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The Ballad of the White Horse

The Ballad of the White Horse by G. K. Chesterton
By: (1874-1936)

An English epic poem that follows the exploits of Alfred the Great in his defense of Christian civilization in England from the heathen nihilism of the North. Following a string of defeats at the hands of the invading Danes, a vision from heaven in the river island of Athelney fills Alfred with joy and hope. Though it gives no promise of victory in the coming struggle, it inspires him to rally his chieftains for a last stand against the invading hordes. His adventures lead throughout the country as he gathers his men, and take him through the Danish camps disguised as a minstrel before culminating in the Battle of Ethandune and the prophesying of the enemy’s subtle return in the ages to come.

First Page:

THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE

By G.K. Chesterton

Prefatory Note:

This ballad needs no historical notes, for the simple reason that it does not profess to be historical. All of it that is not frankly fictitious, as in any prose romance about the past, is meant to emphasize tradition rather than history. King Alfred is not a legend in the sense that King Arthur may be a legend; that is, in the sense that he may possibly be a lie. But King Alfred is a legend in this broader and more human sense, that the legends are the most important things about him.

The cult of Alfred was a popular cult, from the darkness of the ninth century to the deepening twilight of the twentieth. It is wholly as a popular legend that I deal with him here. I write as one ignorant of everything, except that I have found the legend of a King of Wessex still alive in the land. I will give three curt cases of what I mean. A tradition connects the ultimate victory of Alfred with the valley in Berkshire called the Vale of the White Horse. I have seen doubts of the tradition, which may be valid doubts... Continue reading book >>


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