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The White Goddess, Amended and Enlarged Edition
The White Goddess Amended and Enlarged Edition Author:Robert Graves The earliest European deity was the White Goddess of Birth, Love and Death, visibly appearing as the New, Full and Old Moon, and worshipped under countless titles. She was beautiful, generous, fickle, wise, implacable. — The White Goddess is far more than a long-discredited pagan deity. She is alive, and her worship takes many strange forms bot... more »h inside and outside the conventions of Western morality. In particular, she continues as the Ninefold Muse, patroness of the white magic of poetry.
Mr. Graves' proposition is that "true poetry" or "pure poetry", which has never been satisfactorily defined except in the emotional effect that it produces in its readers, has only a single language and a single infinitely variable theme. He shows that this theme is inseparably connected with the ancient cult-ritual of the White Goddess and her Son. The language is called myth and is based on a few simple magical formulas, kept close secrets for thousands of years by her initiates, without a knowledge of which the legends of Palestine, Greece, Rome, and Northwestern Europe are so much beautiful, disgusting or boring nonsense. Poetry is "true" or "pure" to the degree that the poet makes intuitive use of the formulas.
Here then is a historical grammar of poetic myth, with the more important magical elements logically deduced from scattered relics of several allied mystery-cults. It not only explains the obscure power that English romantic poetry exercises on the reasonable people of today, but provides practical solutions to many of the apparently insoluble riddles of antiquity - even to the questions that Sir Thomas Browne instanced in his Urn Burial, "What song the Sirens sang" or "What name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among the women" and the the riddles that Job feared to answer, "Where shall Wisdom be found?" and to the problem that Alexander the Great refused to face, "How to untie the Gordian Knot," and to John Donne's "Who cleft the Devil's foot?"
It is a stiff book because of the weight of learning that the argument has to support, but we believe that it marks a wholly new era in the study of poetic and religious meaning.« less