Friday, November 10, 2006

Chestertonian Epiphany

I had an experience last night which I thought would be appropriate to share here, especially as the tone of life has been so political lately.

I was putting my daughter to bed last night, and she was being difficult, always getting up and trying to run into the living room to play. She was antsy because she had been in time out earlier in the evening for hitting her brother in the head with a small broomhandle. (He's 5, she is 3) He was totally innocent, his crime was merely sitting in the little Winnie the Pooh chair that she wanted to sit in.

Anyway, I had to stay in her bedroom to keep her from escaping, and I was using the time to make some progress in Ballad of the White Horse, which I finally ordered in the last couple weeks. My daughter was looking at one of her animal books, and turned to me and asked, "Can you read me your book, Daddy?" I laid down next to her and started reading out loud. It stuck me then just how ingenious Chesterton was in the arrangement of this work. Much like Beowulf, and earlier epics, there is something gained by the oral recitation of the poetry. There is a wonderful rhythm and cadence to White Horse which captivated my little girl. I was completely awestruck by the situation because my daughter, to this point, has absolutely refused anything to do with a book that does not have pictures. I know she didnt catch much of the meaning of the words, but there are some powerful stanzas to be found in Ballad of the White Horse:
"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 tuned empty where they trod,
They took the kindly cross of God
And cut it up for wood." (85-95)

Have a great weekend.


Love2Learn Mom said...

I had a similar experience with the Ballad of the White Horse. I was reading it to myself and it seemed to "beg" to be read aloud. I ended up reading at least favorite bits and pieces to my kids and they really picked up on it. One thing that struck me is that we have a tendency to think that poetry has to be fully understandable to children before we share it with them. It turns out they can enjoy it for its beauty and grasp its meaning over time!

My daughter was 12 when I started reading it to her, but she's gone and memorized the whole first book of the poem, plus some.

Jon said...

Amazing. I picked up my hardcover Ignatius Press copy just yesterday. Last evening I sat in my office behind closed doors, and read it...outloud, to myself.

Tomorrow night I'll try it out on my nine-year old son.

Small world indeed.