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Sharing a poem

29 Dec

Let me share a favourite of mine: Robert Graves, “The Cool Web”. If one is to accept Richard Tarnas’s admittedly schematic account of Romanticism versus Enlightenment in Chapter VI of The Passion of the Western Mind, I tend towards the Romantics, aware of the danger, as the end of this poem suggests. I suspect my (heretical) religious views are of a piece with this. Some day I may write a post on “Why 21st Century People of Faith Must Be Heretics or Die”… This may be sooner than you think. “The Cool Web” resonates with postmodernism too, which would obviously not have occurred to Robert Graves.

I am currently reading, again, Sam Harris, The End of Faith (2005) much of which I agree with, and am about to read Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (2006). Skimming the latter, I note that Dawkins has some time for Bishop Richard Holloway and Bishop Spong, as the extract linked there shows. Both could have told him that Paul did not write the Epistle to the Hebrews, a fact long recognised, even if that is not all that vital to the point Dawkins is making about blood sacrifice. I will come back to these books later.

The poem:

Children are dumb to say how hot the day is,
How hot the scent is of the summer rose,
How dreadful the black wastes of evening sky,
How dreadful the tall soldiers drumming by.

But we have speech, to chill the angry day,
And speech, to dull the rose’s cruel scent.
We spell away the overhanging night,
We spell away the soldiers and the fright.

There’s a cool web of language winds us in,
Retreat from too much joy or too much fear:
We grow sea-green at last and coldly die
In brininess and volubility.

But if we let our tongues lose self-possession,
Throwing off language and its watery clasp
Before our death, instead of when death comes,
Facing the wide glare of the children’s day,
Facing the rose, the dark sky and the drums,
We shall go mad no doubt and die that way.



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Posted by on December 29, 2006 in Cultural and other, Faith and philosophy, poets and poetry, Reading, Religion

 

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