Monday, March 10, 2014

On the ground with the White Horse.


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.

Linking up to Weekends With Chesterton

12 comments:

Brenda @ Its A Beautiful Life said...

That old chalk horse is an amazing sight, isn't it. I've only seen it in documentaries or travel programs, never in real life.

I'm intrigued by the book you mention by G.K. Chesterton. I'm going to have to look for it now.
What fun that you get to listen to the author actually reading it -- too bad about it being scratchy!

Your blog has been a lovely stop in my Monday morning travels to visit my blogging companions.

Here's wishing you a beautiful day in His Presence.

Brenda

Cranberry Morning said...

I'll have to check into that book. I've always thought Chesterton would make such an interesting neighbor. He is just a delight to read. There was a man who had such joy from his knowledge of the Savior, and that delight is contagious, I think, as you read any of his works.

I've never seen that white horse, only the one much farther north in the Yorkshire Moors. Maybe some day.

Farm Girl said...

I can't tell you how happy this makes me, I have loved the White horse in the chalk hills and I have read everything I could get my hands on it through the years. I have stared at it and I have loved that Poem as well. There are two right? As well as that giant and that hill where King George slayed the dragon?
I have always wondered about it as wondered if by chance it could be even older that the date given. There are some other really interesting things in those hills so it always captures my imagination.
I am so thrilled you have seen it in person. It is on my someday list. :) So glad you shared.

Sara said...

You have been posting some particularly fascinating and meaningful posts. This one caught my attention because I, too, have walked up to that particular white chalk horse, in 2009. I was unaware of the poem; now you've got me interested. Another book to add to my list . . . and I have yet to read even one book to completion this year! Perhaps this is the year of tidbits.

GretchenJoanna said...

Farm Girl, I was going to say that there are at least four white horses, because I bought a postcard showing four of them. But I just googled the subject and quickly came upon this site http://www.wiltshirewhitehorses.org.uk/ that says there are a couple of dozen, though it says that unlike the White Horse of Uffington, most are pretty recent, from the modern age.

Gigi said...

What a grand experience! I'm going off to audible to look for Chesterton - I've never read any of his work. You always have the most interesting, unique , & thoughtful info on your blog!
Many Blessings & thank you so much for your kind words!
G

M.K. said...

Beautiful! Makes me want to read the entire poem. Oh, how I'd love to visit that spot and wander in amongst the horse.

Emily J. said...

I was just reminiscing about a visit to England in 1997 with my mom and sister when I was pregnant with my first. We went to see the White Horse of Uffington, too, but it was so foggy it was impossible to see more than a few feet in front of us - we could hear each other but not see each other as we wandered around looking at the white lines before moving on. Otherworldly.

Gumbo Lily said...

What an interesting read. I've not heard of the White Horse of Uffington until today. Thanks for the insight and the poem excerpt. Good stuff.

Lisa Richards said...

These horses are such marvelous masterpieces!
I have several G.K. Chesterton books on my Kindle. I can't wait to get to them! I've never read one of his books, but I've seen enough of his quotes that I'm quite intrigued.

Carol said...

Chesterton has a very unique poetic voice. I haven't read this one yet but your post here is compelling.

Thistle Cove Farm said...

Gretchen, thank you for introducing me to the chalk horses...most interesting. More time needs to be given to research and, one day, a visit.

And, thank you for introducing me to Weekends with Chesterton...his quotes are used a lot in my Sabbath Keepings...he's a very amazing man.