Top 20 Most Popular Poems of Gilbert Keith Chesterton

These are the top twenty (20) most popular poems of Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

From The Ballad Of God-Makers to Rhymster In The Ring.

If you want to know his greatest poems of all time, then this poetry collection is for you.

Keep reading!.

The Ballad Of God-Makers


A bird flew out at the break of day
From the nest where it had curled,
And ere the eve the bird had set
Fear on the kings of the world.


The first tree it lit upon
Was green with leaves unshed;
The second tree it lit upon
Was red with apples red;


The third tree it lit upon
Was barren and was brown,
Save for a dead man nailed thereon
On a hill above a town.


That right the kings of the earth were gay
And filled the cup and can;
Last night the kings of the earth were chill
For dread of a naked man.


‘If he speak two more words,’ they said,
‘The slave is more than the free;
If he speak three more words,’ they said,
‘The stars are under the sea.’


Said the King of the East to the King of the West,
I wot his frown was set,
‘Lo; let us slay him and make him as dung,
It is well that the world forget.’


Said the King of the West to the King of the East,
I wot his smile was dread,
‘Nay, let us slay him and make him a god,
It is well that our god be dead.’


They set the young man on a hill,
They nailed him to a rod;
And there in darkness and in blood
They made themselves a god.


And the mightiest word was left unsaid,
And the world had never a mark,
And the strongest man of the sons of men
Went dumb into the dark.


Then hymns and harps of praise they brought,
Incense and gold and myrrh,
And they thronged above the seraphim,
The poor dead carpenter.


‘Thou art the prince of all,’ they sang,
‘Ocean and earth and air.’
Then the bird flew on to the cruel cross,
And hid in the dead man’s hair.


‘Thou art the sun of the world,’ they cried,
‘Speak if our prayers be heard.’
And the brown bird stirred in the dead man’s hair,
And it seemed that the dead man stirred.


Then a shriek went up like the world’s last cry
From all nations under heaven,
And a master fell before a slave
And begged to be forgiven.


They cowered, for dread in his wakened eyes
The ancient wrath to see;
And the bird flew out of the dead Christ’s hair,
And lit on a lemon-tree.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

A Christmas Carol


The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)


The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)


The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)


The Christ-child stood at Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at him.
And all the stars looked down.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

At Night


How many million stars there be,
That only God hath number’d;
But this one only chosen for me
In time before her face was fled.
Shall not one mortal man alive
Hold up his head?

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

A Song Of Swords


“A drove of cattle came into a village called Swords; and was stopped by the rioters.”–Daily Paper.


In the place called Swords on the Irish road
It is told for a new renown
How we held the horns of the cattle, and how
We will hold the horns of the devils now
Ere the lord of hell with the horn on his brow
Is crowned in Dublin town.


Light in the East and light in the West,
And light on the cruel lords,
On the souls that suddenly all men knew,
And the green flag flew and the red flag flew,
And many a wheel of the world stopped, too,
When the cattle were stopped at Swords.


Be they sinners or less than saints
That smite in the street for rage,
We know where the shame shines bright; we know
You that they smite at, you their foe,
Lords of the lawless wage and low,
This is your lawful wage.


You pinched a child to a torture price
That you dared not name in words;
So black a jest was the silver bit
That your own speech shook for the shame of it,
And the coward was plain as a cow they hit
When the cattle have strayed at Swords.


The wheel of the torrent of wives went round
To break men’s brotherhood;
You gave the good Irish blood to grease
The clubs of your country’s enemies;
you saw the brave man beat to the knees:
And you saw that it was good.


The rope of the rich is long and long–
The longest of hangmen’s cords;
But the kings and crowds are holding their breath,
In a giant shadow o’er all beneath
Where God stands holding the scales of Death
Between the cattle and Swords.


Haply the lords that hire and lend
The lowest of all men’s lords,
Who sell their kind like kine at a fair,
Will find no head of their cattle there;
But faces of men where cattle were:
Faces of men–and Swords.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Gold Leaves


Lo! I am come to autumn,
When all the leaves are gold;
Grey hairs and golden leaves cry out
The year and I are old.


