The song of the strange ascetic – GK Chesterton – put to music by Phil Taylor

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My in-laws hold regular folk nights at which my husband often recites poetry. One of his ‘repertoire’ is this poem by GK Chesterton:

The Song of the Strange Ascetic (1913)
by Gilbert Keith Chesterton

If I had been a heathen,
I’d have praised the purple vine,
My slaves should dig the vineyards,
And I would drink the wine;
But Higgins is a heathen,
And his slaves grow lean and grey,
That he may drink some tepid milk
Exactly twice a day.

If I had been a heathen,
I’d have crowned Neaera’s curls,
And filled my life with love affairs,
My house with dancing girls;
But Higgins is a heathen,
And to lecture rooms is forced,
Where his aunts, who are not married,
Demand to be divorced.

If I had been a heathen,
I’d have sent my armies forth,
And dragged behind my chariots
The Chieftains of the North;
But Higgins is a heathen,
And he drives the dreary quill,
To lend the poor that funny cash
That makes them poorer still.

If I had been a heathen,
I’d have piled my pyre on high,
And in a great red whirlwind
Gone roaring to the sky;
But Higgins is a heathen,
And a richer man than I:
And they put him in an oven,
Just as if he were a pie.

Now who that runs can read it,
The riddle that I write,
Of why this poor old sinner
Should sin without delight;
But I, I cannot read it
(Although I run and run),
Of them that do not have the faith,
And will not have the fun.

This poem always calls to mind Richard Dawkins and his new atheist disciples who often appear such a miserable bunch!

Inspired at our last folk night, my brother in law, Phil, has now put this poem to music. Have a listen here:

http://www.soundcloud.com/big-t-records/phil-taylor-higgins

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