To bring the dead to life
Is no great magic.
Few are wholly dead:
Blow on a dead man's embers
And a live flame will start.

Let his forgotten griefs be now,
And now his withered hopes;
Subdue your pen to his handwriting
Until it prove as natural
To sign his name as yours.

Limp as he limped,
Swear by the oaths he swore;
If he wore black, affect the same;
If he had gouty fingers,
Be yours gouty too.

Assemble tokens intimate of him —
A seal, a cloak, a pen:
Around these elements then build
A home familiar to
The greedy revenant.

So grant him life, but reckon
That the grave which housed him
May not be empty now:
You in his spotted garments
Shall yourself lie wrapped.

Robert Graves—"To bring the dead to life"

It has been a sad long while since I've posted a Quotīdiē, and an even sadder long while since I've had time for contemplation of the choicest art, but few spirits raise raise me from a poetic torpor as well as Robert Graves, one of my favorite poets and critics.

Robin Hamilton used the first stanza of the above poem in a message on the New-Poetry mailing list. I couldn't place it, but when I asked Robin kindly provided the source.

I've invoked Graves myself on that mailing list. The man never seems far from modern meditation on the numinous qualities of poetry. He himself sometimes went overboard in his mysticism, and sometimes it even clogged up his verse (Robin put it very aptly: "God preserve us from Graves' Goddess Poems."), but overall, there are few writers that surpass Graves for impressing upon students the divine essence of poetry.

See for yourself. Visit the Robert Graves Archive. Some of the links therefrom are broken, but overall, it's a very useful compilation.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia