All of Europe rejoiced at the time, even the Christian states that refused help. Now, among the shards and remnants of that civilization which is called the West and extends far beyond Europe, the doubtful heirs reflect upon this event in more diverse and more ambiguous ways. The predominant mode is to ignore it, in the modern sense of acknowledging it on Wikipedia and then rejecting its importance, hand-waving away its unexpectedness, and belittling the idea that Our Lady of the Rosary had anything to do with it. Another approach takes the event seriously as a landmark in the history of warfare, of economics, and of the West, but still leaves Our Lady out in their attempts at explanation.
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All of Europe rejoiced at the time, even the Christian states that refused help. Now, among the shards and remnants of that civilization which is called the West and extends far beyond Europe, the doubtful heirs reflect upon this event in more diverse and more ambiguous ways.
The predominant mode is to ignore it, in the modern sense of acknowledging it on Wikipedia and then rejecting its importance, hand-waving away its unexpectedness, and belittling the idea that Our Lady of the Rosary had anything to do with it. Another approach takes the event seriously as a landmark in the history of warfare, of economics, and of the West, but still leaves Our Lady out in their attempts at explanation. And finally, there are those who see it as a miracle, and miracles always imply the involvement of our Lady, because she is the greatest miracle of all.
It does not belittle the importance of the battle. It does not ignore the supernatural. But it stands, so to speak, on the threshold of an acknowledgement of Our Lady; it is a poem about an unexplainable event brought to flower by an untimely knight.
It pauses at the unlooked-for, brilliant wonder of the event and does not proceed further. But this wonder is an important and necessary step in itself. It is the kind of wonder that, once arrived at, can only lead to reverence for Our Lady.
It is a tribute to knightliness, and a knight means nothing without his lady fair. It might be helpful to talk about the battle of Lepanto in a broader historical context before discussing the poem itself, if only because the battle must be seen as a real crisis for Europe even to a non-Christian who investigates the event honestly. It is a battle that comprises not only endings but also beginnings.
Not all that ended was evil nor all that came out of it good, and appreciating the complexity surrounding the event should not dull but sharpen the appetite for the cosmic drama that it was in essence. They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy, They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea, And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss, And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross… Waged between the Venetian-Spanish Holy League and the Ottoman Empire, the battle of Lepanto was one of the last major encounters between galleys in history and heralded a less chivalric age in naval warfare.
After this, sea battles would be decided more on the basis of sails and cannons rather than rowers and ramming. To oppose both the elite Turkish janissaries think Turkish Navy Seals and the poorly armed masses who manned the Turkish galleys, the Christians were armed with guns produced cheaply and in large quantities. Here one can move on to more uplifting contrasts. For while the whole Turkish army was an army of slaves even Ali Pasha, the admiral of the fleet, was technically the slave of the Sultan , the Christian navy was mostly composed of free men, many of whom had relatives who had been captured or enslaved by the Turks and who were therefore fighting for their freedom as well as for the Cross.
All this, however, is ultimately beside the point; anything looks possible after it is accomplished, but no one could have predicted what would happen before the battle of Lepanto began. The Christians were outnumbered in ships and in men. Their coalition, consisting of a handful of vessels from the Spanish navy, the double-dealing Venetians who would remake their alliance with the Turks two years hence, and the small Papal armada, was fraught with mutual suspicion.
They were up against a Turkish navy that was undefeated in recent history. Material, economic, and social situations can explain why the battle became a rout, but there is no explanation for the initial daring that led up to it. This is not by accident. Chesterton is focused on knight and Cross. Chesterton knew that the greatest test of the knight is his preparation for battle—his watching, praying, and suffering—before, and not in the actual contest itself. This poem is about freedom after all: freedom versus fatalism, the freedom of the knight, the freedom of the Christian, and the freedom of the Christian knight to fight for the Cross.
And this is as far as Chesterton takes us in this poem. One might suggest that it is because he writes this poem when not yet a Catholic. One might also suggest that he is imitating the knight himself, laboring and fighting to quietly, respectfully, and unobtrusively lay a great conquest at the foot of the woman who stands at the foot of the Cross.
Can such an interpretation really be amiss? Pius V had recommended the Rosary to the whole Catholic world as the battle approached, and the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary was instituted to thank her for victory. Considering the poem, the harmony between it and the Rosary is striking and perhaps not coincidental.
The Rosary is a most knightly prayer: a persistent prayer, a persevering prayer, the prayer most associated with spiritual warfare, and a prayer that can be said on horseback, on deck, or in battle if need be.
Taking up the Rosary is taking up the Cross, and taking up the Cross is to crusade. The battle of Lepanto was indeed the last crusade. What does Chesterton, then, hope to achieve by writing about a lost cause? Chesterton wrote about Lepanto not only because it was a last crusade, but also because every crusade is the last crusade. He encourages us to prepare for the last crusade of our own lives. When the Carmelite nuns faced their last crusade at the scaffold during the Reign of Terror, they, like Don John, braved death singing.
Last Crusade Calling Lost Christendom to War! “Lepanto” by G.K. Chesterton
Aug 04, J. Yet the way to fix all that is certainly not to print tiny little books with bits and pieces of him in there surrounded by uncivil nonsense like the following: "Chesterton deserves to be placed among the immortals of literature for this poem alone. Like every masterpiece, it is a work of art that continues to get better and better with time and leaves the reader in awe. It should be memorized and studied and discussed and revisited by every student of English literature and world history. Hardly anyone knows of the poem. It suffers in obscurity because of a combined prejudice against rhyme and meter, against Catholicism, and against G.
Poem of the Week: ‘Lepanto’ by G.K. Chesterton
For example, lines 5—7 of the following passage are identified as achieving this effect:  Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard, Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred, Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall, The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall, The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung, That once went singing southward when all the world was young. In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid, Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade. And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain, Up which a lean and foolish knight forever rides in vain, And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade. But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade.
레판토 해전 (1571년)
Is riding to the sea. Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star, Don John of Austria is going to the war. He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease, And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees, And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing. Giants and the Genii, Multiplex of wing and eye, Whose strong obedience broke the sky When Solomon was king. They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn, From temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn; They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be; On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl, Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl; They swell in sapphire smoke out of the blue cracks of the ground, — They gather and they wonder and give worship to Mahound. It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth, Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth. Sudden and still — hurrah!