Today is October 7th, 2013. Four hundred and forty-two years ago, the Battle of Lepanto was won by the Holy League in the Gulf of Corinth. The Holy League was led by Don John of Austria, half-brother of King Phillip II of Spain, and it had been gathered together by Pope St. Pius V. It is commemorated to this day by the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, celebrated every year upon October 7th. In fact, the whole month of October is now known as the Month of the Rosary.
More importantly, as far as literature goes, this stunning victory has been immortalized in the verse of G. K. Chesterton. With his usual brilliant glitter and smash of words, GKC describes in his poem, Lepanto, the lead-up to the battle in a few pages, all of which combine to inspire awe in the reverent reader. He lists how the Protestant queen of England, Elizabeth, did not care to respond to the Pope's call for action against the Turk, and how France equally failed to respond. Germany was torn asunder by Protestant fighting Catholic - "And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow room."
Spain and Italy saved the day. The city-states of Italy assembled some ships, and it was Don John of Austria, raised in Spain, who was given command of the Holy League. This is magnificently detailed in The Last Crusader by Louis de Wohl, when the Pope has an epiphany as he hears the words, "There was a man sent by God, whose name was John," during Mass and realizes who he should put in commant of the fleet.
Few say it better than GKC:
"And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross."
They are haunting lines. Few remember now how closely we all came to speaking Arabic and studying One Thousand and One Nights for literature, but I shall not forget.
I shall end with this quote by Dale Ahlquist upon the neglect of Lepanto by modern literature critics:
"But all those tributes, as well as the poem itself, have been forgotten... So the problem with the poem is that it is a defense of the Catholic Church, of the Crusades, and of war: three things not generally looked kindly upon in today's English literature classes; of course, neither are rhyme and meter. The only twentieth century poetry that is permitted to be studied is that which clashes with everything: with the ear, with history, and with common sense."
After having to read poems fetishizing decaying flesh and lovingly chronicling the darker aspects of Greek mythology ,and having had disturbing, unnecessary, and downright idiotic homoerotic interpretations of literature foisted on me, I can only concur full-heartedly.
I shall conclude with the cry of the Crusaders: Dominus le vult!
In Pace Christi,