Abdul-Baha's ministry occupies the framework of this third epoch: 1892-1921. This prose-poetry has as its central theme the ministry of 'Abdu'l-Baha,the events and history of these years, that fin de siecle and the first 21 years of the 20th century. My prose-poetry tries to integrate history, Baha'i history, my own life and society into some cohesive whole. Readers will find here in this document a varied mix of content and theme around aspects of this final chapter of the Heroic Age in the history of the Baha'i Faith.
Pioneering Over Four Epochs:
Section VIII - Poetry - The Heroic Age: 3rd Epoch: 1892-1921
published in Pioneering Over Four Epochs: An Autobiographical Study and a Study in Autobiography
Each of the prose poems below was originally in a form resembling a poem, but I have gathered each of them into a form that resembles prose more than poetry. John Keats and Emily Dickinson among others used letters to transmit poetry, to formulate letters as poetry, to exploit the poetic and epistolary so that they inflect, enrich, even become one another. The blending of genres in various ways and for a wide range of purposes resulting in an even wider range of effects has become a popular sport in recent decades. I have come to see some of my own letters in a collection now spanning nearly 50 years as a blend of genres. Indeed poetry and prose have become somewhat indecipherable in my mind's eye.
My poetry is a blending of autobiographical elements, echoes of the literature of the social sciences and humanities and a steady stream of references to and influences from Baha’i writings, history and teachings. This evening I was reading about the English poet George Byron(1788-1824). I was particularly struck by the fact that all of Byron's poetry is a blending of autobiographical elements and echoes of the literature he had absorbed over the years. And so I felt a certain affinity to Byron for this reason.
His poem Don Juan is considered the most autobiographical of Byron’s works. Almost all of Don Juan is real life either Byron’s or the lives of those whom he knew. Byron started writing Don Juan on July 3rd 1818, eight months after the birth of Baha’u’llah. He continued working on the poem in Italy and on his death in 1824 the poem remained unfinished. Don Juan was a, perhaps the, poem that the working class took to heart in the mid-19th century, so Friedrich Engles informed us in 1844. This poem reached the urban and rural poor and, for many, it was all they read besides the Bible. It is very likely that most of these readers did not read any of Byron's other works. As early as 1819 the work was regarded by the bourgeoisie as filthy and impious, although it was not fully published until 1901. He was regarded by Eliot as having contributed nothing and by Goethe as the greatest genius of his century. -Ron Price with thanks to Galit Avitan, “Publication Histories: Byron’s Don Juan,” Ashes, Sparks and Hypertext, 2000.
I came across an online seminar organized by the National Library of Australia entitled ‘Private Lives Revealed: Letters, Diaries, History’1 and was particularly struck with an article by a Peter Read: Private Papers and a Sense of Place. The article was an analysis of the verse of the nineteenth century English poet John Clare. Read saw Clare’s verse as an interesting example of what he called ‘private papers.’ Clare's poetry was so eclectic, his language so personal, his personal involvement so touching, that Read thought Clare’s poetry was much more akin to a collection of private papers that we might find in a library than to the poetry of a poet. However akin to private papers Clare’s poetry was, Read still thought Clare could have become one of the best-known poets of the nineteenth century. In discussing why Clare did not become such a poet, Read quotes the cultural historian John Barrell’s views on Clare: “insofar as Clare was successful in expressing his own sense of place, he was writing himself out of the main stream of European literature."
Accomplished poets and novelists are fully aware of the need for their readers to be able to generalise from the emotions which they as writers present about a particular place, event or person. The world view and life experiences of writers needs to find resonance with readers, if their writing is to be successful. Private papers often reveal such private emotions, and private emotions often reveal intense, ungeneralised concerns for particularities which hardly ever surface amongst the published, fictionalized and/or poetic works of professional writers. -Ron Price with thanks to 1“Internet Site,” National Library of Australia, 2006.
