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On the Death of Smet-Smet, the Hippopotamus-Goddess -- Rupert Brooke

Still on the Theme that Refuses to Die - guest poem sent in by Suresh
Ramasubramanian
(Poem #847) On the Death of Smet-Smet, the Hippopotamus-Goddess
 Song of a tribe of the ancient Egyptians

   (The Priests within the Temple)

 She was wrinkled and huge and hideous? She was our Mother.
 She was lustful and lewd? -- but a God; we had none other.
 In the day She was hidden and dumb, but at nightfall moaned in the shade;
 We shuddered and gave Her Her will in the darkness; we were afraid.

   (The People without)

 She sent us pain,
 And we bowed before Her;
 She smiled again
 And bade us adore Her.
 She solaced our woe
 And soothed our sighing;
 And what shall we do
 Now God is dying?

   (The Priests within)

 She was hungry and ate our children; -- how should we stay Her?
 She took our young men and our maidens; -- ours to obey Her.
 We were loathed and mocked and reviled of all nations; that was our pride.
 She fed us, protected us, loved us, and killed us; now She has died.

   (The People without)

 She was so strong;
 But death is stronger.
 She ruled us long;
 But Time is longer.
 She solaced our woe
 And soothed our sighing;
 And what shall we do
 Now God is dying?
-- Rupert Brooke
Speaking of sarcasm, Hippos and religion, this one just has to take the
cake. Blind acceptance of a cruel and savage Deity - till the Deity dies,
leaving priests and people alike fumbling, scared, at a loss.

The frightened priests are busy making up excuses for their cruel rites -
and attributing all of them to the Hippo-Goddess' savage appetites.  The
common people, who have come to accept the cruelty of the Smet-Smet cult,
are at a loss as whatever religion they had - whatever supported their
society - has been destroyed.

Fatalism - the stoic acceptance of a (frequently savage) predestination - is
often the backbone of a religion, especially a religion which is based on
terrorizing its followers into submission.  Now, when the (supposed) arbiter
of Fate herself meets her fate?  A rather interesting state of affairs.

The first thing that I thought of when I read this was that Marx was perhaps
right when he dismissed religion as "The opium of the masses."

As for Brooke - it was a pleasant surprise for me to discover he wasn't just
a war poet (though his war sonnets are among the best I've read).

    "A young Apollo, golden-haired,
    Stands dreaming on the verge of strife,
    Magnificently unprepared
    For the long littleness of life."

These lines were written by Frances Cornford for Brooke, called by W. B.
Yeats, "The most handsome man in England."  Not a very long littleness
though - Brooke died in 1915, aged just 28.  I guess there has been more
than one Brooke bio posted on minstrels already, so I'll just stop here.

-suresh

Biography:
  http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/7086/brookebionote.htm

Brooke poems on Minstrels:

  Poem #514 "The Chilterns"
  Poem #280 "The Soldier"
  Poem #589 "Sonnet Reversed"

80 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Emily M. Cowan said...

The ways of the Hippo-goddess don't sound all that different to me than the
ways of the God of the Hebrew Bible. That God also appeared to cause
calamity as well as favor to God's followers. (Depending of course on how
you interpret the Bible, and there are as many ways to do that as there are
people.)

Joy West said...

Does this darkly evocative poem relate at all to the strong & ambivalent relationship RB had with his own mother do you think ? Joy

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Obat Herbal said...

Seberat apapun beban masalah yang kamu hadapi saat ini, percayalah bahwa semua itu tidak pernah melebihi batas kemampuan kamu.

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