New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1942. Early edition. 12mo. (7 5/8 inches tall) original red cloth, lettered in black, small owner signature (dated November 1942) on front flyleaf, very gentle wear to corners and spine head, slight toning to spine of bright cloth boards. Very good indeed. Item #640
"I TELL YOU NAUGHT FOR YOUR COMFORT / YEA NAUGHT FOR YOUR DESIRE / SAVE THAT THE SKY GROWS DARKER YET / AND THAT THE SEA RISES HIGHER" Early edition of The Ballad of the White Horse, printed during the Second World War. Chesterton's long historical poem of the legendary martial exploits of the Saxon King Alfred was first published in 1911. The work has found lasting appeal in times of conflict: "Before the horrors of war were unleashed his poems of battle such as 'Lepanto' and 'The Ballad of the White Horse' were characterized by pomp and triumphalism. Ironically, this made them very popular during wartime" (Joseph Pearce, Literary Converts). The poetic legend of a ninth century king demonstrates the bonding appeal of national mythmaking across the ages: "Verses from 'The Ballad of the White Horse' were sung with gusto by English soldiers in the First and Second World Wars alike. And when the London Times wanted to send off men to the second conflict with strong but encouraging words, it included two stanzas of 'The Ballad of the White Horse' in an editorial, and words of the Blessed Virgin Mary to old King Alfred at that...Few poets in any age could be quoted at such a moment in the hope of raising the spirit of their people" (Robert Royal, A Deeper Vision). Chesterton's short Prefatory note discussing the historical function of legend in establishing a common tradition: "Alfred has come down to us in the best way (that is, by national legends) solely for the same reason as Arthur and Roland and the other giants of that darkness, because he fought for the Christian civilization against the heathen nihilism." The text consists of a lengthy Dedication, followed by eight books: I. The Vision of the King, II. The Gathering of the Chiefs, III. The Harp of Alfred, IV. The Woman in the Forest, V. Ethandune: The First Stroke, VI. Ethandune: The Slaying of the Chiefs, VII. Ethandune: The Last Charge, VIII. The Scouring of the Horse.