I dedicate this section to ‘Abdul-Baha. In His life he wrote thousands of letters, as did all the Central Figures of the Baha’i Faith and Their successors. Indeed, the letter is a special instrument of communication in the Bahá'í Faith. For ‘Abdu’l-Baha the letter had a certain primacy in His communications with His followers in the West, indeed around the world. ‘Abdu’l-Baha established an on-going plan for the international spread of the Faith in a series of letters called "the Tablets of the Divine Plan" which He wrote during the Great War. Twenty-five years before, following the death of His Father in 1892, ‘Abdu’l-Baha was still a prisoner of the Ottoman Empire in Akka Palestine. It was through letters and His own direct contact with early Western believers who travelled to Palestine that He guided the Faith’s spread outside the Middle East as the 19th century closed and the new century, a century He called ‘The Century of Light’ opened.
Over the years I have saved many of my own letters going back to 1967. As a body, a genre, of work, if there is any significance to this collection of letters it is in the long term. For now, their main function seems to be to occupy a dusty(not if my wife has anything to do with it) corner of this study and thanks to the Baha’i Academics Resource Library and their ‘Secondary Resource Material Section>Personal Letters’ readers can scroll down and get an overview of my "Pioneering Over Four Epochs: A Study of Autobiography>Letters Section VII. this overview provides, at least from my point of view, an interesting reflection on letters during these four epochs. Of course, my perspective is a personal one, as one might expect from 5000 personal letters, letters that have been part of my Baha’i life since I first wrote to a young Japanese believer in 1957.
But first, some poetry about 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the Covenant which He symbolizes, perhaps more than anything else:
SEVERAL TURNING POINTS
If one reads my poetry over the last ten years or over more than twenty, going back to, say, the first two poems I wrote in the winter of 1980 after finally being treated for a bipolar disorder, such a reader will get the overwhelming impression of a very personal spiritual journey,1 a journey of healing. One will see spiritual crises, complexity and depth of struggle engaged in as the stuff of life that underpins my poetry and its emotional tension. There is a vulnerability and an openness underneath a bittersweet complex poetic design etched in an acid of remorse and sadness, a meditative and solemn consciousness and an identification with powerful and wise prophetic Figures in my religion. My poetry found several critical turning points: it began its spiritual journey with a special healing; it developed and became associated with the building of the Terraces on Mt. Carmel, especially beginning in that Holy Year of 1992-1993; and it developed still further when I retired at the age of 55 from my profession. That solemn consciousness,2 one that had been with me as far back as the first months of my pioneering experience from August to December 1962, became the wellspring of the most exquisite celebratory joy. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Stuart Hirschberg in Poetry Criticism, Vol.7, Drew Kalasky, editor, Gale Research Inc., Detroit, 1994, p.155; and 2The Universal House of Justice, Letter April 3, 1991.
My poetry proclaims and acclaims
the pivotal centre
of the unity of humankind
in the Covenant.
My poetry illustrates
the dynamic effect
of the Covenant
on the struggle, spread
and redemptive achievements
of the Bahá'í community
since His passing
in that fin de siecle
when His soul proceeded
to energize the world
There is here a thankful gladness,
a celebratory joy,1
a journey into an inner world,
an exploration of a genuine self,
an unlocking of a door of many mansions,
of deep complexity, of inaudible music.
Here is a protective structure
I negotiate as I conjure into being
people from the past
and take the long journey of healing.
1 The Universal House of Justice, Letter, April 3, 1991.
5 March 2002
A TRAGIC CONFINEMENT
The ruin of a great soul is tragic. This is the theme of Hamlet. If life's learning does not serve as the means to access the Beloved, the Most Merciful, this is the ruin of many great souls; this too is tragic. This is one of a multitude of themes in the Bahá'í writings.-Ron Price with appreciation to Claude Williamson, Readings on the Character of Hamlet, George Allen and Unwin, London, 1950; and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Haifa, 1978, p.110.
Some wondrous minds and
high and mighty spirits with
large usefulness die far, far
from the immortal nest, the
bonds of the Friend, the dust
of His path, the home in the nest
of heaven. The sweetness of the
venom from His lips is never tasted,
nor is converse with the Beloved
or the people of the eternal realm.
Never do they pierce the veils of
plurality but, instead, confined are
they, far, far, far from the jewelled
wisdom of this lucid faith.
