Monday, October 27, 2008

Alfred the Great

Yesterday was Alfred’s feast day, and as has been our custom for lo these two years, we’re reading from my beloved G.K. Chesterton’s The Ballad of the White Horse each night after supper. Tonight we read Book IV: The Woman in the Forest, the part about how Alfred was tending the cakes on the hearth of a poor woman in exchange for a meal. He, musing, pitying her, absent-mindedly let one of the cakes fall into the fire, whereupon the old woman, now knowing who was her guest, picked up the burnt cake and smacked Alfred on the forehead with it. He towered up in his rage, but

Then Alfred laughed out suddenly,
      Like thunder in the spring,
Till shook aloud the lintel-beams,
And the squirrels stirred in dusty dreams,
And the startled birds went up in streams,
      For the laughter of the King.

And the beasts of the earth and the birds looked down,
      In a wild solemnity,
On a stranger sight than a sylph or elf,
On one man laughing at himself
      Under the greenwood tree –

May we all learn that lesson.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Other posts on Alfred the Great:

Alfred the Great post from the 26th of October, 2005; history, prayers, and lots of cool links; don’t miss it!

And three selections from this year’s Poetry Month:
The Way of the Cross
The Great Gaels of Ireland
The King’s Laughter (includes today’s passage plus three more stanzas)

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