The Hunting of the Dragon

Hunting of the Dragon
(by G.K. Chesterton)

When we went hunting the Dragon
In the days when we were young,
We tossed the bright world over our shoulder
As bugle and baldrick slung;
Never was world so wild and fair
As what went by on the wind,
Never such fields of paradise
As the fields we left behind:
For this is the best of a rest for men
That men should rise and ride
Making a flying fairyland
Of market and country-side,
Wings on the cottage, wings on the wood,
Wings upon pot and pan,
For the hunting of the Dragon
That is the life of a man.

For men grow weary of fairyland
When the Dragon is a dream,
And tire of the talking bird in the tree,
The singing fish in the stream;
And the wandering stars grow stale, grow stale,
And the wonder is stiff with scorn;
For this is the honour of fairyland
And the following of the horn;

Beauty on beauty called us back
When we could rise and ride,
And a woman looked out of every window
As wonderful as a bride:
And the tavern-sign as a tabard blazed,
And the children cheered and ran,
For the love of the hate of the Dragon
That is the pride of a man.

The sages called him a shadow
And the light went out of the sun:
And the wise men told us that all was well
And all was weary and one:
And then, and then, in the quiet garden,
With never a weed to kill,
We knew that his shining tail had shone
In the white road over the hill:
We knew that the clouds were flakes of flame,
We knew that the sunset fire
Was red with the blood of the Dragon
Whose death is the worldโ€™s desire.

For the horn was blown in the heart of the night
That men should rise and ride,
Keeping the tryst of a terrible jest
Never for long untried;
Drinking a dreadful blood for wine,
Never in cup or can,
The death of a deathless Dragon,
That is the life of a man.

11 thoughts on “The Hunting of the Dragon

  1. I shared this with my high school students , so thanks. I have read much, much of GKC but didn’t know this poem. I just got his Collected Nonsense and Light Verse plus Charles Dickens and Robert Browning. Good sale at Better World Books.

    1. Isn’t it just lovely? ๐Ÿ™‚ He knew so much about the eternal themes. Glad you were able to share this with some young people.

      Yes, I always get excited every time I find a new Chesterton book. I learned recently that there is no definitive collection of ALL of his poetry, since much of it was unpublished when he died and was left in scraps at other people’s houses and in various odd places. Quite fascinating.

    1. Yes, Orthodoxy is just chock-full of wonderful things :). I’m not sure how well it flows as a whole, but each semi-disconnected portion is so good in its own right that it’s alright.

    1. ๐Ÿ˜€ No, I was not. I like him immensely — despite the fact that I disagree with him on a few points. He used his writing to war so hard against the way that “the world is changed.” And didn’t win. I am reminded of another line of Galadriel’s from “The Mirror of Galadriel” in The Fellowship of the Ring:

      “I have dwelt with him [Celeborn] years uncounted; for ere the fall of Nargothrond or Gondolin I passed over the mountains, and together through the ages of the world we have fought the long defeat…..”

      But it is better to lose on the right side than to win on the wrong one, and Chesterton knew this so well. In the Ballad of the White Horse, he writes:

      “On you is fallen the shadow,
      And not upon the Name;
      That though we scatter and though we fly,
      And you hang over us like the sky,
      You are more tired of victory,
      Than we are tired of shame.

      ‘That though you hunt the Christian man
      Like a hare on the hill-side,
      The hare has still more heart to run
      Than you have heart to ride.”

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