In youth I sought the prince of men,
Captain in cosmic wars,
Our Titan, even the weeds would show
Defiant, to the stars.


But now a great thing in the street
Seems any human nod,
Where shift in strange democracy
The million masks of God.


In youth I sought the golden flower
Hidden in wood or wold,
But I am come to autumn,
When all the leaves are gold.

Art Colours


On must we go: we search dead leaves,
We chase the sunset’s saddest flames,
The nameless hues that o’er and o’er
In lawless wedding lost their names.


God of the daybreak! Better be
Black savages; and grin to gird
Our limbs in gaudy rags of red,
The laughing-stock of brute and bird;


And feel again the fierce old feast,
Blue for seven heavens that had sufficed,
A gold like shining hoards, a red
Like roses from the blood of Christ.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

The Ancient Of Days


A child sits in a sunny place,
Too happy for a smile,
And plays through one long holiday
With balls to roll and pile;
A painted wind-mill by his side
Runs like a merry tune,
But the sails are the four great winds of heaven,
And the balls are the sun and moon.


A staring doll’s-house shows to him
Green floors and starry rafter,
And many-coloured graven dolls
Live for his lonely laughter.
The dolls have crowns and aureoles,
Helmets and horns and wings.
For they are the saints and seraphim,
The prophets and the kings.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Eternities


I cannot count the pebbles in the brook.
Well hath He spoken: ‘Swear not by thy head,
Thou knowest not the hairs,’ though He, we read,
Writes that wild number in his own strange book.


I cannot count the sands or search the seas,
Death cometh, and I leave so much untrod.
Grant my immortal aureole, O my God,
And I will name the leaves upon the trees.


In heaven I shall stand on gold and glass,
Still brooding earth’s arithmetic to spell;
Or see the fading of the fires of hell
Ere I have thanked my God for all the grass.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

A Fairy Tale


All things grew upwards, foul and fair:
The great trees fought and beat the air
With monstrous wings that would have flown;
But the old earth clung to her own,
Holding them back from heavenly wars,
Though every flower sprang at the stars.


But he broke free: while all things ceased,
Some hour increasing, he increased.
The town beneath him seemed a map,
Above the church he cocked his cap,
Above the cross his feather flew
Above the birds and still he grew.


The trees turned grass; the clouds were riven;
His feet were mountains lost in heaven;
Through strange new skies he rose alone,
The earth fell from him like a stone,
And his own limbs beneath him far
Seemed tapering down to touch a star.


He reared his head, shaggy and grim,
Staring among the cherubim;
The seven celestial floors he rent,
One crystal dome still o’er him bent:
Above his head, more clear than hope,
All heaven was a microscope.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

A Chord Of Colour


My Lady clad herself in grey,
That caught and clung about her throat;
Then all the long grey winter day
On me a living splendour smote;
And why grey palmers holy are,
And why grey minsters great in story,
And grey skies ring the morning star,
And grey hairs are a crown of glory.


My Lady clad herself in green,
Like meadows where the wind-waves pass;
Then round my spirit spread, I ween,
A splendour of forgotten grass.
Then all that dropped of stem or sod,
Hoarded as emeralds might be,
I bowed to every bush, and trod
Amid the live grass fearfully.


My Lady clad herself in blue,
Then on me, like the seer long gone,
The likeness of a sapphire grew,
The throne of him that sat thereon.
Then knew I why the Fashioner
Splashed reckless blue on sky and sea;
And ere ’twas good enough for her,
He tried it on Eternity.


Beneath the gnarled old Knowledge-tree
Sat, like an owl, the evil sage:
‘The World’s a bubble,’ solemnly
He read, and turned a second page.
‘A bubble, then, old crow,’ I cried,
‘God keep you in your weary wit!
‘A bubble–have you ever spied
‘The colours I have seen on it?’

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Sonnet To A Stilton Cheese


Stilton, thou shouldst be living at this hour
And so thou art. Nor losest grace thereby;
England has need of thee, and so have I–
She is a Fen. Far as the eye can scour,
League after grassy league from Lincoln tower
To Stilton in the fields, she is a Fen.
Yet this high cheese, by choice of fenland men,
Like a tall green volcano rose in power.


