Grey twilight and a yellow star
Hung over thorn and hill;
Two spears and a cloven war-shield lay
Loose on the road as cast away,
The horn died faint in the forest grey,
And the fleeing men stood still.
“Brothers in arms,” said Alfred,
“On this side lies the foe;
Are slavery and starvation flowers,
That you should pluck them so?
“For whether is it better
To be prodded with Danish poles,
Having hewn a chamber in a ditch,
And hounded like a howling witch,
Or smoked to death in holes?
“Or that before the red cock crow
All we, a thousand strong,
Go down the dark road to God’s house,
Singing a Wessex song?
“To sweat a slave to a race of slaves,
To drink up infamy?
No, brothers, by your leave, I think
Death is a better ale to drink,
And by all the stars of Christ that sink,
The Danes shall drink with me.”
– G.K. Chesterton, The Ballad of the White Horse