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.

by G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936).

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3 Responses to “The Rolling English Road”

  1. And who better to sing it than Maddy Prior? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJf4pqnlkgs

    I’ve seen her many times with Steeleye Span but one of the best concerts was in a school in Sandbach, just a bit down the rolling English road (or, to be truthful, the M6) from Jodrell Bank. A great concert, together with Troy Donockley and Nick Holland. There was a sign in the school saying “warm weather uniform today”. I wanted to take it and hang it up in my office. I asked someone from the school staff but they said I couldn’t take it even if I paid for it. :-(

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