Hope of the Half-Defeated

Especially after witnessing my German wife’s unlooked-for response very late the other night while (and moreso after) I read aloud to her for the first time G.K. Chesterton’s short essay, “Two Words from Poland,”1 I am now even more confident in my judgment to recommend these seven pages to the close attentiveness of the reader. For, interwoven in these variegated pages is so much of the affirming heart and admiring character of Chesterton—to include his understated humor and deft self-irony. May we not, for example, even now imagine him in Warsaw “at the jumping competition in the Concours Hippique,” (54) riding an elephant in a military steeplechase with the Polish cavalry? After the Polish cavalry’s gracious invitation to him to ride with them, Chesterton more modestly thought, however, that he “should be more useful as an obstacle than a surmounter of obstacles”! (54)

Moreover, Chesterton gives a generous tribute to his dear friend, Hilaire Belloc, but without explicitly mentioning the title of Belloc’s Marian verse, yet twice adding a nuance of meaning to Belloc’s original phrase: “Help of the Half-Defeated.” For, Chesterton also calls Our Lady: “Hope of the Half-Defeated.” (53, 55) Belloc’s “Ballade to Our Lady of Czestochowa” was resonantly in his heart!

1G.K. Chesterton, “Two Words from Poland,” from his Anthology of essays entitled Generally Speaking (New York:

Dodd, Meade & Company, 1929), pp. 49-55. This anthology was first published in London the year earlier, in 1928; and first published in New York in February of 1929. Further page references will be to the American Edition, and placed in parentheses in the main body of the text above. All emphases—bold and italics—will have been added by the present writer to the original text, unless otherwise specifically indicated.

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