21 November 1997
QUITE UNMEASUREABLE, INDEFINABLE
If a person chooses to perfect his writing and not his life, "he must refuse a heavenly mansion." Toil will leave its mark: "a raging in the dark." He will feel "the day's vanity, the night's remorse.-Ron Price with thanks to W.B. Yeats, "The Choice", W.B. Yeats The Poems, editor, Daniel Albright, J.M. Dent and Sons Ltd., London, 1990, pp.296-7.
All this writing is for me
a visible sign of the melody
of eternity with the chord
of creation, an attempt to
establish myself in the realm
of divine trust, to bring the
Supreme Concourse to the
door of my life as I play
with the heavens of mysteries,
the colours and riddles of life.
Holding all there is of creative
thought, I produce a spiritual
word and result that is quite
26 October 1997
1 most of this perspective comes from 'Abdu'l-Bahá statement on the cry Ya'Baha'ul-Abha which I have applied to writing. The comparison can be made, but how validly?
SUBLIMITY AND EPHEMERALITY
Joshua Bell got caught up in the moment so often, so much of the time, with his violin music, with tennis, golf, with anything he took seriously, which interested him. He was frequently on some steep learning curve, totally absorbed, with an intensity that was almost neurotic and especially with playing the violin. -Ron Price with thanks to Joshua Bell and his father and mother, ABC TV, 2:35 pm., Sunday 9 November 1997.
Constant yearning for the knowledge of Self.....this is Wisdom; all else ignorance.-Bhagavad-Gita, 13:8-10.
He is created for the acquirement of infinite perfections, for the attainment to the sublimity of the world..-'Abdu'l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p.43.
It was wonderful to meet you, Joshua,
and have my soul lifted to the stars, past
your handsome face and sweet intensity,
your ecstacy, your aloneness: you might
just as well have been on Mars. Your teachers,
wondrous too, thank your lucky stars!
The conditions of your creative life
compare favourably to a soldier at war.
Created you were to attain sublimity,
far beyond this ephemerality,
in a space of infinite perfections:
for I heard them, Josh: I heard
your transcendent melodies, intricate,
lost in wonder, the product of endless
and obsessive work, but nowhere near
the abundance, the freedom and independence
of the bird who sings effortlessly in my garden.
9 November 1997
AT LAST CONVERGING
Literature dwindles to a mere chronicle of circumstances, or passionless fantasies and passionless meditation, unless it is constantly flooded with the passion and beliefs of the past and, of all the fountains of passion and beliefs of the past, Bahá'í history has again and again brought the vivifying spirit of excess into a Bahá'í consciousness in the arts. The history of the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh, the seemingly endless martyrs, the life story of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi and the accounts of many of the great teachers now over several epochs, are slowly creating a new literature and changing the very roots of people's emotions by their influence on people’s spirit and their sense of oneness. -Ron Price with thanks to W.B. Yeats for an idea, source unknown.
Most of life takes all that I am,
its many roles and stages;
the candle of my days burns low
while I strut and fret between the pages.
There is within this tempered sword
which I use to cut these lines
something brittle called fatigue
I feel it often times.
The past collapses into moments;
I create a world of leaves
they hang upon my boughs
with green and shiney weaves.
These verses are no crown or banquet;
they are not part of dance or play.
They aren't meant for entertainment,
not part of song, renoun, or suit so gay.
I feel as if something is emerging,
although these lines come from my mind. .
A civilization is at last converging
with this adventure that I slowly unwind.
23 March 1996
A MASSIVE MENTAL PASTORAL
The ancestry of much pastoral poetry has something to do with its quality. That ancestry is song-and-dance, wooing, distance and familiarity, celebration, a subduing of the sexual element, a paradoxical element and a rejection of the aspiring-Ron Price with appreciation to Hallett Smith, Elizabethan Poetry: A Study of Conventions, Meaning and Expression, University of Michigan Press, 1968(1952), chapter on pastoral poetry.
It is certain that to the discerning taste of 'famed and accomplished men of learning' the proffered treasures of kings would not compare to a single drop of the waters of knowledge, and the mountains of gold and silver could not outweigh the successful solution of a difficult problem.-'Abdu'l-Bahá, Secret of Divine Civilization, pp.21-22.
What is this pastoral life, this
quiet life of the mind? It is a life
of action as much as action is.
