The Reproductive final was this morning, so I was studying furiously on Saturday; for once the law of cause and effect worked simply, and the test was easier.Yesterday I picked up my collection of G.K. Chesterton’s poems by way of passing the time. This is my souvenir from when my family visited Paris, and we walked all around the city (it was usually simpler to walk than to take the metro, because by the time my parents had finished figuring out the rainbow-colored tracks, and we had walked down several wrong stairs, and carried the stroller over the barriers backwards – well, walking was simpler), and discovered on the bank of the Seine a bookstore called Shakespeare and Company. And of course we – I! – couldn’t walk by. So we went in; somehow my parents got us out of there with only two books, Chesterton and John Donne; but they have an authentic Shakespeare and Company stamp in the front!
I love Chesterton because he’s so politically incorrect about Muslims. He’s gleeful about the Crusades, and I’m sure it never even occurred to him to feel guilty about it. Here’s a quotation from the poem “Lepanto,” about how Don John of Austria sailed to rescue Christendom from Turkish pirates.¬†(“The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;/ The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the mass/. . . Don John of Austria is going to the war.”) This is Mahound’s reaction in paradise to the news of Don John’s expedition:
‘. . . It is he that saith not ‘Kismet’; it is he that knows not fate; It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey in the gate! It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth, Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth.’
The Crusader Returns from Captivity
I have come forth alive from the land of purple and poison and glamour, Where the charm is strong as the torture, being chosen to change the mind; Torture of wordless dance and wineless feast without clamour, Palace hidden in palace, garden with garden behind.
Women veiled in the sun, or bare as brass in the shadows, And the endless eyeless patterns where each thing seems an eye. . . And my stride is on Caesar’s sand where it slides to the English meadows, To the last low woods of Sussex and the road that goes to Rye.
In the cool and careless woods the eyes of the eunuchs burned not, But the wild hawk went before me, being free to return or roam, The hills had broad unconscious backs; and the tree-tops turned not, And the huts were heedless of me; and I knew I was at home.
And I saw my lady afar and her holy freedom upon her, A head, without veil, averted, and not to be turned with charms, And I heard above bannerets blown the intolerant trumpets of honour, That usher with iron laughter the coming of Christian arms.
My shield hangs stainless still; but I shall not go where they praise it, A sword is still at my side, but I shall not ride with the King. Only to walk and to walk and to stun my soul and amaze it, A day with the stone and the sparrow and every marvellous thing.
I have trod the curves of the Crescent, in the maze of them that adore it, Curved around doorless chambers and unbeholden abodes, But I walk in the maze no more; on the sign of the cross I swore it, The wild white cross of freedom, the sign of the white cross-road.
And the land shall leave me or take, and the Woman take me or leave me, There shall be no more Night, or nightmares seen in a glass; But life shall hold me alive, and Death shall never deceive me As long as I walk in England in the lanes that let me pass.
Isn’t that fun? “The intolerant trumpets of honour”!
I guess that’s enough for one post. You should also read the poem of Saint Barbara, the patron saint of gunners, because she insisted on having three windows in her tower (for the Trinity), and was martyred as a result; and the epic poem of King Alfred and white chalk horse; and the song of the unborn baby, who promises to be good, if let out into Fairyland, where the hills are covered with green hair and the trees somehow grow taller than the flowers.