Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Strangest Whim

A Ballade Of Suicide
G. K. Chesterton


The gallows in my garden, people say,
Is new and neat and adequately tall.
I tie the noose on in a knowing way
As one that knots his necktie for a ball;
But just as all the neighbours—on the wall —
Are drawing a long breath to shout ‘Hurray!’
The strangest whim has seized me . . . After all
I think I will not hang myself today.

Tomorrow is the time I get my pay —
My uncle’s sword is hanging in the hall —
I see a little cloud all pink and grey —
Perhaps the Rector’s mother will not call —
I fancy that I heard from Mr Gall
That mushrooms could be cooked another way —
I never read the works of Juvenal —
I think I will not hang myself today.

The world will have another washing day;
The decadents decay; the pedants pall;
And H.G. Wells has found that children play,
And Bernard Shaw discovered that they squall;
Rationalists are growing rational —
And through thick woods one finds a stream astray,
So secret that the very sky seems small —
I think I will not hang myself today.

Envoi
Prince, I can hear the trumpet of Germinal,
The tumbrils toiling up the terrible way;
Even today your royal head may fall —
I think I will not hang myself today.

It's a very Chestertonian conceit: there are always reasons not to kill yourself, and every single one of them is a reason to live -- and not just to live, but live it with zeal.

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