les murray.jpg (11359 bytes)

Les Murray, Selected Quotations


It is certainly true that contemplation doesn’t bring this sort of authentic infusion, though it often invites it and may find the invitation answered. No form of prayer commands God, and it is possible that our seeking Him, as distinct from His seeking us, has its natural terminus in the Crucifixion, which showed us what we would do to God if we could get our hands on Him. We need not be shocked at this. He told us He would die so that sins might be forgiven, and it was surely necessary for us to discharge our fury at much of the world’s workings on Him who made it, and seemingly made it the ambiguous place it is. The existence of consequences, and of our freedom, necessarily involve great anguish which the space of our lives does not proved room enough to redeem, and our bewildered anger at this has to go somewhere before we can attain the sort of purified wholeness which can give and receive pardon. The Crucifixion is also the end of any self-righteous notion we may have of ourselves as innocent victims of a bad cosmic set-up, which helps to explain our eagerness to shift the blame for it on to the Jews, the Roman Army, Pilate, anyone who was there at that point in history. But I disagree, a little, into matters I only apprehend and which no one fully understands, since they are inexhaustible. I would certainly never trust anything I could fully understand.

-- "Embodiment and Incarnation"

Sex and Nazism

Clearly, we are dealing here with the magical techniques of a peome, not those of a poem (Nazism brought forth singularly few poems, and I know none that was first rate), and with a major case where the general Enlightenment strategy of denying and denigrating magic of all sorts succeeded only in weakening the salutary magics that might have countered the risc of a thoroughly vicious poem-vision.

Nazism is perhaps instructive also in having laid stress on the body as part and as source of its inspiration. It spoke not only of the purported imperatives of race and soil but, like quite a few poemes arising around the earlier part of the twentieth century (including the better-lasting poem of Lawrentianism), also of the wisdom of the body and the blood. It admired robust health, and claimed to represent the imperatives of sturdy youthful vigour, seen as daring and rightly ruthless, not to be made decadent by too much intellectual sophistication. Poemes with broadly similar preferences have been holding their skirts away from this set of values ever since.

Indeed, in aesthetics and elsewhere, a repugnance to Nazi values may have inhibited balanced examination of the wordless and somatic dimensions of the world-views that people actually hold. The non-verbal art torms such as music and painting and ballet retain and enrich their own special traditions of the bodily dimension, but within the sphere of the word the influence of the somatic has been discussed for the most part in terms of sex and sexualities; both are perhaps felt to be safe, being aspects of the matter that the Nazis did not stress and may even have persecuted. We might say that the body, having been implicated in ghastly crimes, was displaced into its own genitals, or allowed as mainly a walking advertisement for them. And representing sexual flaunt as an underdog in Western culture legitimised a fresh all the old Nazi repugnances towards deformity, old age, weakness and general lack of dash. Another place into which Nazi beliefs about human nature have been displaced is the animal kingdom, with poemes about territoriality and dominance among animals. A certain amount of the same atmosphere is occasionally detectable in the idealising interspecies mysticism of some ecological writing, though, to be fair, a degree of secularised Franciscanism is often present too, in that yearning for some Edenic blood-comradeship of all life-forms.

--""Poemes and the Mystery of Embodiment"

"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding