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Monthly Archives: November 2013

BEYOND DOVER BEACH: A POEM OF OUR TIMES

BEYOND DOVER BEACH: A POEM OF OUR TIMES

 

[The imagined setting of this poem is obviously England, the setting of Matthew Arnold’s original Dover Beach, but the symbolic range and topical application is wider]

BEYOND DOVER BEACH

The grey whale changes hemisphere to go
Like Jonah’s fish towards the coast of Joppa.[1]
But otherwise and elsewhere pods have beached
And dolphins died in struggle with the nets
While fish by shoals and millions wash ashore
The brine no cover to their stench of death.

These are the signs symbolic of an era’s end.

The last degree, the anaretic, gains in power
Two fish so long opposed now drift apart [2]
They lose their will, they know their time is short
The current sees them fall away, the surge
Rolls higher with each speeding year.
No Trojan horse will now make cities fall
Lies as of the luring Lorelei suffice
The sense of boundary and of barrier is lost
There’s only flood gates open to the land
Pollution, dissolution rush to drown.
As out at sea the storm clouds lower.

Meanwhile that roar of faith’s recession
First sounding on the pebbled shore [3]
Now beats amid the traffic’s hum
On main streets of the sceptics’ citadels.
There commerce wrestles with decay
And, bold against the sullen skies
Like tinsel that’s been thrown about,
Life glimmers still from out new towers
Refurbished terraces and op art shops
Down streets on which for all to see,
The chapel closed serves as an eaterie,
The church abandoned is a mosque.
The road hosts urban theatre every week
A drunken dance of death, all stupor,
Screams and vomiting, souls staggering
On pavements round the gutter’s edge,
Abandoned joy’s first port of call
Before the beds of mindless sex for those
In skirts, not yet teetotal in niqab. [4]

You should change your life. [5]

Themselves as stupefied and blurred
By toxic rivers of corroding thought,
Beyond the street on college lawn
The student staggers back and forth
Weighed down by theory of the cynic kind
And extreme doubt,[6] voicing a
Vulgar insolence and easy blasphemies.
No natural piety towards the past
Nor any learned belief remains;
Lives pass not sacred but from
First breath to the last profane….
“Believers begone or keep
Your practice private. Religion’s death.
Thank small g God to be so rid of it.
Would you offer prayer’s false hope
Or trouble minds with carolling?
All faith is mad. Consider circumcision;
That’s assault. Would you abuse an unfree child?
Will you defend the fascist state of Jews?”

Despite convictions built on shifting sands
Of randomness in nature, for science and
The goddess Reason’s world all’s
Theorem-clear, all’s geometric light.
It can’t allow design, cannot permit
That God or shape might work within.
For stumblers in the agnostic night
Deity must be nowhere now unless
Outside; and currently God’s somewhere
Dead. And death itself’s not much, an incident,
Or else, like life, “get over it”.

You should change your thought.

But purblind and disloyal now
To all inheritance they are
Their guilt and generous deeds misplaced.
Directionless they’ve travelled far
The C.E, all-inclusive world [7]
So ardent for neutrality
And near fanatic for equality
They’re noisy to protect most faith,
Except the known, assured in vain
It’s education holds the key
And trump card’s power to
What’s the privately intended aim
A secular enlightenment.
And thus they scarcely take offence while
Foolish laws and judges worse
Who hesitate to fine a thief
Decide will Christians wear a cross
Or speak of credo or of prayer at work.
All’s relative, except for that.

Meanwhile in near conformity
Led by non leaders at the helm
Declining churches wrangle on
By day and night on women’s rights
And could gay couples walk the aisle [8]
Uncaring or else unaware.
Too many Christians have been slain
Confined, restrained, or lost
All rights to worship and to normal life.

Say something! But you know you can’t.
Weak as a palsied patient, go limping on
Lukewarm as Laodicea and worse.

Preach! But you do not have the words
Unless it’s “love”, by which you mean but
Universal toleration, each soul the same.

Cowards and hypocrites of false Enlightenment
Defenders of all rights except what’s most essential
You did not choose or just forgot, or maybe feared,
To speak of any matter lest the guests complain
And call mere mention of an obvious truth, “discrimination”.

Nigeria and Somalia,
Sudan and Indonesia,
Afghanistan and Pakistan,
Iran, Iraq and Syria
Guinea, Mali, Kazakhstan
Egypt and Eritrea land so dark [9]
The finger points though you don’t see
You will not hear, will not report
Or else turn evidence conveniently
To nothing but a tribal war
Or race or stresses of economy.
You live within a Dar al Harb. [10] You’re
Drifted nearer to extremes of war.
You’ll disappear with those you scorned,
Ignored and almost always failed to aid.
And so submit. It’s all that you have left to do
You have no will or choice but to
Absorb, assimilate and accept
Until your sinking boat goes lost
Within the fogs to which you steered.

Religion knows no vacuum
Nor end of tides, its nature
Is it will return to fill the empty
Rock pools of the secular sands;
And as the mad philosopher declared [11]
All faiths are cruel, but if that’s so,
Or seems, it is because like hornets
Who pursue the waves, it’s devils chase,
Pursue and ride each spiritual tide.
Learn to discern it and discriminate!

But you, for whom God seems but absent
Or responsible for every evil in the world
Or not restraining it at every turn,
Perceive the “wrath” of God aright:
It’s God withdrawn, protection’s end
For all that now and here below
God does not own. [12] You would not learn
Or hear, or in the right ways fear,
(Your pride and aspiration hurt)
That Evil rules the freewill world
And now, by your own selves invoked,
Its weight of darkness blots the sky.
Seas rise, storms rage, floods overwhelm
Tsunamis hurtle to the shore
And like the fleeing refugee you sink,
Bewildered victim to a ruthless fate.
The magian heralds of the era’s span
(Unless themselves obliged to flee
New forms of arrogance and power),
Do not return declaring what will be.

