The Ballad of the White Horse

The Ballad of the White Horse

The Ballad of the White Horse is one of the last great epic poems in English literature and should be studied in the English language curriculum around the world. The ballad tells the story of the English King Alfred, who fought the Danes in 878. King Alfred must learn a series of very subtle and paradoxical lessons about hope, humility and joy – in order to defeat his pagan opponents on the battlefield.

At the same time, this is the story of Christianity that withstands the destructive forces of paganism and nihilism. And, by this, it is an allegory about Christianity in our modern age, under the growing threat and pressure of secularism and secularization.

The central metaphor of the poem is the image of the White Horse from Berskshire, above the valley where Alfred fought the Danes. The first thing Alfred did after the battle was to clean the grass and weeds that the barbarians had left to cover the horse’s image. King Alfred’s gesture will be repeated from generation to generation, which is why we can still see the image of the White Horse today. The moral tradition of mankind does not perpetuate itself – its preservation requires an active and substantial effort. If we do not clean the weeds covering the White Horse, the grass will swallow it very soon, and we will lose it forever.


  • Author: Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936)
  • Original title: The Ballad of the White Horse
  • Original language: English
  • Genre: Epic, historical poem
  • Publication year: 1911
  • Public: Adults, teenagers
The Ballad of the White Horse