Friday, February 29, 2008

Poetry of mourning

I did know of a Hugh MacDiarmid poem that features J. S. Haldane. I didn't cover it in my biography, Suffer & Survive. The poem was an attack, which was acceptable enough, no harm in that, but as a poem it was execrable.

I've just found this other poem, from another Scottish poet Henry Newbolt, featuring our J. S.. It's dedicated to him. Published in 1939, Newbolt died in 1937, a year after Haldane. In that light it seems to be a poem of mourning, (it was surprising how many felt Haldane's death stole the beauty from the world), with a touch of grandeose hope. I don't know how Haldane would have taken the notion of going from dirt to God, though he was certainly intrigued by the journey that death constitutes.

Here's the poem:

For J. S. Haldane

SILENT Moon and silent morning air,
Silver frost on green and silver lawn,
Shimmering mist in downland hollows bare,
Magical night dying in timeless dawn—
O Earth, Earth, Earth! what needs this loveliness
To quiet a graveyard of unnumbered clods?
Is thy bread truth, or we that break and bless?
Shall we not live at last, when we are Gods?

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