“Modern Elfland” by G.K. Chesterton


Our dear friend Gilbert Keith is back again! Finding various poems of his online was a treat, and this particular one spoke to me the most. In it, the narrator, a native of fairyland, returns to his home to find it overtaken by industry and modernity. It’s a horrible, heartbreaking sight. The trees, I gather, replaced with smokestacks, and all God’s creatures sick and wretched from it all. But out traveler loves his home, and knows it better than others. What does he see, what can he hear? Is there any hope for a world fallen from grace and overwhelmed by filth?

Modern Elfland

G. K. Chesterton

I cut a staff in a churchyard copse,
I clad myself in ragged things,
I set a feather in my cap
That fell out of an angel’s wings.

I filled my wallet with white stones,
I took three foxgloves in my hand,
I slung my shoes across my back,
And so I went to fairyland.

But lo, within that ancient place
Science had reared her iron crown,
And the great cloud of steam went up
That telleth where she takes a town.

But cowled with smoke and starred with lamps,
That strange land’s light was still its own;
The word that witched the woods and hills
Spoke in the iron and the stone.

Not Nature’s hand had ever curved
That mute unearthly porter’s spine.
Like sleeping dragon’s sudden eyes
The signals leered along the line.

The chimneys thronging crooked or straight
Were fingers signalling the sky;
The dog that strayed across the street
Seemed four-legged by monstrosity.

‘In vain,’ I cried, ‘though you too touch
The new time’s desecrating hand,
Through all the noises of a town
I hear the heart of fairyland.’

I read the name above a door,
Then through my spirit pealed and passed:
‘This is the town of thine own home,
And thou hast looked on it at last.’

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Author: David

I’m a young Christian American reader writer dreamer wanderer walker flier listener talker scholar adventurer musician word-magician romantic critic religious idealist optipessimist man.

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