Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"Do you have joy without a cause, yea, faith without a hope?"

Once again, this is a post which I began some time ago and never finished.  I am no longer writing the essay in question - it has long since been graded, and I got an A, so you should listen to me when I talk about it.

The eponymous White Horse. (via google images)
I am continuing my time-honored tradition of procrastinating on English essays by writing about the subject of the essay here on my blog.  (See here, here, here, and here.)  It's like a passive-aggressive reaction or something.  I dunno.

This time the essay - and thus the blog post - is about my favorite epic poem in the history of ever - namely, The Ballad of the White Horse.  What's so great about it, you ask? Well, first and foremost, IT'S CHESTERTON.  I have about as much respect for him as I do for Tolkien, though in rather different ways.  Chesterton's intellect is intimidating, but that doesn't mean he's difficult and boring.  Au contraire.  His writing is the most hilarious, colorful, gorgeous thing that you can imagine.  But anyway, back to the the Ballad.  Just in case you don't really know or "get" what it's about, I'll give you a bit of a synopsis. 

The Ballad of the White Horse is the tale of King Alfred the Great of England and his battle against the Danish invaders in the ninth century.  On a greater scale, however, it is the endless story of the struggle betwixt good and evil, Christian and pagan.  Religion, history, legend, and myth blend seamlessly into an epic poem deserving of the name.

There.  Publishers should totally employ me to write their blurbs.

Really, I hardly know what else to say.  Does that every happen to you, where you like something so much that you don't know what to say about it? Maybe not.

I suppose the best thing is to let it speak for itself.  Here's my favorite part, which also happens to be the most famous, thanks in part to a certain Regina Doman, whose novel The Shadow of the Bear included the first stanza about the Men of the East.  That was actually the way I was introduced to the poem, and as it is quite lovely, it sparked my interest, so thank you, Mrs. Doman.

To give you some background, this is Our Lady speaking to King Alfred in a vision.

"The gates of heaven are lightly locked,
We do not guard our gold,
Men may uproot where worlds begin,
Or read the name of the nameless sin;
But if he fail or if he win
To no good man is told.

"The men of the East may spell the stars,
And times and triumphs mark,
But the men signed of the cross of Christ
Go gaily in the dark.

"The men of the East may search the scrolls
For sure fates and fame,
But the men that drink the blood of God
Go singing to their shame.

"The wise men know what wicked things
Are written on the sky,
They trim sad lamps, they touch sad strings,
Hearing the heavy purple wings,
Where the forgotten seraph kings
Still plot how God shall die.

"The wise men know all evil things
Under the twisted trees,
Where the perverse in pleasure pine
And men are weary of green wine
And sick of crimson seas.

"But you and all the kind of Christ
Are ignorant and brave,
And you have wars you hardly win
And souls you hardly save.

"I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.

"Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?"

Isn't it just lovely?  Maybe it's just me, but I think it makes you feel very strong and fearless, like you could withstand anything in the strength of the Faith .  I don't know why.  Paradoxes (like "joy without a cause" and "faith without a hope") just really appeal to me.

Now to make this a proper book review.  I give it 5 out of 5 stars, suitable for....erm, anyone who can understand it, really.  In general, I'd say highschool level.

Have you read The Ballad of the White Horse? (If you haven't, go get it now.  You can read it on Project Gutenberg here, if you like.) What did you think of it, if you did read it?  And have you read any of Regina Doman's books?


  1. Well I am doing that report at this time and, although I enjoy it, I truely don't understand what is happening or who is speaking half of the time.

    1. Aww, that's a pity. If there's any particular thing I could help with, let me know!

    2. thank you very much I will let you know the next time I have a problem that is holding me back!

  2. I love this! I read this book for school just a semester ago. It IS extremely lovely... I think later I'll re-read it just for fun!

    Aspirer ♥

  3. I know you're not a big one for awards and tags and such, but I awarded you over at my blog! :)



Your comments make my day! I read every single one of them, and I'll usually check out my commenters' blogs, if I don't follow them already. I try to reply to my comments, but please don't be offended if I don't make it to yours. Procrastination habits do extend to comment replies, unfortunately.

Of course, courtesy is necessary. I will delete any comments which do not meet my requirements.

Thanks for making the effort to tell me your thoughts!

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