A life of limitation and knowing
it, is sad, but contentment, a tranquil
heart, can be found: though you know
you are but a brief candle, a walking
shadow, a man with many parts who
walks, runs and frets many times across
life's multi-coloured stage. What the mind
has produced, poetic, may last forever across
the halls of time. And if not, then, some
doleful pleasantry, some bright intensity
that takes both grief and joy and amalgamates
their tones in a defining beauty and simplicity
that is so impersonal as to be dark green moss
to which I cling, lament and sing in complex
hues right to my bones. This is the highest bliss
I know, Arcadia, and the oldest poetry in all the
world, but centred now on an aspiring mind and
its search for a necessary and massive dose of truth.
18 March 1996
They were a whole race going hedonistic, deciding on pleasure.-Scott Fitzgerald in Freud, Religion and the Roaring Twenties: A Psychoanalytic Theory of Secularization in Three Novelists--Anderson, Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Henry Idema III, Rowman & Littlefield Pub., 1990, p.5.
An old world was dieing
all around them as they*
laid the foundation for
the new one so few knew.
At the Somme and
dull thunder of the guns,
the trench warfare
saw millions die while
He quietly penned more
Tablets** for a different
kind of war for a new Order.
It was just then taking its
first form as that great war
was enduing and orders were
changing directions and forms.
But it all happened so quietly
as noise changed the face of Europe,
as religions died on the battlefield
and people in the millions turned to
sex, alcohol and secular substitutes.
They roared into the twenties with
the flapper, bathtub gin, howling jazz,
silent screen movies, lavish mansions,
sleek automobiles, and lots of glitter
and tinsel--missing the first formative
years of an Order that would change
the face of history and exhaust the energies
of a young man and make him old, old
before his time; holding the world, the
new Order on his shoulders was too much
as the world went hedonistic, went for pleasure.
5 March 1996
* they='Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi
** Tablets= Tablets of the Divine Plan
AN EMERGING ORTHODOXY
'Abdu'l-Bahá's visit seemed to have been the period during which the stress was on liberalism and lack of structure was greatest....From 1917 onward, the early American Bahá'í community began to lose those features....a loosley knit, inclusive, spiritual philosophy...a structure of organization and belief can be dated from around 1917.-Peter Smith, "American Bahá'í Community", Studies in Babi and Bahá'í History, Vol.1, editor, Moojan Momen, Kalimat Press, Los Angeles, 1982, pp.199-201.
While Lenin was leading his Bolsheviks
in the October Revolution,
with his 'ten days that shook the world'
the American Bahá'í community
was finally losing a loosely knit,
inclusive, often vague, spiritual philosophy
and moving toward a structure
of organization and belief
a process whose momentum
was greatly accelerated
under the Guardian.
The great revolutions in the west
have been marked by an evolution
in the growth and development
of Bahá'í history and community life.
A doctrinal orthodoxy was clearly emerging
amidst the fear of war, that Red Scare
and an increasing concern for teaching.
The greatest revolution in this century,
or so it seemed for years,
saw a significant shift from a broad
liberalism to an exclusiveness,
a definition of terms, of detail
that would remain throughout the history
of this emerging world religion.
We, too, have visited His tomb
in a safe place off the central square.
Ours has been a silent, unobtrusive growth,
a force as revolutionary as that October
Bolshevik battle, and now we face
the world with our ideology articulate,
our organizational units fleshed out
with guidelines to change the world--
not in ten days, but in the decades ahead.
For this revolution has all the seeds
of reality and the language for the real thing.
This time he's not coming
from the Finland Station; this time
it's a whole world of thousands
whose seeds are growing
into a global garden.
16 March 1996
1953: A VERY BIG YEAR
The year October 1952 to October 1953 marked a Holy Year commemorating the centenary of the birth of the Mission of Bahá'u'lláh. -Ron Price: see Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Bahá'í World: 1950-1957, USA, 1958, p.50.
Patti Page's 'Doggie in the Window'
was the best-selling song in America;
Frank Sinatra's 'Lean Baby,'
a new country and western,
Willie Thornton's Hound Dog
and the Drifters' Money Honey
were all turnin' them on,
makin' it big in music's world.
