'The Last Hero' by G.K. Chesterton

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The wind blew out from Bergen, from the dawning to the day
There was a wreck of trees, a fall of towers, a score of miles away
And drifted like a livid leaf I go before the tide
Spewed out of house and stable, beggared of flag and bride
The heavens are bowed about my head, raging like seraph wars
With rains that might put out the sun, and rid the sky of stars
Rains like the fall of ruined seas from secret worlds above
The roaring of the rains of God, none but the lonely love
Feast in my halls, O Foemen! O eat and drink and drain!
You never loved the sun in heaven, as I have loved the rain!

The tide of battle changes, so may all battle be
I stole my lady bride from them; they stole her back from me
As I wrenched her from her red roofed halls, I rose and saw arise
More lovely than the living flowers, the hatred in her eyes
She never loved me, never wept, never was less divine
And sunset never knew us, her world was never mine
Was it all for nothing that she stood, imperial in duresse
Silence itself made softer with the sweeping of her dress
O you who drain the cup of life! O You who wear the crown!
You never loved a woman's smile as I have loved her frown!

The wind blew out from Bergen to the dawning of the day
They ride and race with fifty spears to break and bar my way
I shall not die alone, alone, but kin to all the powers
As merry as the ancient sun, and fighting like the flowers!
How white their steel! How bright their eyes! I love each laughing knave
Cry high and bid him welcome to the banquet of the brave
Yea, I will bless them as they bend, and love them where they lie
When upon their skulls the sword I swing falls shattering from the sky
That hour when death is like a light, and blood is as a rose -
You never loved your friends, my friends, as I will love my foes!

Know you what you shall lose this night, what rich uncounted loans
What heavy gold of tales untold you bury with my bones
My loves in deep dim meadows, my ships that rode at ease
Ruffling the purple plumage of strange and secret seas
To see this fair earth as it stands, to me alone was given
The blow that breaks my brow tonight shall break the dome of heaven
The skies I saw, the trees I saw, after, no eye shall see
Tonight I die the death of God - the stars shall die with me!
One sound shall sunder all the spears, and break the trumpet's breath -
You never laughed in all your life, as I shall laugh in death!

Submitted by Tom Burrows

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Last Hero: A Literary Criticism

From the title alone, "The Last Hero", it's easy to assume that this poem by G.K. Chesterton is about a character, a person who is the embodiment of bravery and courage. But as one reads on, it becomes clear that the poem is more than just a tribute to a heroic figure.

In fact, the poem is a critique of the prevailing values of Chesterton's time, which placed a greater emphasis on individualism and self-preservation than on the greater good.

The Heroic Figure

The poem's protagonist is, indeed, a hero. But he is not a hero in the traditional sense. He is not a soldier, nor is he a great leader. Instead, he is a simple sheep farmer, who willingly sacrifices himself to save his village from a dragon.

The hero's decision to face the dragon alone is a clear allusion to the story of St. George, who is said to have killed a dragon to save a princess. But whereas St. George is a noble knight, the hero of this poem is an ordinary man, who embodies the virtues of selflessness and courage.

The Dragon

The dragon is a creature that has long been associated with evil and destruction. In this poem, however, Chesterton uses the dragon as a metaphor for the greed and selfishness that he sees as the greatest threat to society.

The dragon is described as a creature that hoards treasure and demands tribute from the villagers. It is a symbol of the corrupting influence of wealth and power, and the hero's decision to face it alone is a testament to his belief in the importance of community and solidarity.

The Village

The village is the setting for the poem, and it is also a symbol of the collective good. The hero's decision to sacrifice himself to save the village is an affirmation of the value of community and the importance of social responsibility.

The villagers themselves are also important characters in the poem. They are not simply passive bystanders, but active participants in the hero's sacrifice. They offer him their support and encouragement, and in doing so, they become a part of the heroic act themselves.

The Theme

The poem's central theme is the importance of selflessness and sacrifice in the face of greed and selfishness. Chesterton is critiquing the individualism that he saw as prevalent in his time, and arguing that a society that places the good of the community above the good of the individual is more likely to thrive.

