On Re-Reading Milton

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[Poem I wrote about nine years ago inspired by re-reading the start of Milton’s Paradise Lost. Took the shot at a holiday house on the south coast.]

On Re-Reading Milton

1.

Of Nature’s dying, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose forgotten image
Now we vainly seek among our baubles and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man-
kind restore us, and regain our blissful place
Now infused with an intelligence steeped in loss,
Sing Earthly Muse, that walks with us
Since the beginning when we arose from Chaos
And fell into our childhood like a dark comet
Into a darker sea, I thence invoke
Your aid to my adventurous song
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above the mount of dumb prophets
And the bushes that refuse to burn
Despite this warming and eternal drought
While it pursues a poetics unattempted
Yet in prose or rhyme to justify
The ways of word and world to man.

2.

For how can we now deny that Nature
Is dying to Her former self, and where
Once reefs and rainforests were, a lesser splendour
Of virus, rat and roach now holds sway,
Or that the Tyger Tyger burning bright is losing
The forests of its night to palm oil or industrial
Soy, the deep pond’s mysterious pike
May be transgenic, as may that alpha crow or bull
That bellows out its excess to the breeder’s tube?
Both clouds and daffodils now smell of oil,
The soul and the world it is, both, sliding
Down into an earlier fear, that cannot leave un-
touched the word that seeks to speak their state.

3.

What role then, now, for the poetic word
But of remembrance within and beyond
Our much dismembered states? The way Keats wrote
It may strike us like strange wording of our own
Highest thoughts, or as music that opens the ear
To birdsong and traffic, as an image to catch sunlight
On fibro or serried ranks of shopping trolleys,
The angled shadow a leaning broom makes on a wooden floor,
A writer, a character grow closer than father or friend.
Remembrance shimmers on wideness, and those multitudes
Of our inner selves that Whitman sang, human and non-human,
Animal, star and rock. Our brains computers, yet wired down
Into ape and crocodile, dog and snake: so all may speak
To each other as they dance together
In the poetic word and leave us contained
And whole, re-membered into the world
That speaks through our despair, as eternally
Dying and renewed as we.

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~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on September 17, 2016.

2 Responses to “On Re-Reading Milton”

  1. Forbidden fruit and an earlier fear. One pet theory of mine: That founding myth of Fallen Man, unworthy sinner, perpetual chooser of the Bad, etc.. is something we know is absurd – and yet Christian civilization still acts AS IF it is true. The mis-recognition not at the cognitive level, but at the level of action based on subconscious self loathing. We burn our house down and pull the wool over our own eyes because we are not worthy. Or as David Byrn sings: Blind, blind…blind,blind,blind,blind, blind.

    • Thanks Dave. Interesting theory about the self-loathing…Blind, definitely, but to me more as self-blinding, wilful ignoring, turning away from…which brings us back ineluctably to some ‘original’ or ongoing ‘Fall’. Buddha would prefer something like ‘grasping’ (‘trishna’) and ignorance (‘avidya’) as the ongoing human ‘Fall’ into suffering (‘dukha’). So would I.

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