I am a thorn: beneath the nail

Disband the canon. Appraise the things you were told have significance. Read for yourself.

Poetry does not begin with the Canterbury Tales, not with the Odyssey, not even with Genesis. It begins, says Robert Graves in The White Goddess, with the Song of Amergin, an ancient Celtic calendar-alphabet.

I am the womb: of every holt,

I am the blaze: on every hill,

I am the queen: of every hive,

I am the shield: for every head,

I am the tomb: of every hope.

(Stanza III)

What are you, writer?


19 thoughts on “I am a thorn: beneath the nail”

      1. The sun of hope rose after dark.
        And smiled the same day, on the other side of the world.
        thanks a lot, !!! you also from whole heart. start nice weeks and great start !!!!(se/nz((((*L*)))

        Liked by 2 people

  1. The variation of the poem you posted is very beautiful, but bares scant resemblance to the original. It was so divergent, in fact, that Hilda Ellis Davidson (a scholar of poetry) remarked that Graves had “misled many innocent readers with his eloquent but deceptive statements about a nebulous goddess in early Celtic literature.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Translations, especially in poetry, rarely map linguistically to original works. To do so neglects the poetry in the poem. Do you think, in his essay, Graves was looking to uncover things about poetry’s magic rather than the historical interpretation of myth?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes. Graves thought poetic inspiration was a valid historical method. As veracity is concerned, it is not. The extremity of his changes to the poem (ie. new lines added in; old ones moved around; certain consonants of the Ogham alphabet dropped) are such that it shouldn’t be presented as a historical reconstruction, but rather as a work inspired by the original song of Amergin. And yet Graves provides neither the original, nor any other translation (leading many naturally to believe his work is the original).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “Disband the canon.” That’s great! One of the things that baffled me when studying English Lit was the arbitrariness of the literary canon. I was able to open up my library to so many new writers after realizing that I had been limiting myself to books that some anonymous source once said was great. My intellectual life is definitely richer for that lesson.

    Liked by 1 person

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