A most wonderful and thrilling motion1
appeared in the world of existence
and the Kingdom on earth began
with the opening of the greatest
architectural creation since the Gothic.2
That year my mother saw an ad
in the Burlington Gazette
and began going to firesides.
I was in grade four,
in love with Suzan Gregory
and on the eve of my baseball career.
1 'Abdu'l-Bahá predicted that this would occur with the completion of the mother Temple in Chicago. This occurred in 1953: God passes by, p.351.
2 So said George Gray Barnard, widely respect scuptor in the USA: God passes by, USA, 1957, p.352.
6 July 1998
DEAMONS AND ANGELS
He sought in eastern philosophy and modern psychology means of harnessing his own obsession with sex to a powerful drive for creativity. He saw human personality as a sort of fiction. We are, he thought, a million personalities and the dramaturgical nature of social life with its endless social roles, parts, stages, acts, plays requires us "to puppetize a bit." In the process he became very succesful at communicating. He also became very conscious of the monsters inside him, of getting old, of becoming easily fatigued, of a falsity in him, of his not really enjoying life, of not being happy, of being bored, but being difficult to please and feeling as if he had been still-born.
-Ron Price, a partial summary of the personality of Lawrence Durrell, with thanks to Gordon Bowker, Through the Dark Labyrinth: A Biography of Lawrence Durrell, St. Martin's Press, NY, 1997.
I think I've put my daemons in their place,
they creep in the early hours of day into the
sessions of my thought and seep into those
obsessions that are my burden, my transient
dust, my slough of heedlessness, far from the
fruit of holiness and its tree of wondrous glory.
These are my fancies, my imaginings, my
tribulations, my foul dregs of impurity: the price
I pay for having scaled the peak so many times,
felt the heavenly outpourings descend and the
radiant effulgences appear.1 Lead me, oh my Lord,
before the light fades, further down into this valley
of quiet where life's harvest mellows into golden wisdom2
and those daemons keep my angels alive and well.
1 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, USA, 1977, p.6.
2 Many phrases in this poem come from Bahá'u'lláh's The Hidden Words.
4 July 1998
EMERGING INTO THE BIG TIME
Something that has more and more impressed me as this poetic corpus has developed is the significance of some events in the past that at the time seemed to be simple, natural happenings, not endowed with any earth shattering importance. Some events take place so slowly and unobtrusively one is not even conscious of them taking place. This poem tries to paint the colours of such an event such a process. Now, of course, I can endow the event, the process, with the meaning it only seems to acquire in retrospect.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript.
The Kingston Trio, the Limelighters,
Peter, Paul and Mary, Judy Collins,
Joan Baez all emerged from
coffeehouses into the big time,1
the first wave of folk music with
crystal voices and guitars,
hummable melodies, sweet
harmonies and intelligible lyrics:
as I emerged from a fragile chrysalis
into a butterfly on its first flight with
no idea what "flight" meant, as I threw
a hardball from the mound, studied
French in that blue text book, went
swimming in the summer in Ontario's
lakes, played golf in the garden, saw
my dad grow old and began to form
infinitely slowly my Weltanschauung.2
Little did I know that I had entered
the big time, some master plan of
creation, with its soft and permeable
boundaries3 where I could fly forever,
everywhere, pollinating the flowers4
of infinite perfectability and sublimity.5
1 They emerged by 1960 according to Mike Jahn, The Story of Rock from Elvis Presley to the Rolling Stones, NY, Quadrangle, 1975, pp.93-96.
2 I emerged by 1960. By January 1, 1960, I had been a Bahá'í for something less than 100 days and slowly acquired a comprehensive world view or philosophy of life, in this case from the standpoint of a religion emerging slowly from its chrysalis of obscurity.
3 Will van den Hoonaard discusses the 'soft and permeable boundaries' of the Bahá'í community in the first half century of its growth in Canada: 1898-1948.
4 The process of physical pollination is described beautifully in "Flowers and Insects" by Jay and Constance Conrader, World Order, Spring 1969, pp.30-38; spiritual 'pollination' has interesting parallels which are implied here.
