16 October 2010

On the Eve of Battle

By the yawning tree in the twilight
The King unbound his sword,
Severed the harp of all his goods,
And there in the cool and soundless woods
Sounded a single chord.

Then laughed; and watched the finches flash,
The sullen flies in swarm,
And went unarmed over the hills,
With the harp upon his arm,

Until he came to the White Horse Vale

And saw across the plains,
In the twilight high and far and fell,
Like the fiery terraces of hell,
The camp fires of the Danes--

The fires of the Great Army
That was made of iron men,
Whose lights of sacrilege and scorn
Ran around England red as morn,
Fires over Glastonbury Thorn--
Fires out on Ely Fen.


King Alfred gazed all sorrowful
At thistle and mosses grey,
Then laughed; and watched the finches flash,
Till a rally of Danes with shield and bill
Rolled drunk over the dome of the hill,
And, hearing of his harp and skill,
They dragged him to their play.

And as they went through the high green grass
They roared like the great green sea;
But when they came to the red camp fire
They were silent suddenly.

And as they went up the wastes away
They went reeling to and fro;
But when they came to the red camp fire
They stood all in a row.


He sang of war in the warm wet shires,
Where rain nor fruitage fails,
Where England of the motley states
Deepens like a garden to the gates
In the purple walls of Wales.

He sang of the seas of savage heads
And the seas and seas of spears,
Boiling all over Offa's Dyke,
What time a Wessex club could strike
The kings of the mountaineers.

--G.K. Chesterton, The Ballad of the White Horse


Oh, yes, a reminder-- the Inaugural St. Lawrence Gridiron Classic Battle of the Oratories, Sunday, 2 pm, at Priory


Anonymous said...

The pre-game prayer of the Oratory of Ss. Francis and Augustine, Psalm 58:

O God, shatter their teeth in their mouth;

Break out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD.

Let them flow away like water that runs off;

When he aims his arrows, let them be as headless shafts.

Let them be as a snail which melts away as it goes along,

Like the miscarriages of a woman which never see the sun.

Before your pots can feel the fire of thorns

He will sweep them away with a whirlwind, the green and the burning alike.

The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance;

He will wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.

And men will say, "Surely there is a reward for the righteous;

Surely there is a God who judges on earth!"

thetimman said...

Wow! I guess I'll bring my mouthguard.

Anonymous said...

Well, who won?