Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Sunday, October 01, 2006

I offered The White Goddess in turn to the only publishers I knew who claimed to be personally concerned with poetry and mythology.

The first regretted that he could not recommend this unusual book to his partners, because of the expense. He died of heart failure within the month.

The second wrote very discourteously, to the efect that he could not make either head or tail of the book, and could not believe it would interest anyone. He died too, soon afterwards.

But the third, who was T. S. Eliot, wrote that it must be published at all costs. So he did publish it, and not only got his money back, but pretty soon was rewarded with the Order of Merit, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and a smash hit on Broadway.

-- Robert Graves, On Poetry: Collected Talks and Essays, p. 246

I bought The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth about 20 years ago. Two or three times I’ve started reading it only to quit about halfway through -- even though I have always very much enjoyed it: a mad, inspired investigation into the mythic sources of the alphabet, and the connection of the letters to tree-lore, among much else. Post-romantic poets tend to disdain Graves’s goddess-worship, and while I agree that as a dogma it shares an unfortunate narrowness with any other unitary dogma, for Graves himself it provided a key to a kingdom of riddles -- or a queendom, I should say. And I love some of his poems. He’s best known now for his historical fiction -- I, Claudius, most famously -- but I’ve never read any of it.
Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?