Saturday, May 12, 2012

"A Castle-Builder's World"

I shall depart from my foray into the subject of busybodyness (and its vanity) with a poem by Christina Rossetti.  Rossetti did not live to see the growth of social "science," with its attendant spawn of would-be utopians. However, the poets who dive (or dig) deepest into the human condition often anticipate what lies in store for us.  Thus, the following poem by Rossetti describes quite well the world of our current brood of busybodies and nannies.

                    Graham Bell, "Llysworney, Glamorganshire" (c. 1940)

            A Castle-Builder's World
"The line of confusion, and the stones 
                  of emptiness"

Unripe harvest there hath none to reap it
    From the misty gusty place,
Unripe vineyard there hath none to keep it
    In unprofitable space.
Living men and women are not found there,
    Only masks in flocks and shoals;
Flesh-and-bloodless hazy masks surround there,
    Ever wavering orbs and poles;
Flesh-and-bloodless vapid masks abound there,
    Shades of bodies without souls.

Christina Rossetti, Time Flies: A Reading Diary (1885).  The epigraph used by Rossetti is from the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 34, Verse 11:  "But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness." Christina Rossetti, The Complete Poems (notes by Betty Flowers) (Penguin 2001), page 1056.

            Graham Bell, "Old Bridge, Bridgend, Glamorganshire" (c. 1940)

Anyone who gets the bright idea that he or she knows what is best for the rest of us (and thereupon sets out to change us for the "better") has, by virtue of this action, definitively demonstrated that he or she knows absolutely nothing about human nature.  Any castles that such misguided souls attempt to build are made of sand.  And, fortunately for the rest of us, the tide has never yet failed to come in.

                 Graham Bell, "Llannichangel, Glamorganshire" (c. 1940)

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