Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mythopoeia Part III

The final part of the analysis of Mythopoeia by J.R.R. Tolkien.

"Such isles they saw afar, and ones more fair,/ and those that hear them yet may yet beware./ They have seen Death and ultimate defeat,/ and yet they would not in despair retreat,/ but oft to victory have tuned the lyre/ and kindled hearts with legendary fire,"
Even though they have seen pain and Evil, they focus on the positive things and sing inspirational songs of victory.

"Illuminating Now and dark Hath-been/ with light of suns as yet by no man seen."
As for "illuminating Now", Tolkien had this idea that we take for granted the things in everyday life.  For instance, maybe you move to a new country and at first are amazed by the new scenery.  But after a few weeks it becomes routine and you cease to appreciate it.  Putting stories in the venue of fantasy makes everything strange and new; you can't really take anything for granted.   Through legends, we rediscover what we have lost.

"I would that I might with the minstrels sing/ and stir the unseen with a throbbing string."
Tolkien wants to be one of those legend writers who helps people rediscover the old things they take for granted.

"I would be with the mariners of the deep/ that cut their slender planks on mountains steep/ and voyage upon a vague and wandering quest,/ for some have passed beyond the fabled West."
He wants to be like the people of legends.

"I would with the beleaguered fools be told,/ that keep an inner fastness where their gold,/ impure and scanty, yet they loyally bring/ to mint in image blurred of distant king,/ or in fantastic banners weave the sheen/ heraldic emblems of a lord unseen."
That king must be God.  Tolkien wants to be a man who still remembers and honors Him.

"I will not walk with your progressive apes/erect and sapient.  Before them gapes/ the dark abyss to which their progress tends/ if by God's mercy progress ever ends,/ and does not ceaselessly revolve the same/ unfruitful course with changing of a name."
I love this part of the poem!  The beginning is Tolkien refusing to believe that mankind is just a coincidence.  He knows that we are different from the rest of creation, and that we were created.  Tolkien was famous for disliking "progress", the idea that people are getting better than everyone in the past and that we are always going up and one day we will end up the masters of everything.  This is a very arrogant view, and Tolkien is saying that we are actually getting worse--from this view--and eventually this idea will lead people into a dark abyss where there is no God but themselves.  They serve themselves as the masters of everything.

"I will not treat your dusty path and flat,/ denoting this by that and this and that,/ your world immutable wherein no part/ the little maker has with maker's art./  I bow not yet before the Iron Crown,/ nor cast my own small golden scepter down."
This last line is particularly interesting.  In it, Tolkien is referring directly to his story.  Melkor, the devil of The Silmarillion wears an Iron Crown.  I will not bow before the devil, is basically what Tolkien is saying there.  As for his golden scepter, it is a tiny replica of God's great scepter.  It shows that Man is made in his image and inherits certain rights and responsibilities with it.

"In Paradise perchance the eye may stray/ from gazing upon everlasting Day/ to see the day illumined, and renew/ form mirrored truth the likeness of the True.  Then looking on the Blessed Land 'twill see/ that all is as it is, and yet made free:/ Salvation changes not, nor yet destroys,/ garden nor gardener, children nor their toys."
The things we do today are what we would do in Heaven but within the confines of the world.  In Heaven, we will still use our gardening tools to do what we have always done, but fully, and truly.

"Evil it will not see, for evil lies/ not in God's picture but in crooked eyes/ not in the source but in malicious choice,/ not in sound but in the tuneless voice."
The last bit is intriguing.  You may remember from The Silmarillion that the way Melkor brought discord and evil into the world was by singing a voice that was not God's design.  He is the tuneless voice.

"In Paradise they look no more awry;/ and though they make anew, they make no lie./ Be sure they still will make, not being dead,"
It is in human nature to make, and so if we're not dead, we're going to continue doing it.

"and poets shall have flames upon their head,"
This is again a Biblical reference.  After Jesus ascended into Heaven, he gave the grace of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles so they could spread the Good News easier.  Then tongues of flame appeared above their heads and suddenly they could speak in many languages and were able to share the news.  Poets and writers and legend makers are able to share the Good News in a language that people will understand.

"and harps whereon their faultless fingers fall:/ there each shall choose for ever from the All."


This is a great poem.  I've really had a great time analyzing it.  Now I just have to memorize it...
If you have any thoughts on this poem I would love the hear them!

1 comment:

  1. Wow... this is just amazing. Who knew you could put this much meaning and analogies in one poem? I love how he put God into this great piece of poetry!

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