16 G. K. CHESTERTON
When he shall read what is written
So plain in clouds and clods,
When he shall hunger without hope
Even for evil gods.
Alfred, unknown and in his disguise, makes his answer.
He asks :
What have the strong gods given ?
Where have the glad gods led?
When Guthrum sits on a hero's throne
And asks if he is dead ? . . .
You are more tired of victory
Than we are tired of shame.
That though you hunt the Christian man
Like a hare on the hill-side,
The hare has still more heart to run
Than you have heart to ride.
Christianity has taken up into itself the guardianship even
of the ancient pagan things, of which the White Horse is a
symbol. The new paganism cannot preserve even that
from which it came.
Therefore your end is on you,
Is on you and your kings,
Not for a fire in Ely fen, •
Not that your gods are nine or ten,
But because it is only Christian men
Guard even heathen things.
In the end the tide of battle turns. Alfred and the Christian
cause gain the victory, and Guthrum accepts baptism.
In the years before the war he wrote among other works
two more of his extravaganzas, Manalive and The Flying Inn.
The second of these contains his famous drinking songs,
afterwards collected in his Wine, Water and Song. He also,
under the influence of Bernard Shaw, tried his hand at a play,
MagiCy but it was not a great success. But these years
were mainly filled for him with journalism. He had by now
made the friendship of Hilaire Belloc ; and Chesterton, his
brother, Cecil, and Hilaire Belloc ran between them a paper