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Another Antidote

Laughter. G.K. Chesterton’s poems, Patrick Kurp writes, are full of it, and its primary function is to subvert “self-importance”:

I’m reading The Collected Poems of G.K. Chesterton systematically for the first time, cover to cover. This is the Methuen & Co. third edition, published in 1933, three years before the poet’s death. Chesterton’s poems are rhymed and metrically regular. Even during his lifetime his verse was judged old-fashioned, out of step with literary Modernism, yet his poems are never less than entertaining and sometimes rousing. I noticed how often Chesterton mentions laughter, always with approval. In “The Skeleton” he writes: “Here among the flowers I lie / Laughing everlastingly.” In “A Novelty”: “To me, like sudden laughter, / The stars are fresh and gay.” “The Secret People”: “There are no folk in the whole world so helpless or so wise. / There is hunger in our bellies, there is laughter in our eyes.” There’s even a “Ballade of Laughter,” which begins:

I count all laughter terrible and true,
A thunder of God given before the Fall,
A flaming sword from which the devils flew,
A red hot poker to make the pedants squall.

The third line contains a clue.  For “devils” of any species – fanatics, ideologues, common criminals, bores, boors, boobs – laughter is a reliable repellant.


about the author

Micah Mattix is the literary editor of The American Conservative and an associate professor of English at Regent University. Follow him on Twitter.

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