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The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 23. August 1999

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A work first published in 1948 in which Graves argues that the language of poetic myth current in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe was a magical language bound up with popular religious ceremonies in honour of the Moon-goddess, or Muse - some dating from the Old Stone Age.

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Robert Graves (1895-1985) was a poet, novelist and critic. His first volume of poems, Over the Brazier (1916), reflected his experiences in the trenches, and was followed by many works of poetry, non-fiction and fiction. He is best known for his novel, I, Claudius (1934), which won the Hawthornden and James Tait Black memorial prizes and for his influential The White Goddess (1948).

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Pagan poetry and poetic paganism 11. März 2012
Von Mark Carter - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
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Robert Graves' study of poetry, The White Goddess, is something of a literary unified field theory. It attempts to survey nearly all of Western poetry to assess the common factors and suggest a single unifying factor by which all poetry can be understood. Of course, Graves wasn't the first to attempt such a study, but The White Goddess is perhaps the best attempt to date; coming closer than others to finding and explaining the original creative big bang which drives all poetry, and where he fails Graves is better able to hide his failure. The White Goddess argues that echoes of this original big bang resonate in literature today and Graves teaches us how to hear them.

The problem is that, like all such studies, The White Goddess evaluates poetry in light of the author's own style; and when the author is Robert Graves we can be sure that the poetry will be judged on romantic and historical grounds. Graves' defense of poetry claims that poetry's origin lies with ancient Greek, Roman, and Celtic culture, and in even more primitive traditions of tribal shamen who chanted poetry to bless the new crops, the newborns, and the newly dead. Poetry not conforming to this theory is often dismissed as inconsequential. Thus, Graves logically favors fellow romantics who address the Muse's timeless themes of birth, love, loss, and death, or the pagan poets of the Classical and pre-Classical eras.

To Graves all poetry is pagan, either overtly or covertly, and even the best Christian poetry contains a surreptitious nod to older pagan traditions or folklore. Graves' defense of pagan poetry became a defense of pagan myth, ritual, and morality as well. This is why The White Goddess became one of the inspirational texts of modern paganism and remains popular with pagan readers today. The book appeals to both the hippy style counter-culture members of the pagan community as well as the historically minded members bent on historical reconstruction. The White Goddess' controversy derives from each school's attacks and defenses of the points it contains. After 64 years the debate still rages. Perhaps that is the book's strongest point. More important than if Graves is right or if he is wrong, is the fact that he made the attempt at all and the vast amount of debatable evidence which he has brought into the light.
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I love the book, but I would rate the condition as 'good', not very good.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen A Must have collection 27. Dezember 2012
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Robert von Ranke Graves (1895-1985) was an English poet, novelist, critic and classicist. He wrote many books, such as Good-Bye to All That: An Autobiography, King Jesus: A Novel, I, Claudius, and Claudius the God, etc. [NOTE: page numbers below refer to the 511-page paperback edition.]

In the Foreword of this 1948 book, he explains, “My thesis is that the language of poetic myth anciently current in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe was a magical language bound up with popular religious ceremonies in honor of the Moon-goddess, or Muse, some of them dating from the Old Stone Age, and that this remains the language of true poetry… The language was tempered with in late Minoan times…Then came the early Greek philosophers who were strongly opposed to magical poetry as threatening to their new religion of logic…” (Pg. 9-10)

In Chapter One, he further says, “This book is about the rediscovery of the lost rudiments, and about the active principles of poetic magic that govern them. My argument will be based on a detailed examination of two extraordinary Welsh minstrel poems of the thirteenth century, in which the clues to this ancient secret are ingeniously concealed.” (Pg. 17)

He observes, “The goddess is a lovely, slender woman … she will suddenly transform herself into … mermaid or loathsome hag. Her names and titles are innumerable. In ghost stories she often figures as ‘The White Lady,’ and in ancient religions… as the ‘White Goddess.’ I cannot think of any true poet who has not independently recorded his experience of her. The test of a poet’s vision, one might say, is the accuracy of his portrayal of the White Goddess and of the island over which she rules… a true poem is necessarily an invocation of the White Goddess, or Muse, the Mother of All Living, the ancient power of fright and lust…” (Pg. 24)

He explains, “Since the close connection here suggested between ancient British, Greek, and Hebrew religion will not easily be accepted, I wish to make it clear that I am not a British Israelite or anything of that sort. My reading of the case is that at different periods in the second millennium B.C. a confederacy of mercantile tribes… were displaced from the Aegean area by invaders… that some of these wandered north… and eventually reached Britain and Ireland… The connection, then, between the early myths of the Hebrews, and Greeks and the Celts is that all three races were civilized by the same Aegean people whom they conquered and absorbed.” (Pg. 61)

He argues, “What interests me most in conducting this argument is the difference that is constantly appearing between the poetic and prosaic modes of thought… the poetic faculty is atrophied in every educated person who does not privately struggle to cultivate it… And from the inability to think poetically… derives the failure to think clearly in prose… The mechanical style, which began in the counting-house, has now infiltrated into the university, some of its most zombiesque instances occurring in the works of eminent scholars and divines. Mythographic statements which are perfectly reasonable to the few poets who can still think and talk in poetic shorthand seem either nonsensical oR childisH to nearly all literary scholars.” (Pg. 223)

He says, “Poets who are concerned with the single poetic Theme, cannot afford to draw any disingenuous distinction between ‘sacred history’ and ‘profane myth’ and make the usual dissociation between them, unless prepared to reject the Scriptures as wholly irrelevant to poetry. This would be a pity, and in these days of religious toleration I cannot see why they need accept so glaringly unhistorical a view of the authorship, provenience, dating and original texts of the Old Testament, that its close connection with the Theme is severed.” (Pg. 314)

He summarizes, “I am suggesting that… the religious revolution which brought about the alphabetic changes in Greece and Britain was a Jewish one, initiated by Ezekiel… which was taken up by the Greek-speaking Jews of Egypt and borrowed from them by the Pythagoreans… The result of envisaging this god of pure mediation, the Universal Mind still premised by the most reputable modern philosophers, and enthroning him above Nature as essential Truth and Goodness was not an altogether happy one… The new God claimed to be dominant as Alpha and Omega… able to exist without the aid of woman; but it was natural to identify him with one of the original rivals of the Theme and to ally the woman and the other rival permanently against him. The outcome was philosophical dualism with all the tragi-comic woes attendant on spiritual dichotomy. If the True God… was pure thought, pure good, whence came evil and error? Two separate creations had to be assumed; the true spiritual Creation and the false material Creation.” (Pg. 464-465)

In the Postscript, he admits, “I am no mystic; I avoid participation in witchcraft, spiritualism, yoga, fortune-telling, automatic writing, and the like. I live a simple, normal, rustic life with my family and a wide circle of sane and intelligent friends. I belong to no religious cult, no secret society, no philosophical sect; nor do I trust my historical intuition any further than it can be factually checked.” (Pg. 488)

This book will appeal most to students of poetry and literature, and also to students of speculative interpretations of mythology.
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