The hero's sacrifice is a reminder that there are more important things in life than personal gain or glory. His decision to face the dragon alone is a rejection of the idea that one should only act in one's own self-interest, and an affirmation of the idea that we are all responsible for the well-being of our communities.

The Style

Chesterton's style is characterized by its simplicity and clarity. The poem is written in a straightforward, narrative style, which makes it accessible to readers of all ages and backgrounds.

But despite its simplicity, the poem is also rich in metaphor and symbolism. Chesterton uses the dragon as a metaphor for the corrupting influence of wealth and power, and the hero's sacrifice as a symbol of the importance of selflessness and community.

The Conclusion

"The Last Hero" is a powerful poem that offers a critique of the prevailing values of Chesterton's time. It is a reminder that the pursuit of personal gain and glory should not come at the expense of the greater good.

Through the hero's sacrifice, Chesterton argues that we all have a responsibility to our communities, and that the well-being of the collective is more important than the well-being of the individual.

In the end, the hero's sacrifice is not only an act of bravery, but an act of love. It is a reminder that true heroism is not about personal glory, but about selflessness and sacrifice.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Last Hero: A Poem of Courage and Sacrifice

G.K. Chesterton’s poem, The Last Hero, is a masterpiece of English literature that captures the essence of heroism and sacrifice. Written in 1901, the poem tells the story of a brave knight who embarks on a perilous journey to save his people from a terrible dragon. The poem is a celebration of courage, selflessness, and the triumph of good over evil.

The Last Hero is a narrative poem that tells a story in verse. The poem is divided into six stanzas, each with four lines. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, and the meter is iambic tetrameter. The poem’s structure is simple and straightforward, which makes it easy to read and understand. However, the simplicity of the poem’s structure belies its depth and complexity.

The poem begins with a description of the dragon that terrorizes the land. The dragon is described as a “monster of scales and flame” that “devours all in its path.” The dragon is a symbol of evil and destruction, and its presence threatens the very existence of the people. The dragon represents the forces of darkness that seek to destroy the light of goodness and hope.

The poem’s hero is a knight who is described as “the last of his kind.” The knight is a symbol of courage and nobility, and he is the only one who is brave enough to face the dragon. The knight is not afraid of death, and he is willing to sacrifice his life to save his people. The knight represents the best of humanity, the qualities that make us human and give us hope.

The knight sets out on his journey, armed only with his sword and his courage. He knows that he may not return, but he is determined to do what is right. The knight’s journey is a metaphor for the journey of life. We are all on a journey, and we must face our own dragons. We must be brave and courageous, and we must be willing to sacrifice ourselves for the greater good.

The knight finally reaches the dragon’s lair, and he engages the monster in battle. The battle is fierce and intense, and the knight is wounded several times. However, he does not give up. He fights on, even when it seems that all is lost. The knight’s determination and courage are an inspiration to us all. We must never give up, even when the odds are against us.

In the end, the knight defeats the dragon, but he is mortally wounded. The knight’s sacrifice is a symbol of the ultimate sacrifice that we all must make. We must be willing to give up everything for the sake of others. The knight’s sacrifice is a reminder that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

The poem’s final stanza is a tribute to the knight’s bravery and sacrifice. The knight is remembered as a hero, a symbol of all that is good and noble. The knight’s legacy lives on, and his memory inspires us to be better people. The poem’s final lines are a call to action, a reminder that we must all be heroes in our own way.

The Last Hero is a timeless poem that speaks to the human spirit. It reminds us of the power of courage, selflessness, and sacrifice. The poem’s message is as relevant today as it was when it was written over a century ago. We all face our own dragons, and we must be brave and courageous in the face of adversity. We must be willing to sacrifice ourselves for the greater good, and we must never give up hope.

In conclusion, The Last Hero is a masterpiece of English literature that celebrates the best of humanity. The poem’s hero is a symbol of courage and nobility, and his sacrifice is a reminder of the ultimate sacrifice that we all must make. The poem’s message is one of hope and inspiration, and it reminds us that we can all be heroes in our own way. The Last Hero is a poem that should be read and cherished by all who seek to live a life of courage, selflessness, and sacrifice.

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