Friday, July 30, 2010

Poetry Friday--"Blasphemy"

Somewhere in my travels I purchased an old anthology, A Book of Fireside Poems, William R. Bowlin, compiler, which I found had been published by Albert Whitman & Co. back in 1937. I never knew Albert Whitman had been in business that long! For curiosity's sake, I checked the website and found that as of 2009, they'd been around for 90 years!

Although Whitman publishes children's books today, I'm not sure that A Book of Fireside Poems is a children's book. It certainly wouldn't be considered one by 21st century standards!

I like the way the foreword to anthology prepares us for what's inside:
And so you should find herein something of the kindly, something of the laughable, and something of the majesty of the immeasurable, blended in the sacrament of a quiet hour. --William R. Bowlin
I looked for a poem that represents the kindly, the laughable, and the immeasurable; I think this one fits the bill. It is the first part of a larger poem called "The Heretic" that was published in 1914 in Louis Untermeyer's collection Challenge.

By Louis Untermeyer

          I do not envy God--
There is no thing in all the skies or under
To startle and awaken Him to wonder;
     No marvel can appear
To stir His placid soul to terrible thunder--
     He was not born with awe nor blessed with fear.

          I do not envy God--
He is not burned with Spring and April madness;
The rush of life--its rash, impetuous gladness
     He cannot hope to know.
He cannot feel the fever and the sadness,
     The leaping fire, the insupportable glow.

          I do not envy God--
Forever He must watch the planets crawling
To flaming goals where sun and star are falling;
     He cannot wander free.
For He must face, through centuries appalling,
     A vast and infinite monotony.

          I do not envy God--
He cannot die, He dare not even slumber.
Though He be God, and free from care and cumber,
     I would not share His place;
For He must live when years have lost their number
     And Time sinks crumbling into shattered Space.

          I do not envy God--
Nay more, I pity Him His lonely Heaven;
I pity Him each lonely morn and even,
     His splendid, lonely throne;
For He must sit and wait till all is riven
     Alone--through all eternity--alone.

Wow! What a thought provoking little poem! I guess Untermeyer's poetry provoked people a little too much because, as the Poetry Foundation bio of Untermeyer notes, "Sentiments of social protest expressed in the 1914 volume Challenge received disapproval from anti-communist groups forty years later."

I wonder what would be the response to this poem if it were newly printed today? With the influence of poets and poetry barely discernible within society, I'd venture to say there'd be no response whatsoever!

In 1961 Untermeyer was appointed the U.S. Poet Laureate (back then the position was Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress), so he must have redeemed himself somewhere along the line.

Check out this week's Poetry Friday Round-Up at Live. Love. Explore!



I'm Jet . . . said...

Excellent poem. Excellent post.

Mur said...

Thanks for this one, Diane. I mostly thought of Untermeyer as a persone who edited collections of other people's poetry. He was very talented himself.

Irene Latham said...

Oh wow, I have never read this particular poem. Thank you for introducing us! Poetry is at its best when it gives us a different view of something.