Last week The Garners posted about G.K. Chesterton’s Ballad of the White Horse, which caused me to dig out my cassette tapes of the author reading his own poem — how thrilling! Too bad they were made from a scratchy recording so that it’s very hard to appreciate the poem itself. Still, the directness of the connection to the very voice and person of the poet mean a lot to me.
What made me interested in the Ballad in the first place was taking a trip to Britain with daughter Pippin nine years ago. We both very much wanted to see White Horse Hill in Uffington while we were there, and we found it quite empty of any other humans the day we visited. We hiked up the hill to the chalk art that is thought to be 2,000 to 3,000 years old, and wandered around the horse’s anatomy. We couldn’t pull ourselves away. I just could not get over — here it is again — the earthy material link to ancient peoples and the mysteries of their culture and history.
One thing we share with the ancient people who carved the trenches of this design is human nature, the gifts of the Creator who made us in His image, glorious even in a tarnished condition. The horse reveals the creative aspect of that image, and Chesterton’s ballad shows his own artistry while it tells a human and Christian tale set in King Alfred’s day. The imagery in this stanza, which I think pertinent to the Lenten season, illuminates another aspect of our humanity that we share with our ancestors: the impulse to stand before God in worship, fighting with the desire to be God:
Pride juggles with her toppling towers,
They strike the sun and cease,
But the firm feet of humility
They grip the ground like trees.
–G.K. Chesterton, The Ballad of the White Horse
Thinking again about this world history and my history, I want to revisit the horse vicariously, by means of the poem slightly more removed from the poet than my old cassettes. So I just ordered this edition
of the book, which I think is the one I bought two copies of in the past for gifts. The American Chesterton Society will be sending me this CD
, read by Aidan Mackey, who sounds as though he is very likely, once I put that disk in the player, to send me right back to England and White Horse Hill.
[update: the recording was annoyingly scratchy and almost as bad as the old one of GKC himself. 😦 ]
Linking up to Weekends With Chesterton