Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"Yet The Heart Would Counsel Ill"

The recent terrible event in Colorado has provoked the usual media-led "analysis."  To wit: "How could this happen?"  "Why did this happen?" "How can we prevent this sort of thing from ever happening again?"  To this end, the standard parade of so-called "experts" (criminologists, psychologists, "social scientists" of all stripes, lawyers, politicians, et cetera) are asked to explain this latest horror to us.

Of course, the absurd premise is that "analysis" of this sort will enable us to understand why this event took place.  Yes, yes:  if we can just understand, all will be well.

I do not wish to minimize, or to be glib about, the event itself:  it is horrible and tragic.  Lives have been lost; other lives have been changed for ever. But I find the urge to explain and understand the event through the media and its "experts" to be symptomatic of a profound shallowness in the modern world's view of the ultimate mystery of human nature.

                                                           John Nash
                              "The Moat, Grange Farm, Kimble" (c. 1922)

Bells in tower at evening toll,
And the day forsakes the soul;
Soon will evening's self be gone
And the whispering night come on.

Blame not thou the faulting light
Nor the whispers of the night:
Though the whispering night were still,
Yet the heart would counsel ill.

A. E. Housman, Poem XVII (untitled), More Poems (1936).

                    John Nash, "Walled Pond, Little Bredy, Dorset" (1923)


Merisi said...

"Yet the heart would counsel ill."
That leaves me wondering. I believe the heart usually counsels right. Maybe I don't understand the poem.

alice c said...

In this context, I was struck by the Geoffrey Scott poem you featured in December 2010 which I read for the first time today.

"...A little wind puff
Can shake, can spill..."

Stephen Pentz said...

Merisi: thank you for stopping by again. As for the poem, it reflects Housman's view of the world, which was somewhat pessimistic. Thus, it is not surprising for him to suggest that "the heart would counsel ill" -- which also, perhaps, reflects his own experience with his one great, but unrequited, love.

I don't think that you have misunderstood the poem. But life has taught you otherwise. (Which makes you fortunate!)

Thank you again.

Stephen Pentz said...

alice c: thank you very much for that connection -- I had forgotten about that poem. Yes: "A bee's din/A beetle-scheme" puts things in perspective.

As always, thank you for your thoughts.

Andy McEwan said...

Certainly, no glibness from yourself, Mr. Pentz, but rather, I think, from the politicians, experts, etc., and those who seek "explanations" and "understanding". What I suspect they really seek are simplistic and facile explanations to reassure that it is not our society's, or our fault, that these things happen. Far better to blame it on the "loner", the "madman", the "other". I'm minded of Eliot's line, "Human kind cannot bear very much reality."
I think you have it very succinctly when you say, "profoundly shallow" - I sometimes feel we are drowning in the shallows these days.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. McEwan: thank you for visiting again, and for your thoughts. I agree that what we hear is, as you say, "simplistic and facile," and I am troubled by the presumption that lies beneath: that if certain things are "fixed," this sort of thing will never happen again. The idea that evil and brutality are irremediable elements of human nature never seems to arise. But perhaps I am too pessimistic.

Thanks again.