Thursday, December 9, 2010

Greybeards at Play by GK Chesterton

This is a very slim volume of funny poetry, illustrated adorably by the author.

The Dedication is to Edmund Clerihew Bentley, to whom The Man Who Was Thursday was also dedicated, and it begins delightfully with the lines:
He was, through boyhood's storm and shower,
My best, my nearest friend;
We wore one hat, smoked one cigar,
One standing at each end.
The first poem is called “The Oneness of the Philosopher With Nature,” which might best be described as a celebration of God's creation. I especially like this verse:--
I know the strange tale of the Slug;
The Early Sin—the Fall—
The Sleep—the Vision—and the Vow—
The Quest—the Crown—the Call.
--which gives you a fresh perspective on the verse, “What is man, that you are mindful of him?”

The second poem, “On the Dangers Attending Altruism on the High Seas” is a fun little rhyme. The third and last, “On the Disastrous Spread of Aestheticism in All Classes” brings the collection to a rousing finish. Chesterton imagines a world in which Modern Art wins:
The stars were weary of routine:
The trees in the plantation
Were growing every fruit at once,
In search of a sensation.
--a frightening, chaotic world. Chesterton, always keenly aware of the romance of the scheduled, stated:
The rare, strange thing is to hit the mark; the gross, obvious thing is to miss it. We feel it is epical when a man with one wild arrow strikes a distant bird. Is it not also epical when man with one wild engine strikes a distant station? Chaos is dull; because in chaos the train might indeed go anywhere, to Baker Street or to Bagdad.--The Man Who Was Thursday
That's right: this is a short collection of whimsical, entertaining poetry stuffed with heavy philosophical themes. Did I mention the gorgeous illustrations?

Project Gutenberg etext (with, may I say, wonderful illustrations)

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