White founts falling in the Courts of the sun,
     And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
     There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
     It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard;
     It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips;
     For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
     They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
     They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
     And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
     And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross.
     The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
     The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
     From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
     And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

     Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
     Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
     Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
     The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
     The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
     That once went singing southward when all the world was young.
     In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
     Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
     Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
     Don John of Austria is going to the war,
     Stiff flags straining in the night-blasts cold
     In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold,
     Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
     Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
     Don John laughing in the brave beard curled,
     Spurning of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world,
     Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.
     Love-light of Spain–hurrah!
     Death-light of Africa!
     Don John of Austria
     Is riding to the sea.

     Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
     (Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
     He moves a mighty turban on the timeless houri’s knees,
     His turban that is woven of the sunsets and the seas.
     He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease,
     And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees;
     And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring
     Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing.
     Giants and the Genii,
     Multiplex of wing and eye,
     Whose strong obedience broke the sky
     When Solomon was king.

     They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
     From the temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
     They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea
     Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be,
     On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl,
     Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl;
     They swell in sapphire smoke out of the blue cracks of the ground,–
     They gather and they wonder and give worship to Mahound.
     And he saith, “Break up the mountains where the hermit-folk can hide,
     And sift the red and silver sands lest bone of saint abide,
     And chase the Giaours flying night and day, not giving rest,
     For that which was our trouble comes again out of the west.
     We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun,
     Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done.
     But a noise is in the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
     The voice that shook our palaces–four hundred years ago:
     It is he that saith not ‘Kismet’; it is he that knows not Fate;
     It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey at the gate!
     It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
     Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth.”
     For he heard drums groaning and he heard guns jar,
     (Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
     Sudden and still–hurrah!
     Bolt from Iberia!
     Don John of Austria
     Is gone by Alcalar.

     St. Michaels on his Mountain in the sea-roads of the north
     (Don John of Austria is girt and going forth.)
     Where the grey seas glitter and the sharp tides shift
     And the sea-folk labour and the red sails lift.
     He shakes his lance of iron and he claps his wings of stone;
     The noise is gone through Normandy; the noise is gone alone;
     The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes,
     And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise,
     And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room,
     And Christian dreadeth Christ that hath a newer face of doom,
     And Christian hateth Mary that God kissed in Galilee,–
     But Don John of Austria is riding to the sea.
     Don John calling through the blast and the eclipse
     Crying with the trumpet, with the trumpet of his lips,
     Trumpet that sayeth ha!
         Domino gloria!
     Don John of Austria
     Is shouting to the ships.

     King Philip’s in his closet with the Fleece about his neck
     (Don John of Austria is armed upon the deck.)
     The walls are hung with velvet that is black and soft as sin,
     And little dwarfs creep out of it and little dwarfs creep in.
     He holds a crystal phial that has colours like the moon,
     He touches, and it tingles, and he trembles very soon,
     And his face is as a fungus of a leprous white and grey
     Like plants in the high houses that are shuttered from the day,
     And death is in the phial and the end of noble work,
     But Don John of Austria has fired upon the Turk.
     Don John’s hunting, and his hounds have bayed–
     Booms away past Italy the rumour of his raid.
     Gun upon gun, ha! ha!
     Gun upon gun, hurrah!
     Don John of Austria
     Has loosed the cannonade.

     The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
     (Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
     The hidden room in man’s house where God sits all the year,
     The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
     He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
     The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
     They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
     They veil the plumèd lions on the galleys of St. Mark;
     And above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
     And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
     Christian captives sick and sunless, all a labouring race repines
     Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
     They are lost like slaves that sweat, and in the skies of morning hung
     The stair-ways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.
     They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
     Before the high Kings’ horses in the granite of Babylon.
     And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
     Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,
     And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign–
     (But Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!)
     Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
     Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate’s sloop,
     Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
     Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
     Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
     White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.

     Vivat Hispania!
     Domino Gloria!
     Don John of Austria
     Has set his people free!

     Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
     (Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
     And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain,
     Up which a lean and foolish knight for ever rides in vain,
     And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade….
     (But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade

G. K. Chesterton

For a good overview of the battle of Lepanto read this review by Victor Davis Hanson here of  The Victory of the West: The Great Christian-Muslim Clash at the Battle of Lepanto by Niccolò Capponi.

May Our Lady of Victory send us more knights with the courage and compassion of Don Juan of Austria and more poets with the faith and eloquence of Chesterton.