Plain living and long drinking are no more,
And pure religion reading ‘Household Words’,
And sturdy manhood sitting still all day
Shrink, like this cheese that crumbles to its core;
While my digestion, like the House of Lords,
The heaviest burdens on herself doth lay.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

The Ballad Of The Battle Of Gibeon


Five kings rule o’er the Amorite,
Mighty as fear and old as night;
Swathed with unguent and gold and jewel,
Waxed they merry and fat and cruel.
Zedek of Salem, a terror and glory,
Whose face was hid while his robes were gory;
And Hoham of Hebron, whose loathly face is
Heavy and dark o’er the ruin of races;
And Piram of Jarmuth, drunk with strange wine,
Who dreamed he had fashioned all stars that shine;
And Debir of Eglon wild, without pity,
Who raged like a plague in the midst of his city;
And Japhia of Lachish, a fire that flameth,
Who did in the daylight what no man nameth.


These five kings said one to another,
‘King unto king o’er the world is brother,
Seeing that now, for a sign and a wonder,
A red eclipse and a tongue of thunder,
A shape and a finger of desolation,
Is come against us a kingless nation.
Gibeon hath failed us: it were not good
That a man remember where Gibeon stood.’
Then Gibeon sent to our captain, crying,
‘Son of Nun, let a shaft be flying,
For unclean birds are gathering greedily;
Slack not thy hand, but come thou speedily.
Yea, we are lost save thou maintain’st us,


For the kings of the mountains are gathered against us.’
Then to our people spake the Deliverer,
‘Gibeon is high, yet a host may shiver her;
Gibeon hath sent to me crying for pity,
For the lords of the cities encompass the city
With chariot and banner and bowman and lancer,
And I swear by the living God I will answer.
Gird you, O Israel, quiver and javelin,
Shield and sword for the road we travel in;
Verily, as I have promised, pay I
Life unto Gibeon, death unto Ai.’


Sudden and still as a bolt shot right
Up on the city we went by night.
Never a bird of the air could say,
‘This was the children of Israel’s way.’


Only the hosts sprang up from sleeping,
Saw from the heights a dark stream sweeping;
Sprang up straight as a great shout stung them,
And heard the Deliverer’s war-cry among them,
Heard under cupola, turret, and steeple
The awful cry of the kingless people.


Started the weak of them, shouted the strong of them,
Crashed we a thunderbolt into the throng of them,
Blindly with heads bent, and shields forced before us,
We heard the dense roar of the strife closing o’er us.
And drunk with the crash of the song that it sung them,
We drove the great spear-blade in God’s name among them.


Redder and redder the sword-flash fell.
Our eyes and our nostrils were hotter than hell;
Till full all the crest of the spear-surge shocking us,
Hoham of Hebron cried out mocking us,
‘Nay, what need of the war-sword’s plying,
Out of the desert the dust comes flying.
A little red dust, if the wind be blowing–
Who shall reck of its coming or going?’
Back the Deliverer spake as a clarion,
‘Mock at thy slaves, thou eater of carrion!
Laughest thou at us, in thy kingly clowning,
We, that laughed upon Ramases frowning.
We that stood up proud, unpardoned,
When his face was dark and his heart was hardened?
Pharaoh we knew and his steeds, not faster
Than the word of the Lord in thine ear, O master.


Sheer through the turban his wantons wove him,
Clean to the skull the Deliverer clove him;
And the two hosts reeled at the sign appalling,
As the great king fell like a great house falling.


Loudly we shouted, and living and dying.
Bore them all backward with strength and strong crying;
And Caleb struck Zedek hard at the throat,
And Japhia of Lachish Zebulon smote.
The war-swords and axes were clashing and groaning,
The fallen were fighting and foaming and moaning;
The war-spears were breaking, the war-horns were braying,
Ere the hands of the slayers were sated with slaying.
And deep in the grasses grown gory and sodden,
The treaders of all men were trampled and trodden;
And over them, routed and reeled like cattle,
High over the turn of the tide of the battle,
High over noises that deafen and cover us,
Rang the Deliverer’s voice out over us.


