The Ballad of the White Horse
By G.K. Chesterton
One of the Last Great Traditional Epic Poems
The Ballad of the White Horse is a poem by G. K. Chesterton about the idealised exploits of the Saxon King Alfred the Great, published in 1911. Written in ballad form, the work is usually considered one of the last great traditional epic poems ever written in the English language. The poem narrates how Alfred was able to defeat the invading Danes at the Battle of Ethandun under the auspices of God working through the agency of the Virgin Mary. In addition to being a narration of Alfred's military and political accomplishments, it is also considered a Catholic allegory. Chesterton incorporates a significant amount of philosophy into the basic structure of the story.
The story begins with description of the White Horse of the White Horse Vale and how it has seen untold ages pass by. Among these periods was the fall of the Roman Empire and the barbarian invasions that followed. The Danes have invaded and nearly conquered England, and now drive the Wessex King Alfred into hiding on the river island of Athelney. While there, the Virgin Mary appears to Alfred and gives him words of consolation. She does not promise him earthly victory, but reminds him of the promise of salvation.
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