Monday, December 24, 2007

A Chestertonian Christmas Poem

G. K. Chesterton was a great Christian writer who not only influenced the Inklings, but might even be a match for C. S. Lewis's wit and Tolkien's humor. I know I've mentioned him before and I shall again, perhaps very soon. (I have a theory about one of his characters getting into LotR, but I'll save that for later.) I present to you now, for your delight and wonder, a poem he wrote that is fitting for this special night:

The House of Christmas

There fared a mother driven forth

Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.

The crazy stable close at hand,

With shaking timber and shifting sand,

Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand

Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,

And strangers under the sun,

And they lay their heads in a foreign land

Whenever the day is done.

Here we have battle and blazing eyes,

And chance and honor and high surprise,

But our homes are under miraculous skies

Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,

Where the beasts feed and foam;

Only where He was homeless

Are you and I at home;

We have hands that fashion and heads that know,

But our hearts we lost - how long ago!

In a place no chart nor ship can show

Under the sky's dome.

This world is wild as an old wife's tale,

And strange the plain things are,

The earth is enough and the air is enough

For our wonder and our war;

But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings

And our peace is put in impossible things

Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings

Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening

Home shall all men come,

To an older place than Eden

And a taller town than Rome.

To the end of the way of the wandering star,

To the things that cannot be and that are,

To the place where God was homeless

And all men are at home.

For those who read my blog and haven't talked to me recently (or ever) in real life, yes, I did graduate. Hurrah, and thanks be to God! I'll do more regular catching up on my doings soon.


  1. Lady Rael,
    why does Chesterton say all men will be at home? Don't you think it was strange that Chesterton was so anti-protestant, but so many of us love him? His poetry was beautiful, his tales clever, and when I read his Orthodoxy, it made a great deal of sense and aside from the comments on protestants, I could find little to disagree with. I have not, however, read Manalive (Chesterton is hard to get hold of around here!), so cannot comment on connections with Bombadil. I think it is strange that JRR Tolkien didn't know who/what Bombadil was. He was always curious about mythological characters (Thorin's company and Gandalf were, according to Tom Shippey, names from some epic poem's list. Gandalf was a name that didn't fit, so Tolkien asked himself why a "tall man with a stick" would be with a group of dwarves. But I think Tolkien enjoyed not knowing things, too. Maybe they were all like seeds of curiosity in his head, and he'd get inspired with a plausible answer (etymologists, which Tolkien was, do this with words all the time, I think) sometimes.
    To God be all glory,
    Lisa of Longbourn

  2. Hmm, I hadn't pondered that, but great question! Shows how I ought to slow down to read poetry more often. Maybe he meant that that when He came down to live with us, only then can we live with Him. He left his Father, so we can be with the Father. And perhaps that's the only way of being "at home"

    Just a guess. Other ideas?

    Chesterton's jabs at us protestants are bothersome, but you're right, Lisa, they don't stop some of us from liking him so much! Aside from that one little very Catholic section, Orthodoxy was the most stunningly true and thrilling book I've read in years. Peter Kreeft is another brilliant Catholic philosopher and writer (though he's contemporary), and though he's perhaps not anti-protestant, he does make friendly jabs at us sometimes. Yet he's very insightful. And then there's Tolkien...;) I'm sure we could get into some discussions on his Catholic symbolism showing up in LotR (mainly the veneration of Elbereth). But since it's in story form, I guess it's less bothersome.

    Hmm, did Tolkien himself really not know who Bombadil was? I thought he only liked keeping secrets from us. ;)

    Oh, you've read Tom Shippey's stuff? Those are good, though he's not a Christian from what I gathered. He might be the best Tolkien scholar I've read. He does a fine job of delving into the etymology side of things, from what I recall, in his book The Road to Middle Earth.

    You've reminded me, Lisa, about something I haven't wondered about in a while, namely, if good stories start with the explanations and meanings, or if the sense and reasoning can only be found later. Your idea makes it sound like the answer is yes to both. Bother. There goes my wish for an easy formula for my epic masterpiece! ;)

    In Christ,