An Irish Poem

As a follow-up to my two posts of photos from Ireland. At a lovely Dublin bookshop called Hodges Figgis [no website of their own, but apparently associated with Waterstones], I bought a copy of Joyce’s DUBLINERS and a slim volume of poetry by W.B. Yeats. I’d thought, on those three days Yeong was in his conference, to sit in St. Stephen’s Green, only a couple blocks from the hotel, and read classic Irish literature. Alas, the weather did not cooperate; too drizzly. But I did read some of each book.

Here is the very first poem in the Yeats volume:

I passed along the water’s edge below the humid trees,
My spirit rocked in evening light, the rushes round my knees,
My spirit rocked in sleep and sighs; and saw the moorfowl pace
All dripping on a grassy slope, and saw them cease to chase
Each other round in circles, and heard the eldest speak:

Who holds the world between His bill and made us strong or weak
Is an undying moorfowl, and He lives beyond the sky.
The rains are from His dripping wing, the moonbeams from His eye.

I passed a little further on and heard a lotus talk:

Who made the world and ruleth it, He hangeth on a stalk,
For I am in His image made, and all this tinkling tide
Is but a sliding drop of rain between His petals wide.

A little way within the gloom a roebuck raised his eyes
Brimful of starlight, and he said:
                             The Stamper of the Skies,
He is a gentle roebuck; for how else, I pray, could He
Conceive a thing so sad and soft, a gentle thing like me?

I passed a little further on and heard a peacock say:

Who made the grass and made the worms and made my feathers gay,
He is a monstrous peacock, and He waveth all the night
His languid tail above us, lit with myriad spots of light.

From 1889. [I added some line breaks not in the original.]

Now, to my sensibilities this strikes me as an obvious mockery of human vanity. Other animals, imagining god, would imagine him in their image. (cf Jerry Coyne’s ‘ceiling cat’)

And so I was struck, in my Google searching for a copy of this poem, by this site where the poster thinks this poem is about…

pantheism, the concept that God is everything. If man rightly discerns that God created human beings in His image, then God, in fact, created everything else that exists in His image. If all things are reflections of one Creator, then each thing created can rightly aver that it is made in the image of the Divine.

This strikes me as a non sequitur. If everything exists in His image, then the concept of being created in His image doesn’t mean much of anything, does it? Certainly not anything humanity can take credit for.

This entry was posted in Quote at Length, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.