Monday, January 30, 2006

For Four Guilds: The Glass-Stainers

In my continuing efforts to expand the breadth of Chesterton's online presence (which would, perhaps, be like trying to make the world rounder), I plan to put up all four parts of Chesterton's wonderful and forgotten poem, "For Four Guilds," which can be found in the out-of-print Ballad of St. Barbara and Other Verses. The poem is a tribute to four faculties of human expression, and it simply wonderful to read. Dale Ahlquist, in his lecture on Ballad, had this to say:
The most stunning verse in this collection are the poems, "For Four Guilds." Chesterton is at his lyrical best, with intricate phrasing, and image returning upon brilliant image, like the reflections within a prism, with an even brighter image beyond: the Glass-Stainers who weave with light; the Bridge-Builders who make roads fly; the Bell-Ringers who "draw the cords that draw the people," and the Stonemasons who carve saints and gargoyles high on the cathedrals.
It is depressing, then, that this selection is not available online. Let's fix that.

For Four Guilds

I. The Glass-Stainers

To every Man his Mystery,
A trade and only one:
The masons make the hives of men,
The domes of grey or dun,
But we have wrought in rose and gold
The houses of the sun.

The shipwrights build the houses high,
Whose green foundations sway
Alive with fish like little flames,
When the wind goes out to slay.
But we abide with painted sails
The cyclone of the day.

The weavers make the clothes of men
And coats for everyone;
They walk the streets like sunset clouds;
But we have woven and spun
In scarlet or in golden-green
The gay coats of the sun.

You whom the usurers and the lords
With insolent liveries trod,
Deep in dark church behold, above
Their lance-lengths by a rod,
Where we have blazed the tabard
Of the trumpeter of God.


Part Two (bridge-builders) will follow tomorrow. I have also been able to acquire a first edition (possibly the only edition, though I couldn't speak with authority) of The Coloured Lands, a book of poetry, prose, and artwork collected by Maisie Ward after Chesterton's death. It should arrive soon, and the transcription of that may begin. I will, of course, be sure to scan any sketches or watercolours contained therein.

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