‘Stand thou still, thou sun upon Gibeon,
Stand thou, moon, in the valley of Ajalon!
Shout thou, people, a cry like thunder,
For the kings of the earth are broken asunder.
Now we have said as the thunder says it,
Something is stronger than strength and slays it.
Now we have written for all time later,
Five kings are great, yet a law is greater.
Stare, O sun! in thine own great glory,
This is the turn of the whole world’s story.
Stand thou still, thou sun upon Gibeon,
Stand thou, moon, in the valley of Ajalon!


‘Smite! amid spear-blades blazing and breaking.
More than we know of is rising and making.
Stab with the javelin, crash with the car!
Cry! for we know not the thing that we are.
Stand, O sun! that in horrible patience
Smiled on the smoke and the slaughter of nations.
Thou shalt grow sad for a little crying,
Thou shalt be darkened for one man’s dying–
Stand thou still, thou sun upon Gibeon,
Stand thou, moon, in the valley of Ajalon!’


After the battle was broken and spent
Up to the hill the Deliverer went,
Flung up his arms to the storm-clouds flying,
And cried unto Israel, mightily crying,
‘Come up, O warriors! come up, O brothers!
Tribesmen and herdsmen, maidens and mothers;
The bondman’s son and the bondman’s daughter,
The hewer of wood and the drawer of water,
He that carries and he that brings,
And set your foot on the neck of kings.’


This is the story of Gibeon fight–
Where we smote the lords of the Amorite;
Where the banners of princes with slaughter were sodden.
And the beards of seers in the rank grass trodden;
Where the trees were wrecked by the wreck of cars,
And the reek of the red field blotted the stars;
Where the dead heads dropped from the swords that sever,
Because His mercy endureth for ever.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Memory


If I ever go back to Baltimore,
The city of Maryland,
I shall miss again as I missed before
A thousand things of the world in store,
The story standing in every door
That beckons with every hand.


I shall not know where the bonds were riven
And a hundred faiths set free,
Where a wandering cavalier had given
Her hundredth name to the Queen of Heaven,
And made oblation of feuds forgiven
To Our Lady of Liberty.


I shall not travel the tracks of fame
Where the war was not to the strong;
When Lee the last of the heroes came
With the Men of the South and a flag like flame,
And called the land by its lovely name
In the unforgotten song.


If ever I cross the sea and stray
To the city of Maryland,
I will sit on a stone and watch or pray
For a stranger’s child that was there one day:
And the child will never come back to play,
And no-one will understand.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

The Earth’s Shame


Name not his deed: in shuddering and in haste
We dragged him darkly o’er the windy fell:
That night there was a gibbet in the waste,
And a new sin in hell.


Be his deed hid from commonwealths and kings,
By all men born be one true tale forgot;
But three things, braver than all earthly things,
Faced him and feared him not.


Above his head and sunken secret face
Nested the sparrow’s young and dropped not dead.
From the red blood and slime of that lost place
Grew daisies white, not red.


And from high heaven looking upon him,
Slowly upon the face of God did come
A smile the cherubim and seraphim
Hid all their faces from.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Good News


Between a meadow and a cloud that sped
In rain and twilight, in desire and fear.
I heard a secret–hearken in your ear,
‘Behold the daisy has a ring of red.’


That hour, with half of blessing, half of ban,
A great voice went through heaven, and earth and hell,
Crying, ‘We are tricked, my great ones, is it well?
Now is the secret stolen by a man.’


Then waxed I like the wind because of this,
And ran, like gospel and apocalypse,
From door to door, with new anarchic lips,
Crying the very blasphemy of bliss.


In the last wreck of Nature, dark and dread,
Shall in eclipse’s hideous hieroglyph,
One wild form reel on the last rocking cliff,
And shout, ‘The daisy has a ring of red.’

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

A Certain Evening


That night the whole world mingled,
The souls were babes at play,
And angel danced with devil.
And God cried, ‘Holiday!’