The next age dawn shines distantly,
More promise than for you true hope.
Before the glimmer will become sun blaze
Before the gleam turns morning’s light,
With lightning that divides the skies [13]
Much will dissolve, too much occur.

You must change your life.

(Rollan McCleary. Copyright 2013. This poem with others published on this blog will be included in New Poems and Two Celtic Plays which should be available on Amazon before Christmas).

NOTES

1. The grey whale is native to the Pacific, not the Mediterranean. Its appearance off Israel in May 2010 occasioned much surprise. The book of Jonah is usually taken as allegorical but that a more literal reading was intended can be supported to the extent God is described as having specially “appointed” or “chosen” a whale (Joh 1:17) so that the exceptional is positively envisaged. Some have asked was the whale which appeared outside Tel Aviv (ancient Joppa from which Jonah sailed) likewise “appointed”.

2. The last or 29th degree of a sign is called anaretic. It is insatiable exaggerating features of the outgoing sign as a candle flame is strong at last burst. The “opposed” fish are the east/west facing fish of the sign of Pisces. 29 Pisces is deemed one of the worst on the zodiac with implications for murder, suicide, drowning, poisoning. An era’s end (they last approximately 2000 years) will have anaretic features (like the excess of violence and blood in even Roman entertainments at the end of Aries) so concluding Pisces has much to do with death by water but also Neptunian deceptions.

3. “Listen you hear the grating roar/Of pebbles which the waves draw back…”. Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach

4. The alcohol fuelled weekend behaviour of England’s bachelorette girls is notorious. It is suggested these celebrants mighty one day be either forced, or just like the White Widow by way of reaction, succumb to some opposite extreme in terms of modesty and abstinence.

5. Du musst dein Leben andern (You must change your life) Rilke, Archaic Torso of Apollo,in Sonnets to Orpheus

6. Not classical Greek cynicism but more like what critic Harold Bloom dubs “The New Cynicism” he sees represented by various intellectual and academic trends like post-structuralism, deconstructionism etc which incline to negation of individualism, of ethics and most things in a way to dissolve common perception towards a paralysing relativity.

7. C.E. Current Era, rather than A.D.

8. It’s not that concern with women’s or gay rights is illegitimate, only that the attention given is disproportionate to that accorded other issues, the hardships, persecutions, dire sentencing of Christians – recently in the supposedly liberalized Iran of Rowhani to 80 lashes for just drinking communion wine http://bit.ly/176CsuB – in societies from Egypt to Pakistan. In the latter nation Christians can be lifelong bullied by vigilantes even if law courts absolve them of blasphemy charges under a law that encourages every corruption. (Recently a Pakistani journalist was threatened with death for even reporting the plight of Christians).The many abuses are so little advertised the multicultural “tolerance” of Britain’s BBC hands leadership of religious broadcasting of a traditionally Christian society into the hands of a Pakistani Muslim no more vocal about his country’s wrongs than Baroness Warsi, Britain’s Pakistani minister for Communities and Faith who reasonably avers Europe should be more confident in its Christianity while not acknowledging Christians in Pakistan have no chance to be the same. This poem was written in October during which on the 21st Muslim radicals invaded the Syrian Christian towns of Saddad and Haffar, holding 3000 hostage for a week using many children as human shields. 14 churches were attacked, schools, businesses and homes looted and wrecked, the hospital destroyed. 2500 people fled. Subsequently between 45 and 70 dead bodies, many children, have been found. The incident like many similar outrages against Christians globally, (not just in Muslim countries), scarcely reached western media. It’s an inconvenient truth. A church leader in Saddad said….”We cried out to the world and no one heard us. Where is the Christian conscience?”. Where indeed? Number one offender against “Christian conscience” is President Obama, who has not only supported the Muslim Brotherhood guilty of so many murders of Egyptian Copts but whom it took endless petitioning and over 1 million signatures to even raise the issue of injustices done to American citizen, Pastor Saheed in Iran. Obama’s real politik has only ever been vocal to condemn soldiers in Afghanistan talking Christianity – in a country which reckons to execute any convert, a situation so grave for basic liberties it would have justified the West never supporting Afghanistan for anything. But for the “Christian” Obama the call of the muezzin to prayer is the most beautiful sound in the world. A poet would need the satirical gifts of a Juvenal to evoke the elements of vacillation, contradiction, and weakness that characterize this president.

9. Eritrea is not an Islamic society but its human rights record and extreme inhumanity, not least towards many Christians, is scarcely better than that of atheist North Korea, the world’s leading rights abuser. Its leader is Eritrean Orthodox, a fact which joins with my critical position regarding Orthodoxy more generally (see Icon World – July blog) whose social and political policies have been consistently such for centuries it can only sometimes merit the name of Christian at all.

10. Dar Al Harb. All non Muslim territories and even Muslim territories where Sharia is not strictly imposed are defined – by at any rate fundamentalists – as the place of war/chaos as opposed to the Dar al Islam, where peace naturally reigns because the system has imposed rightful submission (Islam). Non Muslim territory is a chaos either by its own nature or it may become so through the struggle to impose Islam fully.

11. Nietzsche.

12. The original Christian view progressively obscured or denied by religious philosophy which preferred the image of a wholly omnipotent God was that the world was cursed and owned by evil. The question of God and evil is considered in my Cosmic Father 2008

13. The coming of the Utopian Aquarian age either will or will not be the Millennium. But it is not just a sunburst; it should enter suddenly, surprisingly as per the sign’s glyph, the lightning flash.

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Posted by on November 7, 2013 in Mysteries, Poetry, religion

 

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