Princess Eadgyth (Edith), the “Kingmaker” by Big Big Train


Track 1: “Kingmaker”

Musically, an homage to Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, “Kingmaker” tells the story of  a powerful and devout medieval woman, Eadgyth, the granddaughter of King Alfred the Great, and often remembered in the Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions as “St. Edith” (one of a few St. Ediths, this Edith might have been known as “St. Edith of Polesworth; not surprisingly, many of the traditions are vague).

The sister of King Athelstan, she married King Otto of Germany in 929.  Wildly popular, she promoted a devotion to St. Oswald, one of the most romantic figures of the high middle ages.

Only relatively recently, English scholars discovered her bones.

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Chestertonian Spawtonious

          Out of the mouth of the Mother of God,
          More than the doors of doom,
          I call the muster of Wessex men
          From grassy hamlet or ditch or den,
          To break and be broken, God knows when,
          But I have seen for whom.

          Out of the mouth of the Mother of God
          Like a little word come I;
          For I go gathering Christian men
          From sunken paving and ford and fen,
          To die in a battle, God knows when,
          By God, but I know why.

          And this is the word of Mary,
          The word of the world's desire
          'No more of comfort shall ye get,
          Save that the sky grows darker yet
          And the sea rises higher.'

          Then silence sank. And slowly
          Arose the sea-land lord,
          Like some vast beast for mystery,
          He filled the room and porch and sky,
          And from a cobwebbed nail on high
          Unhooked his heavy sword.

          Up on the shrill sea-downs and up
          Went Alfred all alone,
          Turning but once e'er the door was shut,
          Shouting to Eldred over his butt,
          That he bring all spears to the woodman's hut
          Hewn under Egbert's Stone.

          And he turned his back and broke the fern,
          And fought the moths of dusk,
          And went on his way for other friends
          Friends fallen of all the wide world's ends,
          From Rome that wrath and pardon sends
          And the grey tribes on Usk.--G.K. Chesterton

Hold On


G.K Chesterton is the alleged source for Yes’ terrific 90125 song, “Hold On.”

Frank Weathers cites personal correspondence between Jon Anderson and a friend of his, in which Anderson attributes the song’s inspiration to this quotation:

In the struggle for existence, it is only on those who hang on for ten minutes after all is hopeless, that hope begins to dawn.

I searched the Internet and this quote is all over the place, attributed to Chesterton, as if writing thus in The Speaker on February 2, 1901.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Chesterton actually wrote it. There are lots of fake quotations propagated by the Internet.

And the way the “struggle for existence” phrase is placed in that sentence doesn’t sound like Chesterton to me.

I did a search through the Collected Works of Chesterton published by Ignatius Press but I have been unable to verify the quotation.

In addition, my scouring of Chesterton books via the tremendous power of Google Books yields no results.

Is there anyone out there who can cite me a published source, in order to verify this Chesterton quotation?

Until then, I will have to conclude that it is fake.

Still, this would be a marvelous case of felix culpa…

Marvelous that Anderson could read a simple fake quotation somewhere and then spin a glorious Yes song out of it.

Perhaps it would not be too much to say that Anderson had a connatural understanding of Chesterton on this one point, in somewhat the same way that Chesterton himself had an intuitive grasp of Thomas Aquinas by way of connaturality, as Marshall McLuhan has argued in his “Introduction” to Hugh Kenner’s Paradox in Chesterton:

[Chesterton] seems never to have reached any position by dialectic or doctrine, but to have enjoyed a kind of connaturality with every kind of reasonableness.

According to Weathers’ friend, Anderson apparently had this to say about his inspiration:

He told me that the song was about pressing forward into a new world—like moving from black and white into technicolor. We could either accept the end of the world, war, corruption, the extermination of mankind, or we could work toward a bright, peaceful world based on “common sense.”

He wrote—and this is why I’ve always remembered it—that “hang on” doesn’t sound as pleasing when sung as “hold on.”

Sounds connatural to me…

After all, Chesterton is the Apostle of Common Sense.