Ethandune" about a thousand years ago, a victory which saved English-speaking civilization from being murdered in its cradle, and saved us, as Chesterton put it earlier, "from being savages forever." A book-length poem is not the most likely of publishing propositions, but for those in the know about it, The Ballad of the White Horse has enjoyed sales for nearly a hundred years. The present edition is embellished with wood-cut illustrations and notes, though the latter seem hardly necessary: the poem speaks for itself.

It is a poem that can be read by anyone in need of inspiration and encouragement in dark times.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 13, 2009 9:00 AM
blog comments powered by Disqus