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Monthly Archives: September 2014

UNDER PARNASSUS (An Under Ben Bulben variation)

[The aim of this experiment in poetry is not to rival Yeats’ impressive valedictory Under Ben Bulben.  It aims rather to offer a variation upon it, to “correct”, so to speak, the poem’s theories ranging from reincarnation to  dubious, quasi-fascist notions of eugenics and war which have grated with me as with many. Some of my beliefs re especially poetry colour the piece, but I have not exactly encapsulated my beliefs on poetry or anything;  it would not be possible given I have confined myself to following, however loosely, themes and development of Yeats’ own poem. Arguably I should have just composed my own poetic and spiritual credo but I think the exercise has its value. This poem with  others is included in a new edition of New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas,http://amzn.to/1tKdkJr  .  This  month another very different poem, can be found on my other Additions blog at http://bit.ly/1sUmAsO %5D. 

Parnassus

UNDER PARNASSUS (AN UNDER BEN BULBEN VARIATION) 

1

Swear by what the sages spoke
At Corycian Cave [1] and Sinai’s side
That Orpheus and Elijah [2] knew,
They who for darkness of the earth
Seized fire from fields of paradise.

Swear by those seers, those bards,
Names only known, their earthly form
Obscured as though by mists of dawn
Even while their Mosaic faces shine
Like light of noon upon the mount.[3]
They view the fated journeys done
The paths from Troy to Ithaca and Rome [4]
And Egypt into Jericho all won.

Here’s what that lasting radiance means:

11

Once only does man live and die
Through measureless eternity,
What earth or ashes cover now
In grave or in memorial urn
Awaits but only more decease if not
A resurrection. This is because,
Soul’s core is most like fires
Of God (or self-consuming will alone),
Its natural end and flight thus primed
For highest light or lowest dark;
And vision and poetry declare
Truth’s quest can only reach above,
For wisdom lies with choosing life.[5]

111

All you who heard a call to war
And thought it served both God and world
Go into none, unless with self
Or for the defenceless of the earth.
Time’s past when for some greater good
Peace was established by the sword,
And strength and merit lay in power.
For if it was blind Homer failed
Most sightless was his “unchristened heart” [6]
For which, though what’s most noble,
Is most calm, mere violence made for majesty.

1V

Poets like sculptors do your work
Shape into sound as they to sight
What is most sure in form and style
And brings to mind eternal lines.

With Isaiah and with Aeschylus
Personality through verse began
Then Plato taught the archetypes
And Pentecost spread wide the Word.
If measurement began our might
It bore as well with Aristotle
Division for the heart and mind
So that increasingly we dwelt with earth
And lost most vision of the higher,
First source of ecstasy and song.
But then, even Plato could be wrong.
His God was passionless, his poets
Banned since poetry is music too
And not just thought and words alone.

Renaissance and Baroque in verse
Through Shakespeare, Milton and beyond
Knew passion and a God of same
While taking Plato for the forms.
Then Wordsworth, later, part agreed
But Shelley cursed the Miltonic God
And saved most love for Lucifer [7]
And after that much poetry fell
From vision to a Satanic hell
Words found less meaning, feeling took
A lesser place, until it’s
Mostly objects steal the scene.

The passing ages run their course,
Now lightning of Aquarius waits
To make again and to renew and
Like great Michelangelo’s roof
To save Platonic forms and also show
Supposed unnatural’s natural too.[8]

V

But poets still perfect your art
One never learned but always given
Which speaks to where it cannot grow,
The crowd which throngs about below
The sacred mount you must ascend
Charged with the elect vocation.
Then sing the music of the spheres
Stars, planets, symbols, history, [9]
Great lyric loves and ways of God,
All shapes and forms of mysteries.
Ignore the upstart trivial kind
Whose labour is to strain at words
And mire the mind in earthiness.
Such make a show for passing days
Your work serves what it is transcends:
The task is vision’s truth and
Even the truth you are alone.

V1

Beneath Parnassus poets lie or else
Their soul is everywhere. On Nebo’s side
Where Moses died remains unknown
And since they fled into the night,
Doubt must surround the Magi’s tombs [10].
But whether in earth, or with Elijah
Into sky, small matter where the poet
Ends, nor what carved epitaphs declare.
Let only the work and vision stay,
Words echoed to eternity
Paths pointing still to ecstasy.

NOTES

[1] The Corycian cave on Parnassus was the home of the  Muses of poetry. Orpheus originally dwelt on Parnassus. Sinai is not just associated with Moses. The likes of Elijah and St Paul sought affirmation and clarification of vision by visiting Sinai.
[2]  Orpheus originally dwelt on Parnassus. Sinai is not just associated with Moses. The likes of Elijah and St Paul sought affirmation and clarification of vision by visiting.
[3]  When he had bee on Sinai and spoken with God his face shone so that it had to be covered with a veil. (Ex 34: 29-35)
[4]  Troy to Ithaca refers to the Odyssey and  “Tory to Rome”  is a  reference to Virgil and his epic of Rome’s foundation, The Aeneid.
[5]  As in “For the wise the path of life leads upwards in order to avoid Sheol below” (Pro 14:24) and “all who hate me[Wisdom] love death” (Pro 8:36).”Choose life…”(Deut 30:19)
[6]  Yeats identifies with Homer and his “unchristened heart” in Vacillation V111, without perhaps thinking out all implications of this.
[7] Shelley is radically atheistic as in Queen Mab and crypto satanistic in Prometheus where Jupiter is symbolic for the Miltonic God who must be overthrown. For Shelley the devil is heroic and light bringing.
[8]  Although Michelangelo’s art, mentioned by Yeats, followed a version of Christian Neo-Platonism, his inspiration and nature was essentially gay and the coming age of Aquarius is the sign of freedom and often of the homosexuality which the age may be expected to accept as part of nature itself. Yeats curiously suggests the artist’s work incites particularly female desire.
[9] Orpheus traditionally proclaimed star lore and astrology.
[10] A disputed tombs of the Magi site does exist in Iran to the south of the capital Tehran. Reputed remains of the Magi found their way to a shrine in Cologne via Constantinople.

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Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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