11 Responses to Lepanto

  1. Dale Price says:

    Capponi’s book is indeed excellent, and I strongly recommend it.

  2. Tito Edwards says:

    Thank you Dale.

    Is it Triumph good?

  3. American Knight says:


    I found Triumph to be more exciting but Dale is right – it is awesome. If you liked Triumph make sure you get the History of Christendom by Dr. Carroll, founder of Christendom College – I think it is five or six volumes. Excellent.

    What saddens me is that we seem to have forgotten the victory at Curzolaris (Lepanto) and we are losing ground through immigration and population, especially in Europe. The West may simply wimper and die. Where are the Knights? Where are the fathers and mothers? Catholics lead the way.

    Our Lady of Victory ora pro nobis.

  4. Tito Edwards says:


    I have read Dr. Carroll’s series, it is top notch to say the least!

    What I am currently reading is almost as good as Triumph and Dr. Carroll’s book it’s “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization” by Thomas E. Woods. It is good reading so far.

    I will take both Dale’s and your advice and get that book.

    I hear that Hilaire Belloc’s Crusade’s book is great also.

    Our Lady of Victory ora pro nobis.

  5. American Knight says:

    Dr. Woods’ book is excellent. He also hosted a few episodes based on the book on EWTN. Not on the same subject but his most recent, Meltdown, is very well done too.

    I have not read Belloc’s stuff and if I get any more books my wife might kill me. However, I did enjoy Madden’ short book about the Crusades. Also completely off topic, Crocker has an excellent book about the War for Southern Independence, the PIG to the Civil War and he specifically mentions the crown of thorns the Pope wove for President Jefferson Davis, CSA.

    You don’t sleep much do you?

  6. Tito Edwards says:

    Meltdown? I’m going to do some research and update my Amazon wish list again!

    No, don’t sleep much, but I do like to sleep.

  7. Don the Kiwi says:

    Great poem from Chesterton.

    Reminds me of my school days – good work Don.

    My RCIA night was Tuesday 6th. I told them all about the feast day – “The Holy Rosary” – previously “Our Lady of Victories.”
    I gave them Crocker’s article in Crisis Magazine a year or so ago. They were all astounded.
    So then I told them about 9/11 – 11th Sept 1683 – the Battle of Vienna where the Catholic army defeated the Muslim army and sent them packing back to the Balkans.

    When I explained the same history to my daughter she was quite overwhelmed – this stuff is not taught in schools anymore – not even Catholic schools.

    The salvation of Western civilisation is in debt to the Catholic church – no mistake.

    Tell that to your average Joe on the street – you’ll be met with guffaws.

  8. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Unfortunately Don too many Catholics know as much about the history of their Church as a pig knows about penance. I am glad, but not surprised, that you are waging a one man campaign against this tide of ignorance!

  9. American Knight says:

    God created time for us so we can journey back to Him through it. If we don’t know where we came from, how we got here, what we did right and what we did wrong; how the heck are we supposed to know where we’re going?

    The best way to demorilze a people, take away their pride (the good pride, not hubris), confuse their values and enslave them is to make them forgot their history, or better yet give them one more sympathetic to your cause.

    That’s what we have today in this country, the Western world and in the Church. The Church built Western Civilization and preserved the wisdom of the pagan philosophers, the good things from the Roman Republic and transmits the most important historical event.

    As Don Kiwi said most people would laugh at this becuase they’ve been taught that Rome fell becuase of the Babrabrians (they have no idea what global cooling had to with it) and then kingdoms cropped up that forced the working-class to work for the feudal lords and then, in typical western warmonger fashion, invaded Muslim lands until the Enlightenment, when smarter, more rational and irreligious people saved human kind from the Dark Ages.

    Irrational, decietful and woefully borring. Hence why kids can’t keep their pants up around their waist – they don’t know the history of belts.

  10. bearing says:

    I first encountered this poem in the form of an excerpt — the first four lines of the last stanza — which appeared as part of the foreword in an edition of Don Quixote that I read at age 14. I didn’t remember who wrote it, but it has always stuck in my heart and I was delighted years later to discover Chesterton was the author, and along with that, the rest of the poem.

  11. Dale Price says:


    I’m not a huge fan of Triumph. It has its moments, but Crocker’s handling of Byzantium suggested to me that a Greek guy had beaten his high school football team for the state championship and stolen his girlfriend afterwards.

    I don’t have a problem with a historian displaying his sympathies and animosities, but I prefer it to be based on something other than sheer spite.

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