Poem of the Week: “Mediaevalism”

"Man in Armor" by Rembrandt van Rijn. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
“Man in Armor” by Rembrandt van Rijn. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

What do you mean I post too much G. K. Chesterton? IS there such a thing as too much G. K. Chesterton?!


by G. K. Chesterton

If men should rise and return to the noise and time of the tourney,
The name and fame of the tabard, the tangle of gules and gold,
Would these things stand and suffice for the bourne of a backward journey,
A light on our days returning, as it was in the days of old?

Nay, there is none rides back to pick up a glove or a feather,
Though the gauntlet rang with honour or the plume was more than a crown:
And hushed is the holy trumpet that called the nations together
And under the Horns of Hattin the hope of the world went down.

Ah, not in remembrance stored, but out of oblivion starting,
Because you have sought new homes and all that you sought is so,
Because you had trodden the fire and barred the door in departing,
Returns in your chosen exile the glory of long ago.

Not then when you barred the door, not then when you trod the embers,
But now, at your new road’s end, you have seen the face of a fate,
That not as a child looks back, and not as a fool remembers,
All that men took too lightly and all that they love too late.

It is you that have made no rubric for saints, no raiment for lovers,
Your caps that cry for a feather, your roofs that sigh for a spire:
Is it a dream from the dead if your own decay discovers
Alive in your rotting graveyard the worm of the world’s desire?

Therefore the old trees tower, that the green trees grow and are stunted:
Therefore these dead men mock you, that you the living are dead:
Since ever you battered the saints and the tools of your crafts were blunted,
Or shattered the glass in its glory and loaded yourselves with the lead.

When the usurer hunts the squire as the squire has hunted the peasant,
As sheep that are eaten of worms where men were eaten of sheep:
Now is the judgment of earth, and the weighing of past and present,
Who scorn to weep over ruins, behold your ruin and weep.

Have ye not known, ye fools, that have made the present a prison,
That thirst can remember water and hunger remember bread?
We went not gathering ghosts; but the shriek of your shame is arisen
Out of your own black Babel too loud; and it woke the dead.


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