By In Politics

Happy 142nd, GKC!

One-Hundred and forty-two years ago this Sunday, Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born in Kensington, England.  I tend to keep track of the anniversary of his birth, because I was born 100 years and 2 days later.  (It would be way cooler if the “2 days” part was not there, but it is what it is.)

Since you’re here, and given the small amount of time you have to devote to reading blog posts, I am going to give you the gift of brevity for Mr. Chesterton’s birthday, i.e. I’m going to hush and let GKC speak for himself.  If the best gift you can give an author is to quote him, then Mr. Chesterton, having perfected the art of quotability, must be one of the easiest people in the world to buy for.

Below is a sampling of his poetry. Although it is not his best-known genre, it is one of my favorites.  Also, through his poems, you can instill a love for him in your children that may be hard to accomplish through prose while they are young.  My children will not remember the day before they heard the following three poems, and I can’t imagine them ever wanting to.

Hint: For maximum enjoyment, read the poems aloud.  The words take shape when they’re spoken that cannot be formed in your brain.  If you don’t believe me, try it both ways.  I think you’ll like them better aloud. So will your kids.  (Your best, fake, British accent doesn’t hurt either.)

The Englishman

St George he was for England,
And before he killed the dragon
He drank a pint of English ale
Out of an English flagon.
For though he fast right readily
In hair-shirt or in mail,
It isn’t safe to give him cakes
Unless you give him ale.

St George he was for England,
And right gallantly set free
The lady left for dragon’s meat
And tied up to a tree;
But since he stood for England
And knew what England means,
Unless you give him bacon
You mustn’t give him beans.

St George he is for England,
And shall wear the shield he wore
When we go out in armour
With battle-cross before.
But though he is jolly company
And very pleased to dine,
It isn’t safe to give him nuts
Unless you give him wine.

Here’s our second favorite.  If you have an interpretation, we’d love to hear it.  If not, that’s okay. We’ll never love it any less.

The Song of Quoodle

They haven’t got no noses,
The fallen sons of Eve;
Even the smell of roses
Is not what they supposes;
But more than mind discloses
And more than men believe.

They haven’t got no noses,
They cannot even tell
When door and darkness closes
The park a Jew encloses,
Where even the law of Moses
Will let you steal a smell.

The brilliant smell of water,
The brave smell of a stone,
The smell of dew and thunder,
The old bones buried under,
Are things in which they blunder
And err, if left alone.

The wind from winter forests,
The scent of scentless flowers,
The breath of brides’ adorning,
The smell of snare and warning,
The smell of Sunday morning,
God gave to us for ours

* * * * *

And Quoodle here discloses
All things that Quoodle can,
They haven’t got no noses,
They haven’t got no noses,
And goodness only knowses
The Noselessness of Man.

And finally, for all good things come in threes, a new family favorite from Chesterton’s collection, Greybeards at Play,

Of the Dangers Attending Altruism on the High Seas

Observe these Pirates bold and gay,
that sail a gory sea
notice their bright expression: —
the handsome one is me.

We plundered ships and harbours,
we spoiled the Spanish main;
but Nemesis watched over us,
for it began to rain.

Oh all well-meaning folk take heed
Our Captain’s fate was sore
a more well-meaning Pirate,
had never dripped with gore.

The rain was pouring long and loud,
the sea was drear and dim;
a little fish was floating there
our Captain pitied him.

“How sad,” he said, and dropped a tear,
splash on the cabin roof,
“that we are dry, while he is there
without a waterproof.”

“We’ll get him up on board at once;
for Science teaches me,
he will be wet if he remains
much longer in the sea.

They fished him out; the First Mate wept,
and came with rugs and ale:
the Boatswain brought him one golosh,
and fixed it on his tail.

But yet he never loved the ship;
against the mast he’d lean:
if spoken to, he coughed and smiled,
and blushed a pallid green.

Though plied with hardbake, beef and beer,
he showed no wish to sup:
the neatest riddles they could ask,
he always gave them up.

They seized him and court-martialled him,
in some excess of spleen,
for lack of social sympathy,
(Victoria XII. 18).

They gathered every evidence
that might remove a doubt:
they wrote a postcard in his name,
and partly scratched it out.

Till, when his guilt was clear as day,
with all formality,
they doomed the traitor to be drowned,
and threw him In the sea.

The flashing sunset, as he sank,
made every scale a gem;
and, turning with a graceful bow,
he kissed his fin to them.

MORAL

I am, I think I have remarked,
terrifically old
(the second Ice-age was a farce,
the first was rather cold).

A friend of mine, a Trilobite,
had gathered in his youth,
when Trilobites were Trilobites,
this all-important truth.

We aged ones play solemn parts —
sire — guardian — uncle — king.
Affection is the salt of life,
kindness a noble thing.

The old alone may comprehend
a sense in my decree;
but — if you find a fish on land,
oh throw it in the sea.

So, happy 139th birthday to Mr. Gilbert Keith Chesterton.  I can’t wait to buy him a cigar and hear what he’s been writing since he entered into glory.

Link to free, biographical lecture of G.K. Chesterton by Dr. George Grant

Link to free copy of “Wine, Water, and Song,” for Kindle

Link to hard copy of Chesterton’s early poetry on Amazon

One Response to Happy 142nd, GKC!

  1. Roger Cole says:

    Absolutes love the Poem. He was a whole lot like the theologians- Not really “Right” in the head.

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