I am continuing my series of posts for Advent, in which I read each day’s poem to accompany my Advent Anthology from Canterbury Press Waiting on the Word, alongside a series of reflective images kindly provided by Linda Richardson. In today’s poem, which is an extract from GK Chesterton’s Ballad of the white Horse I am continuing yesterday’s theme; the paradox that the God who is rightly our Lord and Master, comes to us, out of his sheer love, as a servant.
Linda writes about today’s image:
How beautifully the subject of servant continues from yesterday, but in this poem we are served by God, not through human hands but through the material of our bodies and the environment. Perhaps we consider our bodies as our own possessions, unique down to our very DNA. But here we can ponder the thought that God sealed our skull and made our ribs. We are the created ones, we don’t create ourselves however much contemporary culture tells us otherwise.
Making an image every day is quite a challenge on top of family and work life. I already had this image in the studio and felt it suited the poem very well as it has a bark-like surface hinting at oaks on the upland, and primordial slumber. The words that sprung into my mind were, ‘who…shall speak of the Holiest’, and Psalm 139, ‘thou hast knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made’. I considered how I am a marvellous work, I am created by Him, utterly unique with my own fingerprint, and how His fingerprint is upon all His creation if only we took the time to see it. The art work was completed when I cut a square in the centre and placed a fingerprint upon it.
As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button or on the title, and read my reflective essay in Waiting on the Word
From the Ballad of the White Horse
And well may God with the serving-folk
Cast in His dreadful lot;
Is not He too a servant,
And is not He forgot?
For was not God my gardener
And silent like a slave;
That opened oaks on the uplands
Or thicket in graveyard gave?
And was not God my armourer,
All patient and unpaid,
That sealed my skull as a helmet,
And ribs for hauberk made?
Did not a great grey servant
Of all my sires and me,
Build this pavilion of the pines,
And herd the fowls and fill the vines,
And labour and pass and leave no signs
Save mercy and mystery?
For God is a great servant,
And rose before the day,
From some primordial slumber torn;
But all we living later born
Sleep on, and rise after the morn,
And the Lord has gone away.
On things half sprung from sleeping,
All sleeping suns have shone,
They stretch stiff arms, the yawning trees,
The beasts blink upon hands and knees,
Man is awake and does and sees-
But Heaven has done and gone.
For who shall guess the good riddle
Or speak of the Holiest,
Save in faint figures and failing words,
Who loves, yet laughs among the swords,
Labours, and is at rest?
But some see God like Guthrum,
Crowned, with a great beard curled,
But I see God like a good giant,
That, laboring, lifts the world.
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2 responses to “The Good Riddle GK Chesterton”
It’s a winning piece of cross-cultural thinking to read in the mad pre-Christmas rush. It takes you aback, both by its content and also it’s style of composition.
Thank you Linda, Malcolm and G.K. Chesterton. God bless you. Jean