Dear Eliot List
Thanks for the words of comfort and support of these last days. It was niced
to read, especially for those of us in areas of cities that were targets--New
York and Washington. Thanks, too, for the Yeats and "Hollow Men" references.
On NPR today someone read Dylan Thomas's "And Death Shall Have No
Dominion"--readily available in anthologies. Let me add one quote from an
essay in the anthology I used to use to teach Freshman Composition and
Literature--Robert DiYanni, ed., _Literature:_Readin
g_Fiction,_Poetry,_Drama,_and_the_Essay_, 4th ed.
(Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1998), pp. 1840-1845:
Loren Eiseley, a naturalist, wrote an essay entitled “The Judgment of the
Birds.” One beautiful day, Eisley was out hiking, grew tired, and stopped to
rest with his back against a stump. By accident, he relates, he was concealed
from a glade that he could see into clearly. He fell asleep and was awakened
by “some commotion”—”an enormous raven with a red and squriming nestling in
his beak.” The sound that had awakened him had been “the outraged cries of
the nestling’s parents, who flew helplessly in circles about the clearing.
The sleek black monster was indifferent to them.… But suddenly, out of all
that area of woodland, a soft sound of complaint began to rise. Into the
glade fluttered small birds of half a dozen varieties drawn by the anguished
outcries of the tiny parents.
“No one dared to attack the raven. But they cried there in some instinctive
common misery, the bereaved and the unbereaved. The glade filled with their
soft rustling and their cries. They fluttered as though to point their wings
at the murderer. There was a dim intangible ethic he had violated, that they
knew. He was a bird of death.
“And he, the murderer, the black bird at the at the heart of life, sat on
there glistening in the common light, formidable, unmoving, unperturbed,
“The sighing died. It was then I saw the judgment. It was the judgment of
life against death. I will never see it again so forcefully presented. I will
never hear it again in notes so tragically prolonged. For in the midst of
protest, they forgot the violence. There, in that clearing, the crystal note
of a song sparrow lifted hesitantly in the hush. And finally, after painful
fluttering, another took the song, and then another, the song passing from
one bird to another, doubtfully at first, as though some evil thing were
being slowly forgotten. Till suddenly they took heart and sang from many
throats joyously together as birds are known to sing. They sang because life
is sweet and sunlight beautiful. They sang under the brooding shadow of the
raven. In simple truth they had forgotten the raven, for they were the
singers of life, and not of death” (1844).