Ah, Chesterton, witty Christian sage! Here he expounds again on his favorite subject: how the unspiritual man blinds himself to the magnificent glories of God’s creation. In this poem, we appear to have a narrator utterly besotted with his Lady fair; and yet not so besotted as to worship her at the exclusion of the God who created her. On the contrary, the splendor of the Lady’s beauty calls his attention to all the other splendors God has made. The Lady wears gray, he exults in gray spires, gray morning skies, and the gray hairs that mark the wisdom and honor of old age. She wears green, and every grass and tree seems to shine like an emerald. She wears blue, and he is awed and grateful at the Creator’s artistry in using that same color for the sky.
My friends, I have only just discovered this poem, but it grows increasingly beautiful to me as I reflect on it. What Chesterton has given us is a picture of how the romantic love between a godly man and woman will of its own accord, and quite naturally, magnify their own love for God. And since their love for each other comes from God Himself, well, you see what a wonderful, eternal cycle this is.
And yet this cycle of love, joy, and beauty, is not enjoyed by all. The “evil sage” at the end—I guess that Chesterton is hinting at scholars and intelligentsia who care not to think of God—looks at the world, and sees only a bubble, not even then noting the colorful beauty of bubbles themselves!
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?’
Source: The Wild Knight and Other Poems by G.K. Chesterton, courtesy of Project Gutenberg.