The Song Of The Wheels

G.K. Chesterton

[Written during a Friday and Saturday in August, 1911]

King Dives he was walking in his garden all alone,
Where his flowers are made of iron and his trees are made of
And his hives are full of thunder and the lightning leaps
   and kills,
For the mills of God grind slowly; and he works with other
Dives found a mighty silence; and he missed the throb and
The noise of all the sleepless creatures singing him to sleep.
And he said: "A screw has fallen---or a bolt has slipped aside---
Some little thing has shifted": and the little things replied:

"Call upon the wheels, master, call upon the wheels;
We are taking rest, master, finding how it feels,
Strict the law of thine and mine: theft we ever shun---
All the wheels are thine, master---tell the wheels to run!
Yea, the Wheels are mighty gods---set them going then!
We are only men, master, have you heard of men?

"O, they live on earth like fishes, and a gasp is all their
God for empty honours only gave them death and scorn of
And you walk the worms for carpet and you tread a stone
   that squeals
Only, God that made them worms did not make them wheels.
Man shall shut his heart against you and you shall not find
   the spring.
Man who wills the thing he wants not, the intolerable thing---
Once he likes his empty belly better than your empty head
Earth and heaven are dumb before him: he is stronger than
   the dead.

"Call upon the wheels, master, call upon the wheels,
Steel is beneath your hand, stone beneath your heels,
Steel will never laugh aloud, hearing what we heard,
Stone will never break its heart, mad with hope deferred---
Men of tact that arbitrate, slow reform that heals---
Save the stinking grease, master, save it for the wheels.

"King Dives in the garden, we have naught to give or hold---
(Even while the baby came alive the rotten sticks were sold.)
The savage knows a cavern and the peasants keep a plot,
Of all the things that men have had---lo! we have them
Not a scrap of earth where ants could lay their eggs---
Only this poor lump of earth that walks about on legs---
Only this poor wandering mansion, only these two walking
Only hands and hearts and stomachs---what have you to do
   with these?
You have engines big and burnished, tall beyond our fathers'
Why should you make peace and traffic with such feeble folk
   as men?

"Call upon the wheels, master, call upon the wheels,
They are deaf to demagogues, deaf to crude appeals;
Are our hands our own, master?---how the doctors doubt!
Are our legs our own, master? wheels can run without---
Prove the points are delicate---they will understand.
All the wheels are loyal; see how still they stand!"

King Dives he was walking in his garden in the sun,
He shook his hand at heaven, and he called the wheels to
And the eyes of him were hateful eyes, the lips of him were
And he called upon his father that is lord below the world,
Sitting in the Gate of Treason, in the gate of broken seals,
"Bend and bind them, bend and bind them, bend and bind
   them into wheels,
Then once more in all my garden there may swing and sound
   and sweep---
The noise of all the sleepless things that sing the soul to

Call upon the wheels, master, call upon the wheels,
Weary grow the holidays when you miss the meals,
Through the Gate of Treason, through the gate within,
Cometh fear and greed of fame, cometh deadly sin;
If a man grow faint, master, take him ere he kneels,
Take him, break him, rend him, end him, roll him, crush him
   with the wheels.

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Last modified: 26th April, 2006
Martin Ward, De Montfort University, Leicester.