Monday, October 7, 2013

Lepanto and the Feast of the Holy Rosary

White founts falling in the courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard,
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips,
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross,
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.
              --G.K. Chesterton's "Lepanto"

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, which was previously called "Our Lady of Victory" in thanksgiving for the victory of the combined naval forces of The Holy League against the Ottoman Turks in one of the great naval battles of the era.

Christopher Check has told this great story on a CD set from Ignatius Press, which includes a reading of G.K. Chesterton's poem, "Lepanto":

On October 7, 1571, the most important sea battle in history was fought near the mouth of what is today called the Gulf of Patras, then the Gulf of Lepanto. On one side were the war galleys of the Holy League and on the other, those of the Ottoman Turks, rowed by tens of thousands of Christian galley slaves. Although the battle decided the future of Europe, few Europeans, and even fewer European Americans, know the story, much less how close Western Europe came to suffering an Islamic conquest.

On October 7, 1911, English poet and theologian G.K. Chesterton honored the battle with what is perhaps the greatest ballad of the 20th century. He wrote this extraordinary poem while the postman impatiently waited for the copy. It was instantly popular and remained so for years. The ballad by the great GKC is no less inspiring today and is more timely than ever, as the West faces the growing threat of Islam.
Our Wichita branch of the American Chesterton Society is reading Chesterton's other great narrative poem, The Ballad of the White Horse, and an essential feature of our first meeting, which I'm sure we'll continue, was our reading the poem aloud. In addition to praying the Rosary on this feast, I think reading "Lepanto" aloud would be appropriate!

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