The Ballad of the White Horse

[The Blessed Virgin appears to King Alfred, and he asks her if he is going to win the upcoming battle. Her reply is not what he expects.]

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 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. . .

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?

~G.K. Chesterton: excerpt from The Ballad of the White Horse.

With notes and introduction by Sister Bernadette Sheridan, IHM

G.K. Chesterton's The Ballad of the White Horse is one of the last great epic poems in the English language, a dramatic account of King Alfred's battle against the Danes in 878. But it is also a timeless allegory about the ongoing battle between Christianity and the forces of nihilistic heathenism. Filled with colorful characters, thrilling battles and mystical visions, it is as lively as it is profound.

"This deluxe volume is the definitive edition of the poem. It exactly reproduces the 1928 edition with Robert Austin’s beautiful woodcuts, and includes a thorough introduction and wonderful endnotes by Sister Bernadette Sheridan, from her 60 years researching the poem." ─Ignatius Press

"Sister Sheridan's fine edition of the Ballad will be read and re-read with delight. The voluminous notes are of special value to the young reader, and every Christian school and home school will want to add this volume to their short list of books that are essential reading." ─Fr. Ian Boyd, C.S.B.

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Ignatius Press