Monday, March 11, 2013

Something Thoughtful

Nicholas Reid reflects in essay form on general matters and ideas related to literature, history, popular culture and the arts. You are free to agree or disagree with him.


This is one of those weeks where I prefer to let others speak, rather than wittering on myself.

I have an incredibly simple point to make. Sometimes different writers can express essentially the same idea, but in radically different ways.

Take the two poems below. They were both written in the second decade of the 20th century. They were both written by Oxbridge men (the South African Roy Campbell went to Oxford; Rupert Brooke to Cambridge). They are both “Georgian”, if you want to categorise, so their style is out of fashion. But they are both fun – Campbell’s because it whoops and yells, and Brooke’s because of its sustained irony.

And, yes, they both express essentially the same idea.

Now why should I insult you or spoil your fun by saying what that idea is? They’re not that hard to get.

I do note, however, that one idiot placed one of them on an “Atheists and Agnostics” website, apparently not seeing what both poets were really up to.

Anyway, enough of this. Read them, enjoy them, and see what you think.

The Theology of Bongwi, the Baboon
Roy Campbell
THIS is the wisdom of the ape 
Who yelps beneath the moon — 
'Tis God who made me in his shape; 
He is a great baboon. 
'Tis he who tilts the moon askew 
And fans the forest trees: 
The Heavens, which are broad and blue, 
Provide him his trapeze. 
He swings with tail divinely bent 
Around those azure bars, 
And munches, to his soul's content. 
The kernels of the stars. 
And when I die, his loving care 
Shall raise me from the sod, 
To learn the perfect Mischief there. 
The Nimbleness of God.

Rupert Brooke

Fish (fly-replete, in depth of June,

Dawdling away their wat’ry noon)
Ponder deep wisdom, dark or clear,
Each secret fishy hope or fear.
Fish say, they have their Stream and Pond;
But is there anything Beyond? 
This life cannot be All, they swear,
For how unpleasant, if it were!
One may not doubt that, somehow, Good
Shall come of Water and of Mud;
And, sure, the reverent eye must see
A Purpose in Liquidity.
We darkly know, by Faith we cry,
The future is not Wholly Dry.
Mud unto mud! - Death eddies near - 
Not here the appointed End, not here!
But somewhere, beyond Space and Time,
Is wetter water, slimier slime!
And there (they trust) there swimmeth One
Who swam ere rivers were begun,
Immense, of fishy form and mind,
Squamous, omnipotent, and kind;
And under that Almighty Fin,
The littlest fish may enter in.
Oh! never fly conceals a hook,
Fish say, in the Eternal Brook,
But more than mundane weeds are there,
And mud, celestially fair;
Fat caterpillars drift around,
And Paradisal grubs are found;
Unfading moths, immortal flies,
And the worm that never dies.
And in that Heaven of all their wish,
There shall be no more land, say fish.

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