The Ballad Of The White Horse

1589 Words7 Pages
In The Ballad of the White Horse by G. K. Chesterton one of the main characters is King Alfred of England, the legendary savior of England from the invading Danes. The book is set in the ninth century AD. He is accompanied in battle by Eldred, a Saxon farmer, as well as Mark, a Roman, and Colan, a Celt. While Alfred originally feels despair over his efforts to drive away the Danes, the Blessed Virgin Mary appears to him in a vision and tells him that he is to continue. G. K. Chesterton named the book after a symbol in England, a white horse cut out chalk that must constantly be cleaned of encroaching weeds. To him, it symbolizes Christianity’s struggle against eroding pagan forces. The ballad questions and discusses the opposing worldviews…show more content…
While Guthrum avoids Harold’s, Elf’s, and Ogier’s errors, he still does not have a Christian worldview as evinced by his uncertainty about the meaning of life. Guthrum says it is good to follow in the footsteps of their pagan ancestors with the stories of the gods, but eventually all will realize that these tales are fiction and nothing more. With this despair of the gods’ existence, death becomes the overriding theme of life. Only by “dealing death for dower” in battle can the undeluded man forget death. As soon as Guthrum finishes, Alfred begins his harp song. He asks what the Danes truly win “ When Guthrum sits on a hero’s throne / And asks if he is dead.” (45) Therefore, Alfred says, he will answer King Guthrum with the knowledge that belongs to even the simplest Christian: knowledge of the meaning of life. King Alfred explains that man’s purpose can be seem from the Garden of Eden, where man was created in the manner of a knight, who should serve his lord but has the power to betray him. That is what happened, Alfred tells Guthrum, and death is the result. But Christians still are called to serve God, and because of this intimate knowledge that their place is in heaven, King Alfred realizes his place in life and “has still some song to sing.” (46) This sums up Christian worldview…show more content…
One group of Danes, represented by Harold, went into battle and conquered in the hopes of gaining earthly pleasures, without regard for others. Another group, represented by Elf, kept alive the old tales of the gods, but despaired at the real presence of sin and inevitable destruction. Taking a dark spin on this, Ogier believes in total destruction and hatred of creation as the forces that drive the world. Guthrum rejects all three views, but does not know what to replace them with, revealing his lack of understanding of the meaning of life. However, Alfred answers all three views in his harp song of the Christian worldview. Harold’s false pleasures are compared to the simple joy of the monk and Elf’s despair is opposed to the perseverance and ultimate hope of the Christians though defeated. In addition, Ogier’s idea of hatred of creation as the driving force of the universe is disproved by Alfred quoting God calling creation good, and he is told that this destruction will lead to an end of the Danes, because only Christians will protect civilization. King Alfred’s song also compares King Guthrum to himself, stating that
Get Access