Thursday, September 14, 2006

More Belloc balderdash

I say this in a lighthearted way of course, though for a man nicknamed "Old Thunder" the word "balderdash" has a wonderful onomatopoeic quality. The following Belloc-authored ballade comes to us courtesy of Dr. Thursday, who is currently filling for the ailing Nancy Brown over at the American Chesterton Society's blog. It is a work of monstrous genius, though it is decidedly lighthearted. It reminds me of something I once wrote myself, which will follow the piece for your general enlightenment and vexation. The ballade itself was apparently found by Dr. Thursday in Maisie Ward's second Chesterton book, Return to Chesterton, which I do not have and have never seen, unfortunately. Here we go.
I like to read myself to sleep in Bed,
A thing that every honest man has done
At one time or another, it is said,
But not as something in the usual run;
Now I from ten years old to forty one
Have never missed a night: and what I need
To buck me up is Gilbert Chesterton,
(The only man I regularly read).

The 'Illustrated London News' is wed
To letter press as stodgy as a bun,
The 'Daily News' might just as well be dead,
The 'Idler' has a tawdry kind of fun,
The 'Speaker' is a sort of Sally Lunn,
The 'World' is like a small unpleasant weed;
I take them all because of Chesterton,
(The only man I regularly read).

The memories of the Duke of Beachy Head,
The memoirs of Lord Hildebrand (his son)
Are things I could have written on my head,
So are the memories of the Comte de Mun,
And as for novels written by the ton,
I'd burn the bloody lot! I know the Breed!
And get me back to be with Chesterton
(The only man I regularly read).


Prince, have you read a book called "Thoughts upon
The Ethos of the Athanasian Creed"?
No matter - it is not by Chesterton
(The only man I regularly read).
Simply delightful, and only slightly impaired by the relative (nowadays) inscrutability of the references and allusions made.

Now, the piece of my own that this reminds me of is much less elegant, much less positive, and almost certainly worse all around in that it is not only modern but obscure. It may mean something to a small number of suffering University students, and it may even mean something to some of you. For most, however, it's an insoluble and insufferable mystery.

“I’ve wondered,” Tony said aloud,
“Why all we ever seem to get
From out this dull Romantic crowd
Are languid, limping verses wet
With tears shed o’er a blade of grass,
Or dripp’d like blood in lakes of glass.

Real blades and blood can both be found
In works from ‘fore and aft the age,
But ne’er shall ring the battle’s sound
Upon the Green of Wordsworth’s page.
Alone the drum of Byron beats!
We get to study pots with Keats.

Or else, at length, the nightingale,
Or ruthless dames (sic “sans merci”):
An era could not but be frail,
With such engrossing company:
But worse - aye, worse - than all this fluff
Is all that grim Coleridgean stuff...”

And on and on young Tony went,
‘Till all were surfeit with his crap,
And smote him down in punishment
For “running off his Loiner yap,
And endless bloody installments
Of wretched School of Eloquence.”
If it makes sense to anyone, please let me know. I'd like to know what it means.

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