G.K. Chesterton

Impetuously I sprang from bed,
  Long before lunch was up,
That I might drain the dizzy dew
  From the day's first golden cup.

In swift devouring ecstasy
  Each toil in turn was done;
I had done lying on the lawn
  Three minutes after one.

For me, as Mr. Wordsworth says,
  The duties shine like stars;
I formed my uncle's character,
  Decreasing his cigars.

But could my kind engross me? No!
  Stern Art-what sons escape her?
Soon I was drawing Gladstone's nose
  On scraps of blotting paper.

Then on-to play one-fingered tunes
  Upon my aunt's piano.
In short, I have a headlong soul,
  I much resemble Hanno.

(Forgive the entrance of the not
  Too cogent Carthaginian.
It may have been to make a rhyme;
  I lean to that opinion.)

Then my great work of book research
  Till dusk I took in hand-
The forming of a final, sound
  Opinion on The Strand.

But when I quenched the midnight oil,
  And closed the Referee,
Whose thirty volumes folio
  I take to bed with me,

I had a rather funny dream,
  Intense, that is, and mystic;
I dreamed that, with one leap and yell,
  The world became artistic.

The Shopmen, when their souls were still,
  Declined to open shops-
And Cooks recorded frames of mind
  In sad and subtle chops.

The stars were weary of routine:
  The trees in the plantation
Were growing every fruit at once,
  In search of sensation.

The moon went for a moonlight stroll,
  And tried to be a bard,
And gazed enraptured at itself:
  I left it trying hard.

The sea had nothing but a mood
  Of 'vague ironic gloom,'
With which t'explain its presence in
  My upstairs drawing-room.

The sun had read a little book
  That struck him with a notion:
He drowned himself and all his fires
  Deep in a hissing ocean.

Then all was dark, lawless, and lost:
  I heard great devilish wings:
I knew that Art had won, and snapt
  The Covenant of Things.

I cried aloud, and I awoke,
  New labours in my head.
I set my teeth, and manfully
  Began to lie in bed.

Toiling, rejoicing, sorrowing,
  So I my life conduct.
Each morning see some task begun,
  Each evening see it chucked.

But still, in sudden moods of dusk,
  I hear those great weird wings,
Feel vaguely thankful to the vast
  Stupidity of things.


Clear was the night: the moon was young
  The larkspurs in the plots
Mingled their orange with the gold
  Of the forget-me-nots.

The poppies seemed a silver mist:
  So darkly fell the gloom.
You scarce had guessed yon crimson streaks
  Were buttercups in bloom.

But one thing moved: a little child
  Crashed through the flower and fern:
And all my soul rose up to greet
  The sage of whom I learn.

I looked into his awful eyes:
  I waited his decree:
I made ingenious attempts
  To sit upon his knee.

The babe upraised his wondering eyes,
  And timidly he said,
"A trend towards experiment
  In modern minds is bred.

"I feel the will to roam, to learn
  By test, experience, nous,
That fire is hot and ocean deep,
  And wolves carnivorous.

"My brain demands complexity,"
  The lisping cherub cried.
I looked at him, and only said,
  "Go on. The world is wide."

A tear rolled down his pinafore,
  "Yet from my life must pass
The simple love of sun and moon,
  The old games in the grass;

"Now that my back is to my home
  Could these again be found?"
I looked on him and only said,
  "Go on. The world is round."

[home] Up to G.K.Chesterton's Works on the Web.
Last modified: 18th December, 1999
Martin Ward, De Montfort University, Leicester.
Email: martin@gkc.org.uk