The sea had climbed the mountain peaks,
And shouted to the stars
To come to play: and down they came
Splashing in happy wars.


The pine grew apples for a whim,
The cart-horse built a nest;
The oxen flew, the flowers sang,
The sun rose in the west.


And ‘neath the load of many worlds,
The lowest life God made
Lifted his huge and heavy limbs
And into heaven strayed.


To where the highest life God made
Before His presence stands;
But God himself cried, ‘Holiday!’
And she gave me both her hands.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

A Portrait


Fair faces crowd on Christmas night
Like seven suns a-row,
But all beyond is the wolfish wind
And the crafty feet of the snow.


But through the rout one figure goes
With quick and quiet tread;
Her robe is plain, her form is frail–
Wait if she turn her head.


I say no word of line or hue,
But if that face you see,
Your soul shall know the smile of faith’s
Awful frivolity.


Know that in this grotesque old masque
Too loud we cannot sing,
Or dance too wild, or speak too wide
To praise a hidden thing.


That though the jest be old as night,
Still shaketh sun and sphere
An everlasting laughter
Too loud for us to hear.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

To Hilaire Belloc


For every tiny town or place
God made the stars especially;
Babies look up with owlish face
And see them tangled in a tree:
You saw a moon from Sussex Downs,
A Sussex moon, untravelled still,
I saw a moon that was the town’s,
The largest lamp on Campden Hill.


Yea; Heaven is everywhere at home
The big blue cap that always fits,
And so it is (be calm; they come
To goal at last, my wandering wits),
So is it with the heroic thing;
This shall not end for the world’s end,
And though the sullen engines swing,
Be you not much afraid, my friend.


This did not end by Nelson’s urn
Where an immortal England sits–
Nor where your tall young men in turn
Drank death like wine at Austerlitz.
And when the pedants bade us mark
What cold mechanic happenings
Must come; our souls said in the dark,
“Belike; but there are likelier things.”


Likelier across these flats afar
These sulky levels smooth and free
The drums shall crash a waltz of war
And Death shall dance with Liberty;
Likelier the barricades shall blare
Slaughter below and smoke above,
And death and hate and hell declare
That men have found a thing to love.


Far from your sunny uplands set
I saw the dream; the streets I trod
The lit straight streets shot out and met
The starry streets that point to God.
This legend of an epic hour
A child I dreamed, and dream it still,
Under the great grey water-tower
That strikes the stars on Campden Hill.


G. K. C.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

The Fish


Dark the sea was: but I saw him,
One great head with goggle eyes,
Like a diabolic cherub
Flying in those fallen skies.


I have heard the hoarse deniers,
I have known the wordy wars;
I have seen a man, by shouting,
Seek to orphan all the stars.


I have seen a fool half-fashioned
Borrow from the heavens a tongue,
So to curse them more at leisure–
–And I trod him not as dung.


For I saw that finny goblin
Hidden in the abyss untrod;
And I knew there can be laughter
On the secret face of God.


Blow the trumpets, crown the sages,
Bring the age by reason fed!
(He that sitteth in the heavens,
‘He shall laugh’–the prophet said.)

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Another Tattered Rhymster In The Ring


Another tattered rhymster in the ring,
With but the old plea to the sneering schools,
That on him too, some secret night in spring
Came the old frenzy of a hundred fools


To make some thing: the old want dark and deep,
The thirst of men, the hunger of the stars,
Since first it tinged even the Eternal’s sleep,
With monstrous dreams of trees and towns and mars.


When all He made for the first time He saw,
Scattering stars as misers shake their pelf.
Then in the last strange wrath broke His own law,
And made a graven image of Himself.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Wow! His poetry collection and writing style are marvelous! Compared to other poetry collections, he made his points in his poems with popular sayings, proverbs, and allegories. No wonder he was referred to as the “prince of paradox.”

A Christmas Carol is my favorite poem in this collection. It reminds me of the song entitled; Mary, Did You Know?.

What about you? What’s your most favorite poem of Gilbert Keith Chesterton?

Do you still want to add another of his poem to this list? Let me know in the comment section below! 😉

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