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Pedantic Babylon

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The Spindle of War

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The Wistman

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Days pass by, and if we’re keyed in to public and world affairs we can daily feel the squeeze, like a wet rag twisted, twisted until all the moisture is bled out.  We’re getting used to it again, though I know I’ve seen this all before, rolled out in much the same way.

Again we observe the profit of a few supported by the suffering of many.  The aggressive and violent impoverishment of others.  International affairs conducted like a football game, with the respective populations cheering from remote bleachers, while contentedly ignoring the death, theft, lies, and hypocrisy writ large across the faraway bombed out cities but cunningly, cynically deleted from the media’s headlines.  And human society seems to love it, loves its chance at ‘winning’, decade after decade, century after century.  John Daido Loori, founding abbot of the Zen Mountain Monastery, once commented simply:  “Yes.  It is hopeless.”  However, in spite of his judgment, he never gave up hope.

Sadly I have not his well of compassionate objectivity.  In spite of the beautiful creations humanity has bestowed on this planet, in spite of humanity’s amazing intelligence and profound consciousness, its vicious destructiveness and heartless cruelty bewilders my sense of equanimity; I feel we have betrayed the planet and all its living forms.  We are, collectively, a menace and unworthy of any place at Gaia’s table. 

bodies-pile-dresden.jpg.d1ab7a71720d2f53115193a7a04cfa0d.jpg  Dresden, Germany

  Yeats’s perspective was far more subtle and complex than mine.  He’d lived through numerous international conflicts, including two world wars, as well as lingering, fluctuating struggles for Irish independence from Britain, which became a terrible civil war early in the twentieth century; and he was superbly informed about mankind’s hunger for the folly of war throughout history.  It has been said that poetry is an artform of language that conveys meaning which prose cannot.  C. Day-Lewis as Poet Laureate of England described the art of poetry as “the saying of the unsayable.”  So I will comment no further (since my words are weak) and allow Yeats’s lines to reach you, in all their uniquely human depth of meaning.  There are many war poems, these are just a few.  If you are inclined, please feel free to add other examples in the comment section.   Namaste.

                                  The Valley of the Black Pig

                                            The dews drop slowly and dreams gather: unknown spears
                                            suddenly hurtle before my dream-awakened eyes,
                                            and then the clash of fallen horsemen and the cries
                                            of unknown perishing armies beat about my ears.
                                            We who still labour by the cromlech on the shore,
                                            the grey cairn on the hill, when day sinks drowned in dew,
                                            being weary of the world's empires, bow down to you,
                                            master of the still stars and of the flaming door.

                                                                                                                (1896)

 

                                    Meditations in Time of Civil War  (VI)

                                             The bees build in the crevices
                                             of loosening masonry, and there
                                             the mother birds bring grubs and flies.
                                             My wall is loosening; honey-bees,
                                             come build in the empty house of the stare.

                                             We are closed in, and the key is turned
                                             on our uncertainty; somewhere
                                             a man is killed, or a house burned,
                                             yet no clear fact to be discerned:
                                             come build in the empty house of the stare.

                                             A barricade of stone or of wood;
                                             some fourteen days of civil war;
                                             last night they trundled down the road
                                             that dead young soldier in his blood:
                                             come build in the empty house of the stare.

                                             We had fed the heart on fantasies,
                                             the heart's grown brutal from the fare;
                                             more substance in our enmities
                                             than in our love; O honey-bees,
                                             come build in the empty house of the stare.

                                                                                                 (1923)

 

                                   The Second Coming

                                              Turning and turning in the widening gyre
                                              the falcon cannot hear the falconer;
                                              things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
                                              mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
                                              the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
                                              the ceremony of innocence is drowned;
                                              the best lack all conviction, while the worst
                                              are full of passionate intensity.

                                              Surely some revelation is at hand;
                                              surely the Second Coming is at hand.
                                              The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
                                              when a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
                                              troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
                                              a shape with lion body and the head of a man,
                                              a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
                                              is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
                                              reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

                                              The darkness drops again; but now I know
                                              that twenty centuries of stony sleep
                                              were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
                                              and what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
                                              slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

                                                                                                      (1920) 

raqqa.JPG.4d0ba143dff955a4df093283c20dab3f.JPG         Raqqa, Syria                                          

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Goddess of the Mist

Posted

C. Day-Lewis as Poet Laureate of England described the art of poetry as “the saying of the unsayable.”

 

That's definitely a good way to put it ~ I enjoyed your introduction.  Such a sad, deep subject for poetry, but then again, a perfect subject for poetry.  

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The Wistman

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Thanks Goddess.  I tried, flimsily, early in my opening to mirror Yeats's great symbol of the ascending spiral (the tower, the winding stair, the gyre, the circling falcon, etc.) that represented the circles of human development within the circles of time.  It was encompassing for him and he threaded it through his poems until the very last.  Thus my 'spindle' and the image of the twisting rag.  Just a nod by me toward him, in admiration and respect.

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Goddess of the Mist

Posted (edited)

Oh, I see!  Well, you did it well.  ;)

Edited by Goddess of the Mist
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