Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Finding light - In a Dark time

I have the UK edition of this powerful anthology first published in 1984. Gertie, my father's sister, gave it to me the Christmas after I began training for the ministry in 1986. My version has a very simple pen and ink drawing of a weeping eye on the front cover, I like the subtitle on this American version though: Images for Survival.
At the time I first got the book the man I loved was busy working for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament - so busy of course that he didn't have time to love me - and I was quite involved in opposition politics and the peace movement, perhaps rather too much for the good of my theology studies!
This anthology has accompanied me as I began to prepare morning prayer and learn about the liturgy. Today it still sits on my shelf at work and is frequently thumbed as I look for inspiration or challenge, an idea or some consolation. Over the years I am not sure I have been asiduous in my reading of it - in fact I'm sure I haven't. This means though that I still stumble on things afresh. Today it was these lines of translated poetry by Vladimir Mayakovsky:
"On the pavement
of my trampled soul
the soles of madmen
stamp the prints of rude, crude words"

The translator was George Reavey and without him I would never have read these powerful words. Sometimes not only the poet but also the translator should be honoured.
Harvard University Press has the following as a blurb about the book:

In a Dark Time is an anthology for the nuclear age, created by two professional psychologists who have ordered their material so that the successive selections reflect and comment on one another, compelling the reader to think about the insanity of war. This book draws on thoughts and writings from more than two millennia: poets from Sappho to Robert Lowell, dreamers from Saint John the Divine to Martin Luther King, Jr., statesmen from Seneca to Winston Churchill, soldiers, churchmen, writers, leaders. Along with them are mingled the voices of people who have faced appalling danger in their own lifetimes--an American schoolchild, a Hiroshima grocer, a plague survivor, a Turkish dissident. Human beings appear at their best and at their worst: as savage warriors, as helpless victims, as dupes of "Nukespeak" and warlike propaganda, and finally as individuals with the courage to say no.