The Lord Is Our Defense

Tradition has it that King Alfred the Great wrote the words to this song. Against overwhelming odds, and practically at the brink of extinction, King Alfred beat back the invasion of the pagan Danes and, for all practical purposes, founded the nation that would be known as England. And by God’s sovereign grace, within a single generation or two, the pagan invaders who stayed were Christians, too.

But if the Lord is for us, then who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

2 comments on “The Lord Is Our Defense

  1. I assume this is a translation from the Anglo-Saxon?

    Have you read G.K. Chesterton’s “The Ballad of the White Horse,” his book-length poem about King Alfred and the defeat of the Danes at Ethandune? In my benighted youth, I was so taken with it that I memorized the whole thing. (My brain was much more nimble then.)

    Interestingly enough, in the eighth and final book (canto), when word comes, years after the battle, that the Danes are returning, he reminds his people that the barbarian will always return, and we must always be prepared to fight against barbarism. Then he gives a prediction about the barbarians of the future, alluding, of course, to Chesterton’s own 20th century: “They shall not come with warships, / They shall not waste with brands, / But books be all their eating / And ink be on their hands.” Most telling for today, I think, is something Alfred predicts as one of the signs of them: “…by weird and weakness winning, / Accursed from the beginning, / By detail of the sinning / And denial of the sin.”

    But what his vision in Book 1 tells him, and what inspires all the men he gathers for the battle, always inspired me as well. He’s told that although the heathens cast spells to tell the future, “the men signed of the Cross of Christ / Go gaily in the dark.” and above all:

    “I tell you nought for your comfort,
    Yea, nought for your desire,
    Save that the sky grows darker yet
    And the sea rises higher.

    “Night shall be thrice night over you,
    And heaven an iron cope.
    Do you have joy without a cause,
    Yea, faith without a hope?”

    I still get chills at that — and I still answer, “Yes!!” Signed with the Cross of Christ, I, too, will go gaily in the dark against the barbarian. The Cross has already conquered. The barbarian will always return, but so long as we refuse to become barbarians ourselves, the barbarian has lost.

    Sorry. Didn’t mean to go into such a diatribe.

Leave a Reply