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Monday, 7 January 2013

The Angel of History

Looking back on what is past, 
were're apt to see:
disasters by the cart load,
catalogues of tragedies,
errors by the score;
so many reasons to be sore,
so many crimes against our nature --
too many to be sure...
a video for ever playing
of individual failures,
each person with their fatal flaw.

In contrast stands the angel of our history. 
Face for ever turned towards the past,
she sees it differently: sees
a single car crash on a motorway --
and an endless stream of vehicles
for ever piling in.

11 comments:

Brian Miller said...

hopefully i am not judged too harsh for the failures of my past...i try not to look back there...prefering the fore view...hope someone stops the piling on soon you know...smiles.

Manicddaily said...

Wow. (And ow.) This one leaves me sort of breathless as I am wondering is it right?

Agh.

Seems to be. So so interesting. Certainly one thing leads to another and another, in our own lives and history and how to repair that initial crash - maybe inherent in the fact of birth.

I just saw Les Troyens by Berlioz, at the Met in New York. Quite amazing. Beautiful music. But one think sticking was the terrible connectivity of violence - the Greeks, the Trojans, the Carthaginians, Phoenicians ---

So hard to get through the pile-up personally. Such a good poem. It is going to change the way I think of things for a while. k.

aprille said...

Oh dear, David.
I so totally disagree :-)
I am constantly grateful for people and the things they have done in the past.
And that monstrous A.o.t.N is no angel to me.
Blinkered is the word, I suppose. Maybe that is the ultimate selfdefence.

kaykuala said...

One often wonders wherefore the reasons why these happen the way they do. Is it punishment for something. Good of you to have picked it up. Nicely Dave!

Hank

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

The "for ever" in the last line seals the whole poem with a great force in the image of the cars piling up and gives a compelling sense of suspension and ineluctability.

The Elephant's Child said...

I, like aprille, think we need a second Angel of History. One that sees the kindess and the positive things which have happened. Both have their place - but they only give part of the picture.

Mary said...

Yes, I think the Angel of history that you described may have one view...... And I don't deny the pile-ups; but is there not another angel who sees kindness leading to kindness leading to kindness? I hope so.

ds said...

Is history an angel--or a devil in disguise? (no answer here). Yes, we all look back upon our individual flaws, and history, whatever it proves to be, knows the exact number of vehicles on that motorway.

Thank you for this.

Dave King said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave King said...

Hi all!
Seems I didn't get the essential conceit (if I can call it that) across. The poem was intended as a present day picture of the Biblical concept of original sin. I thought maybe I ought to explain that (just the once) before replying individually.
And maybe I can also say collectively that I am thrilled by your comments, particularly your willingness to disagree. Really good to know that, so much thanks to all. Now to speak individually...

Dave King said...

Brian
Like it, like your phlegmatic approach. I do tend to look back a lot, often wish I didn't, but I do find it helps to make sense of the present. Love your concluding hope! Thanks.

Manicddaily
I wouldn't claim that it's right. (As in factual?) Just struck me (from somewhere, don't really know where) as an alternative image for an old idea. Yes, you pretty much have the idea I was after, the one thing leading to another, mistakes of today having their roots in mistakes of yesterday.
Interesting response - Les troyens and all that. Thanks.

aprille
I do agree with your individual points. I, too, am grateful to many -- and for much -- from the past and I, too, cannot abide the A o t N. Neither, though, quite touch on what I was hoping to get across. Blinkered may well be part of it. I could use that. Much thanks for your thoughts.

Hank
Thanks Hank. I can't take the idea of punishment very far. That makes it almost as much someone else's fault as ours. I do think it is ours and ours alone. Thanks for saying.

Tommaso
Thanks for this. The ineluctability was intended, but it's good to know you found it compelling.

The Elephant's Child
I think I agree. I would certainly like to agree. Just off the top of my head, though, I can't see them as two parts of the same picture, they are two contrary images which together make life's first great paradox. (I'll have to give this more thought - thanks for setting the conundrum.)

Mary
I see where you're coming from, but see my reply to The Elephant's Child. Thanks for your thoughts on the matter.)

ds
Well, yes, I suppose if he/she/it knows all the hairs on our heads, that must be so. Good hearing from you. Thanks.