Monday, November 10, 2008

"The Office" (workstation series) 115 (changed-utterly edition)

In 1916, in the wake of the tragic collision of poetic rhetoric and tactical naivete that was the Easter Rising, WB Yeats, horrified at both his own culpability in promoting a "blood sacrifice" to try to free Ireland and his jealous disdain for the Rising's leaders, and at the insanely, catastrophically ill-reasoned response by the British government, who imprisoned and then executed its leaders, created a poem that attempted to grapple with all these conflicting emotions: both his own and those of the nation. For my money, it is a far greater poem than those Yeats works which either preceded it or are taught more commonly in Irish lit classes--maybe because it's more about history's heart-breaking paradoxes than about poetry's measured strophes--and is his finest hour until the very late Crazy Jane poems. The greatest line, which rises to the feel of a caione, is the tolling, weeping refraint:

All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
It's a line that both reaches back to the most ancient verbal poetry of Ireland, that rises to the level of the Triads (it seems it took the Rising and its fascist aftermath to break Yeats out of his self-engrossed and twee "Celtic Twilight"-isms), and it presages the mechanized horror of the Twentieth Century.

I believe that future generations may look back to the events of the past week and believe that they were as important, as psychologically and historically transformative, as was the Rising. Indeed, so many, many things are "changed, changed utterly"--but the miracle is that we seem to be awaking from a nightmare eight years when everything we thought we believed about our fellow Americans, about our values, about what our nation stood for, about what a leader actually is, was inverted, in a psychotic reversal of our history and our better selves. We were "led" (more accurately, ruled) by war criminals, oligarchs, sociopaths, thugs, liars, propagandists, and they tried to make us believe that was "strength", "security", "justice", and all the rest. It's like emerging from a nightmarish, drugged, feverish dream--and many still resist that awakening,--to a recognition that the world is more complicated, more nuanced, more uncertain, but also infinitely more rift with possibilities.

Human beings have the capacity for the greatest good and most utter evil. We need leaders who speak to, inspire, and require our better selves.

That's what the Founding Fathers, and the thousands of martyrs who gave their lives, on the front lines, the picket lines, the walls and towers and jails and lynching trees, expected. We owe it to them, and to the future generations yet unborn, to rise to our capacity for the greatest good.

For Real. Or, as Gary Snyder put it:
For All

Ah to be alive
on a mid-September morn
fording a stream
barefoot, pants rolled up,
holding boots, pack on,
sunshine, ice in the shallows,
northern rockies.

Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters
stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes
cold nose dripping
singing inside
creek music, heart music,
smell of sun on gravel.

I pledge allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the soil
of Turtle Island,
and to the beings who thereon dwell
one ecosystem
in diversity
under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.
Or as Little Steven put it

"I am a Patriot":

Below the jump:

An orphan jumps off the wall at Gruhn Guitars and into Dharmonia's arms:

Below that, Coyotebanjo and Dharmonia take their portraits with Mr Guitar:

1 comment:

Dharmonia said...

Beautiful post!!

For the guitar junkies out there, my orphan is actually an early-fifties LG-2 three-quarter size (somewhat rarer and smaller and more beat-up than the guitar in the picture, but looks similar.)
It's an "Arlo" Gibson (the model that Woody bought for Arlo when he was a kid.)

Right now it's still sitting in its box getting used to the difference between Nashville air and Lubbock air...