I’m working on a long post about the fragment of papayrus, announced by Professor Karen King of Harvard, that contains the line, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife . . . ‘” That is definitely going to force revision of the theological landscape. In the meantime, here are three more poems.
In the Country of the Young
Alan, it’s cruel to be so reasonable.
When your son rebels,
You weathered storms
On those very seas
Where we’ll go no more a-roving
In these landlocked days.
How much more vivid
Our feelings were,
How much more things hurt
The young sailor steering his frail craft
On the inward sea
Where reason’s a whirlpool, and compassion
The lifeboat you supply.
To grow up is to grow flatter.
The price for not falling so far down
Is not to get so high.
Never again will there be songs as new
As those we danced to
Or any love that can so renew the world
As that first, young love.
Yet it’s not a loss to leave the chop
Of wave after wave:
There are harmonies on land that can’t be heard
When the stormwind howls.
Highlands seem dull to the young;
So they must wander.
Mother and fathers, watching the children play,
Sit, or walk, and talk,
But the quiet’s an illusion,
For here’s the mystery:
To the young the young sing in passion,
But the old to the old in wisdom.
The first is the fire of intuitive spring,
The second the fire of string quartets
Consumed by consummation,
A gnostic music, all between the notes,
Ancient voices resting in the silences,
A song as motionless as hummingbirds.
How else explain the impersonal passion
Of reason wrestling the angel for wisdom?
No life begins except in spring,
But our seasons move in seasonal quartets,
And winter finds their consummation.
After the ecstasy of Dionysian excess, notes,
Dropping one by one, ripple through the silences
And the soul is content, for a while, to watch the birds.
(For Sir Fred Hoyle)
Sir Fred, I once said To you that I’d seen
You as a hero Since I was fifteen,
But I did not explain.
Now that I know you I’ll say what I mean.
You are a hero for not surrendering the universe
To a failure of imagination: the Big Bang is dull!
It is a voice in the wilderness, crrying,
“Be serious! Be serious!”
It is a vision of the same old Armageddon,Closed, pointless, final, and uninteresting.
In brief, the old Christian fatalism, just writ large.
Your quilted universe is the bedspread of the Gods,
Whose work is their playfulness—and what
Is more serious than the laughter of the Gods?
Those who accept the Big Bang do so on faith,
Since you have proved there are other explanations.
In your theory all opposites are true.
It is all real in each neighborhood,
It is all unreal taken as a whole,
And there is always more,
Another universe next door.
You are a warrior of the spirit, defending
Not the universe, which can take care of itself,
But the human capacity for vision.
The Warfare of Plato with Aristotle
“Truth did not come into the world naked;
It came in forms and images. . . .
Truth bore names into the world for our sake,
For we cannot learn it without names.”
Gospel of Philip, 67 and 12
Here are Plato’s idols, ranked
Precisely on the heady heights;
There, Aristotle’s, stolid, flanked
By logical plans for any fight,
And dug in firmly to the ground.
the campaign goes round after round,
For neither can win, and neither will yield.
And here’s my soul: their battlefield.
Oh, not just mine: their battle rages
In the souls of fathers, mothers,
Aunts and uncles, sisters, brothers,
And will until impoverished ages
Come to steal our memory
Of walks and the academy,
When mankind will no longer know,
As is above, so is below.
Fire and water, love and strife,
Air and earth, from death to life:
The triangle halves of David’s star
Represent the holy war
Between the wisdom that descends
In forms and images of fire
And the passion that defends
The right of mankind to desire
Both the joy of copulation
Under our conscious transformation
And the peace of simply sitting
With the children and the knitting,
Knowing that the door is barred,
With Aristotle standing guard,
Against peremptory invasion
By the forces of creation.
Even our illusory free will
Keeps angels waiting at our sill
Until we choose to ask them in—
Then wonder how we thought to sin.
So daily I thank old Plato’s ghosts
For reminding me of Heaven’s hosts,
But thank, as well, old Aristotle,
That today I haven’t touched the bottle.