domenica 12 novembre 2023

Poem of the week: The Rolling English Road by GK Chesterton | Carol Rumens su The Guardian, 13 Giugno 2011.

The Drunken Reveller

This genial defence of a drink or two rattles along with inimitable panache.

This week's choice may be the best-loved of GK Chesterton's poems, but perhaps not many readers know that "The Rolling English Road", first published in a political weekly in 1913, was originally titled "A Song of Temperance Reform".

I think it was TS Eliot who described Chesterton's verse as "first-rate journalistic balladry" and there's no doubt that much of it, like much of his writing in general, has a mission to persuade. Not for Chesterton the then-fashionable dictum of "art for art's sake". Behind "The Rolling English Road" lies its author's powerfully-felt opposition to the threatened introduction of Prohibition into Britain: the law had already been passed in the US, and Chesterton saw it as an abuse of the ordinary man's right to ordinary pleasures. But, if moral indignation was the impulse, the resulting poem is miles away from one-sided polemic.

(Nostra traduzione: La scelta di questa settimana è forse la più amata tra le poesie di GK Chesterton, ma forse non molti lettori sanno che "The Rolling English Road", pubblicata per la prima volta su un settimanale politico nel 1913, era originariamente intitolata "A Song of Temperance Reform". Credo sia stato TS Eliot a descrivere i versi di Chesterton come "ballate giornalistiche di prim'ordine" e non c'è dubbio che gran parte di essi, come gran parte dei suoi scritti in generale, abbiano la missione di persuadere. Non è per Chesterton il dettame allora in voga dell'"arte per l'arte". Dietro "The Rolling English Road" si cela l'opposizione fortemente sentita dal suo autore alla minacciata introduzione del proibizionismo in Gran Bretagna: la legge era già stata approvata negli Stati Uniti e Chesterton la vedeva come un abuso del diritto dell'uomo comune ai piaceri ordinari. Ma se l'impulso era l'indignazione morale, il poema che ne risulta è ben lontano dalla polemica unilaterale).


The Rolling English Road 

Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode, 
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road. 
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire, 
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire; 
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.

I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire, 
And for to fight the Frenchman I did not much desire; 
But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed 
To straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard made,
Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our hands, 
The night we went to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin Sands.

His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run 
Behind him; and the hedges all strengthening in the sun? 
The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which was which,
But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the ditch. 
God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear 
The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton Pier.

My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage, 
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth, 
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death; 
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen, 
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.

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