Modern Elfland

By G. K. Chesterton 1874–1936
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.’

Source: The Collected Poems of G. K. Chesterton (1927)

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Poet G. K. Chesterton 1874–1936

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Faith & Doubt, Religion, Arts & Sciences, Sciences, Ghosts & the Supernatural, Mythology & Folklore

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 G. K. Chesterton

Biography

G. K. Chesterton was one of the dominating figures of the London literary scene in the early twentieth century. Not only did he get into lively discussions with anyone who would debate him, including his friend, frequent verbal sparring partner, and noted Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, but he wrote about seemingly every topic, in every genre, from journalism to plays, poetry to crime novels. "He said something about . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Faith & Doubt, Religion, Arts & Sciences, Sciences, Ghosts & the Supernatural, Mythology & Folklore

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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