The Passing of Baldr

This is a serious poetry forum not a "love-in". Post here for more detailed, constructive criticism.
Post Reply
jisbell00
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 5323
Joined: Sat May 21, 2022 4:53 am

Sun Nov 26, 2023 1:41 am

The Passing of Baldr


If you should wish to dance before the Lord,
like David – not the slender shepherd boy
cut from the white stone, but that helpless man
who lay with Abishag and wrote the Psalms –
then, know you won’t be loved for it. No word
of all you sing will strike a welcome chord.
That’s how it is when you’re in God’s employ,
and God’s in you like muscle in your palms.


Along the salt/fresh interface
I spend my days. On either side
is silence. In the wind and tide,
there is no mercy, not a trace.


All-seeing Odin gave up an eye for wisdom,
and the moral is: you don’t always have a choice.
The sun slips westward like a Viking longship:
it’s evening now behind the municipal woods.

Meanwhile, the righteous man does the right thing:
he throws away his pizza; he calls the police.
“Here I stand,” the man says. He is almost naked.
The pizza’s gone, the sacrifice is done.
This hasn’t changed in, oh, two thousand years:
even the beloved god dies in the end.


Edited:
If you should come to dance before the Lord,
like David – not the slender shepherd boy
cut from the hard stone, but that helpless man
jisbell00
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 5323
Joined: Sat May 21, 2022 4:53 am

Mon Nov 27, 2023 6:32 pm

Hi folks,

I’ve edited the opening here.

Cheers,
John
Macavity
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 11664
Joined: Tue May 10, 2005 10:29 am

Wed Dec 06, 2023 7:33 am

The pieces have impact John. I enjoyed the Nordic mythology. How do we make the world sane? Belief is an option, though perhaps religion is another creative insanity!
The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne.
jisbell00
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 5323
Joined: Sat May 21, 2022 4:53 am

Wed Dec 06, 2023 8:37 am

Hi Phil,

"How do we make the world sane?" Now there's a powerful question! Not least for the US these days. In any case, I am glad the pieces spoke to you, and the Nordic mythology. Fun stuff. I liked juxtaposing that with the OT in part one.

Faith is the beleif in things that aren't there - it is definitionally insane, I think one can truthfully say. I accept that!

CHeers,
John
nash
Posts: 36
Joined: Tue Jan 05, 2021 10:33 pm

Fri Dec 08, 2023 1:02 am

I'm finding these pieces hugely intriguing, John.

Just to say where I am as a reader, I know a bit about Norse mythology but next to nothing about the Abrahamic religions. So, having said that, S1 is a bit lost on me as I don't know Abishag and David (shepherd boy or not), from the reading I would hazard a guess that Abishag is some kind of temptress figure who David makes a fool of himself over?

In the last line of S1 I'm assuming that the narrator feels that he is a god or has a god inside him. With the title we can perhaps link this deity to Baldr.

S2 (which is beautiful) seems to place the narrator in a liminal space, between land and sea, between wind and tide. Nice line break on L2/L3, by the way. So, is this the narrator slipping from the 'delusion'?

S3 has time passing with the 'sun slipping westward', like a Longship. I think Baldr was cremated in his Longship, so this is perhaps not only The Passing of Baldr as it happened in the myths but The Passing of Baldr from the narrator's 'delusion'?

And then at the end of S3 we're slammed right back in to 'reality', perhaps along with the narrator, with the word municipal.

And we're left with the sad scene of a semi-naked man with a pizza and the police mourning the loss of the god.

Is any of this close or am I just rambling? Is it one of those things where it's obvious to everyone and I'm stating the obvious?

The metre is beautifully handled and I really love that 'oh' in the penultimate line, such a conversational use but echoes the exclamative 'Oh...' often used in pre-20th century poetry.

All the best,
nash
jisbell00
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 5323
Joined: Sat May 21, 2022 4:53 am

Fri Dec 08, 2023 3:40 am

Hi Nash,

Thank you for going back and reading some of these! Both are near the start of my religion/madness MS., The Opposite of Time, so you’ve not missed much: they are about poems 5 and 6. I am of course delighted to hear you find them intriguing! In brief: when mad, I thought I had to save the world. Not just the living, but all the dead. I have a line, "Here, they worship other gods." My method, if you can call it that, was to save all the gods in human history and bring their followers with them, hence the somewhat heretical religion tour the MS. represents.

Ah, well we could equally say Norse religion and Abrahamic mythology! Who’s to say really. Shepherd boy David is Michelangelo’s statue (cut from the white stone), with the sling he killed Goliath with. David and Goliath. Later, as King of Israel, he becomes a pivotal figure in the Old Testament: he wrote all the 100+ Psalms in it, and when old, they put the young Abishag in his bed unsuccessfully to try to “warm him up.” He had been a great womanizer. SO, helpless. Oh, and the ending is meant to say there’s a god intimately present for the N, not that the N is a god (at this point!). Good guess though, that comes later!

I’m glad you liked S2! it’s a new addition. I think fish at the saltwater/freshwater interface, at river mouths, would die outside it. It’s my metaphor for being between psychotic and normal, social realities. I have to track both in tandem throughout the MS. and thought the metaphor might help readers. I was always a “high-functioning psychotic,” so perhaps more aware of consensus reality than some delusional people would be.

I like your idea of the dual passing of Baldr, I’d not thought of that. But we are still entering into madness at this point in the MS. - the hand poem follows. It was always in and out for me, I suppose, and episodic. But there has to be some kind of narrative thrust, and I did of course eventually recover enough to be writing this (and the poems). I agree, municipal does seem pretty real! But really, for me myth/the gods and the world around me coexisted, I was unable to loose my moorings completely. The municipal woods ended my back yard, as they had before my madness.

Yes, the semi-naked man with a pizza. It is very sad. All tied up with the god, as you say.

It’s good to hear you enjoyed the meter! I do my best. 😊 And the Oh at the end is meant not only to be conversational, but to suggest a parallel between one beloved god dying – Baldr – and another – Christ, who is god to the Christians but dies in the end, about 2,000 years ago. I also very much like your idea of the Oh in older poetry, that was not my conscious plan but I’m delighted to have it there!

In sum, you are not off base at all, and your reading is pretty much spot on, even for David who is complicated when you know the texts. Thank you for your generous and insightful reading.

Cheers,
John

Oh - two last details: Here I stand was what Martin Luther said as he invented Protestantism. They had asked him to recant, and he said he couldn't, at risk of being burned at the stake. ANd King David really did dance before the Lord, which his then wife found humiliating. She mocked him for it, and he never had sex with her again.
Post Reply