5 'Abdu'l-Bahá mentions the perfectability of man in the context of eternity in Tablets of the Divine Plan, USA, 1977, p.43.
7 July 1998
This poem draws heavily on a poem by T.S. Eliot called Gerontion. It is about a fallen and dreaming humanity, a present age of decrepitude and impotence, a spiritually deceased world on its way to extinction. My poem links Eliot and some aspects of the new forces of this newly emerging religion, the Bahá'í Faith, together.
Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
The reality of sacrifice is that there is no sacrifice.
These poems are spun around moments
in centres and circles, the fruit of a life-
time of breathings, seeings and hearings.
Here I am, a middle aged man in an
Antipodean city near the ocean,
listening to Bach and my printer buzz.
I was not at Tabarsi, nor did my blood
drop anywhere in Persia, then, or now.
My wife helps out in the neighbourhood
and my son finishes his university course.
I will go for a walk in a few minutes.
I will also give this poem a pithy and
profound coherence in the next lines.
There is no nightmare vision here
or a series of dissconnected parts.
The ressurection has come to pass
and is here in the Kingdom of His signs.1
I do not address this poem to the
Gerontians among us for whom those
gems of utterance were not intended2
and who would not respond then, or now.
--------Ron Price 11
1 Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p.131.
2 -T.S. Eliot has a poem called Gerontion which he wrote between May 1917 and May/June 1919. A Gerontion is (i) a little old man(Greek), (ii)a little old dried-up evangelist, (iii) a dull head, (iv) a figure without moral authority, (v) a person who is 'relaxed and uncommitted' and wants to keep it that way; and (vi) symbolic of what is empty and dry in our civilization and incapable of responding to ultimate truth and beauty.
-Those 'gems of utterance' are the Tablets of the Divine Plan written and first promulgated at the same time the poem Gerontion was written.
ANOTHER RAID ON THE INARTICULATE
What counts in the poetic raid on the inarticulate is the quality, intensity and breadth of the poet's concerns, his emotional capacity, intellectual resource, self-forgetfulness, consciousness of his multi-personed self and the general civilization he maintains between raids. What counts, too, among a host of factors, is the world of creative thought evoked by his use of the Greatest Name. -Ron Price with thanks to Seamus Heaney, The Government of the Tongue, Faber and Faber, London, 1988, p. 170; and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Analysis of Ya Baha'u'l-Abha.(unpublished)
We bring it all together here
in this multifoliate poetic word
describing some new 15 years
of peace1, Athenian beautification
transferred across the sea in a
democratic theocracy, a religious
apotheosis, glorification of this day
and cheering our eyes, embodiment
of an ideal, a way, an order, on an
isle of faithfulness, a shipwrecked
victim washed ashore, positioned
in a place of honour in the central
square---the most beautiful creation
in the world, a grace still contained.
25 April 1998
1 It is anticipated that this Athenian period of peace: 446-431 BC will be repeated in another form which Bahá'í call the Lesser Peace and the Greater Peace.
NO REAL REST
In the very act of succeeding at anything one must cut oneself off from some vital part of yourself. The most successful see everyone else's needs but not their own. Their success, their ambition, their desire to know, to do, to be, is the cause of their downfall. That is the tragic fate inherent in the struggle of the ambitious.1 Succeeding is often related to serving and, as 'Abdu'l-Bahá puts it in advising those who are ambitious for the Cause: "lay down your very lives, and as ye yield yourselves, rejoice."2 -1 David Denby, Great Books: My Adventures with Homer, Rousseau, Woolf and Other Indestructible Writers of the Western World, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1996, p.116; and 2 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Haifa, 1978, p.72.
The temptation to rest, to ease,
to composure, is overwhelming-
and inevitably we need our rest-
but there is no real rest until the
end. This truth is part of western
man since the Odyssey and the Iliad.
There's something demonic, unappeasable,
unreachable in us; a state of receptivity is
created through this condition, for the standard
of peace and oneness to be realized. All the ideal
forces and confirmations1 must be able to rush to
our support, to take our attack to the very centre
of the powers of the earth, to crown our heads
with the diadem of the Kingdom and its jewels.
19 July 1998
1 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, USA, 1977, p. 47.
