Гилберт Кит Честертон
The Ballad of the White Horse

Swept ever around an inmost place,
And the din of distant race on race
Cried and replied round Rome.
And there was death on the Emperor
And night upon the Pope:

And Alfred, hiding in deep grass,
Hardened his heart with hope.
A sea-folk blinder than the sea
Broke all about his land,
But Alfred up against them bare

And gripped the ground and grasped the air,
Staggered, and strove to stand.
He bent them back with spear and spade,
With desperate dyke and wall,
With foemen leaning on his shield

And roaring on him when he reeled;
And no help came at all.
He broke them with a broken sword
A little towards the sea,
And for one hour of panting peace,

Ringed with a roar that would not cease,
With golden crown and girded fleece
Made laws under a tree.
The Northmen came about our land
A Christless chivalry:

Who knew not of the arch or pen,
Great, beautiful half-witted men
From the sunrise and the sea.
Misshapen ships stood on the deep
Full of strange gold and fire,

And hairy men, as huge as sin
With horned heads, came wading in
Through the long, low sea-mire.
Our towns were shaken of tall kings
With scarlet beards like blood:

The world turned empty where they trod,
They took the kindly cross of God
And cut it up for wood.
Their souls were drifting as the sea,
And all good towns and lands

They only saw with heavy eyes,
And broke with heavy hands,
Their gods were sadder than the sea,
Gods of a wandering will,
Who cried for blood like beasts at night,

Sadly, from hill to hill.
They seemed as trees walking the earth,
As witless and as tall,
Yet they took hold upon the heavens
And no help came at all.

They bred like birds in English woods,
They rooted like the rose,
When Alfred came to Athelney
To hide him from their bows
There was not English armour left,

Nor any English thing,
When Alfred came to Athelney
To be an English king.
For earthquake swallowing earthquake
Uprent the Wessex tree;

The whirlpool of the pagan sway
Had swirled his sires as sticks away
When a flood smites the sea.
And the great kings of Wessex
Wearied and sank in gore,

And even their ghosts in that great stress
Grew greyer and greyer, less and less,
With the lords that died in Lyonesse
And the king that comes no more.
And the God of the Golden Dragon

Was dumb upon his throne,
And the lord of the Golden Dragon
Ran in the woods alone.
And if ever he climbed the crest of luck
And set the flag before,

Returning as a wheel returns,
Came ruin and the rain that burns,
And all began once more.
And naught was left King Alfred
But shameful tears of rage,

In the island in the river
In the end of all his age.
In the island in the river
He was broken to his knee:
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