Friday, October 02, 2009

Magna est Veritas

I suppose, in these days, few have heard of Coventry Patmore, and fewer still value his poetry. His Victorian style is unfashionable. Mannered archaic usage and lapses into sentimentality were popular in his time, but date him now.

At his best he achieves greatness, recognised by four entries in the New Oxford Book of English Verse.

Here is one I shall never forget. Of course 'reality' is my reading of 'truth', and likely to differ from catholic Patmore's.

It captures the sense of futility to which 70-year olds are prone.

Magna est Veritas

Here, in this little bay,

Full of tumultuous life and great repose,

Where, twice a day,

The purposeless, glad ocean comes and goes,

Under high cliffs, and far from the huge town,

I sit me down.

For want of me the world's course will not fail;

When all its work is done, the lie shall rot;

The truth is great, and shall prevail,

When none cares whether it prevail or not.

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