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Gilbert Keith Chesterton

(29 May 1874 – 14 June 1936 / London, England)

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The Rolling English Road


Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire;
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.

I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire,
And for to fight the Frenchman I did not much desire;
But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed
To straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard made,
Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our hands,
The night we went to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin Sands.

His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run
Behind him; and the hedges all strengthening in the sun?
The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which was which,
But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the ditch.
God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear
The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton Pier.

My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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  • Rookie Stephen Maxam (10/30/2012 1:57:00 AM)

    Oh, the shame of age, but I do want the folly again, and I do love my clearer eyes.
    And I will see Him at the Inn, and I will tell Him all my secrets, and we will laugh and love.
    There's more than one layer to this here poem, I'm thinking.
    I have just now wept at the lines of the last verse.
    Another quote from the novel, The Horse's Mouth, Gully's stream of thoughts:
    A man of sixty-seven's got to get the job done. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Barry Bacon (8/15/2008 5:38:00 PM)

    This holds so many memories for me. The last two lines are recited by Alec Guiness in the film 'The horses mouth' as he plays the artist Gully Jimpson sailing off in is houseboat to new adventures. This reminds me of my time in London in the 1980's so many good times and so many good friends. Wonderful. (Report) Reply

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