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A Piece of Chalk

1908

by G.K. Chesterton (1874 - 1936)

Chesterton decides to sketch on the Sussex downs, prompting a lightly comic encounter with a housekeeper about obtaining brown paper and a digression on pocket contents.

He then vividly describes the landscape, his intended subject (not a cow, but the soul of a cow) and thinks about ‘the old poets who lived before Wordsworth’. Then he realises he has forgotten white chalk. Appreciation that white is not merely an absence inspires soaring spiritual raptures, descending bathetically: ‘Meanwhile, I could not find my chalk’. His despair, however, turns finally to triumph and roaring patriotic joy. An ‘artful’ essay in every sense.

Related recommendation: Chesterton’s ‘A Defence of Nonsense’; John Berger’s ‘Field’ (1971)

Origin: Britain

Themes: Familiar Examined Afresh, Nature or Architecture/ Material Environment

Genres: Familiar or Personal, Humorous, Sermon or Jeremiad

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