1. Our Lady's role in the Ballad of the White Horse as portrayed in books I, II, and VII.
King Alfred of Wessex, ruler of southern England in ninth-century, is the main character in G.K. Chesterton's compelling poem, The Ballad of the White Horse. During a time when the pagan Danes threaten to destroy the societal values Western Europeans had spent centuries building, Alfred, his chiefs, and his Christian armies receive inspiration to continue the battle for Christendom from Our Lady. For though Alfred and his armies strive to win the earthly battle with the Danes, they must also overcome the spiritual battle: abandoning the attitudes of doubt and despair, in order that they might trust in God for the strength Alfred's kingdom. Thus, as the image of majestic beauty, wisdom, and womanly power, Our Lady inspires Alfred, his chiefs, and his Christians armies to remember God's goodness despite the difficult times, and to trust Him in spite of dire appearances, which gives them the strength to overcome their and physical frailty and conquer their enemies. In her first appearance to Alfred, which occurs on the island of Athleney, Our Lady reveals herself as the ultimate image of ethereal beauty and majesty, which reminds Alfred of God's goodness despite the difficult times, and inspires him to concentrate on the importance of winning the spiritual battle, despite a bleak image of the future. Alone on the desolate river isle,
Alfred laments the loss of his beloved kingdom and God's apparent abandonment of Wessex men.
Thus far, the Danes have plundered most of the English countryside, desecrated numerous churches, and brought evil practices, ...
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...usness, despite her prediction of great uncertainty and difficulty, and they agree to fight the Danes to the bitter end. Alfred, overcome with the unfounded “joy of giants,” hurries to deliver Mary's message to the three men who will be crucial to his success in fighting the Danes. The first, Eldred, is a Saxon farmer who desires to remain among the certain, simple pleasures of daily life. Although he admires Alfred's courage, he sees little reason to battle the Danes, who have already inflicted the English with such heavy losses. He pleads with his king, saying, “Why should my harmless hinds be slain. . .[for] in all fights we fail?” (II: 54,57)
Alfred, however, encourages Eldred not to concentrate on victory, but rather, for whom they are fighting: for God, and for the Christian people who deserve protection from the Danes and their pagan influences.