SOME PLACE WITHIN
On coming across an analysis1 of Anthony Trollop's use of repetitions, common expressions, literary allusions, rhythmic and structural material he had read--I was reminded of my own favorite source material: Bahá'u'lláh's Seven Valleys and Hidden Words, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Secret of Divine Civilization and Tablets of the Divine Plan, Shoghi Effendi's God Passes by and The Universal House of Justice's Ridvan Messages, inter alia; and my favorite phrases, concepts and ideas like: epochs, varied time frames, poetry's function, self, soul, 1962, age of transition, world order, et cetera, et cetera. -Ron Price with thanks to Elizabeth Epperly, Patterns of Repetition in Trollope, The Catholic University of America Press, Washington D.C., 1989.
Other texts slip in at all levels:
but more, far more
than sources and influences.
Much is anonymous,
origins hardly identifiable,
without quotation marks,
from some place within.
1 September 1998
RESPONSIBILITY: APPALLING AND INESCAPABLE
What is it that those in North America are seeking? For always they seem to be seeking something on this earth, some golden opportunity, some chance to find themselves, to become what they are capable of becoming. For a long time now North Americans have been lost. But they will find themselves in mankind which has been fashioned for eternity. And North American writers must find the medium where they can satisfy their desire for fullness, intensity and completeness.
I, a Canadian, have become a farmer scattering pure seeds in rich soil. The rain of bounty has come from the spring clouds these many years and many harvests will one day be gathered. I seek this bounty and the establishment of the Bahá'í community "upon the throne of everlasting dominion."(Tablets of the Divine Plan, p.38) I seek out the acquisition of infinite perfections, the sublimity of humanity and to draw near unto God. This is what I seek. This is what I want to become, to attain. But the path is long, stoney and tortuous. I am not lost, but I am often tired and I often wish for death. As a writer, a poet, I have found my medium for satisfying my desire for fullness, intensity and completeness in poetry. My weariness and my joy can be found here. -Ron Price with thanks to C. Hugh Holman, The Loneliness at the Core: Studies in Thomas Wolfe, Louisiana State UP, Baton Rouge, 1975, p. 83; and Tablets of the Divine Plan, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, USA, 1977, p.43.
Millions smitten by some
resistless fury, bewildered,
agonized and helpless, in
And we suffer from some
new harrowing and extensive
captivity with its lurid light
and its own special poignancy.
We live, still live, through a
moving drama and still more
of those perturbations of a
Still emerging from obscurity,
this Faith has given me an
appalling responsibility for
its new direction and impulse.1
3 October 1998
1 This poem is essentially a meditation, a thinking piece, on Shoghi Effendi's The Promised Day is Come.
THE END OF AN AGE
It has often been said that 1912-1913 saw the intellectual end of the nineteenth century.1 Virginia Woolf said December 7th 1910 marked the end of the age. Firuz Kazemzadeh, professor of history at Harvard, wrote that "An entire civilization had lost its soul when in 1911-12...'Abdu'l-Bahá brought Bahá'u'lláh's Message to Europe."2 Barbara Tuckman said that the patricians of the Western world, the British aristocracy, were an anachronism even before their age ended in January 1906.3 A great epoch of European culture was sick to its core with a vast upper class underworld of hushed up depravity and crime.4 -Ron Price with thanks to 1 Richard Noll, The Jung Cult: Origins of a Charismatic Movement, Fontana Books, London, 1996, p.27; 2Firuz Kazemzadeh, ""Europe at the Turn of the Age," World Order, 1968, p.46; 3Barabara Tuchman, The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War: 1890-1914, Bantam Books, NY, 1966; and 4 Kazemzadeh, op.cit., p.45.
Strongly built, of middle stature,
flowing, light-coloured robes,
nearly seventy, long grey hair,
broad, full, high forehead,
slightly aquiline nose,
blue, grey eyes, large,
soft and penetrating,
simple bearing, grace,
dignity and majesty
in his movements,
were it not for
we would not understand
the words that fell from His lips.
He is rendering a service
of such heroic proportions,
consecrating His little strength
in the evening of His life
to initiating a change
in Western society
at a critical stage in its history
when it was sick to its core.
30 December 2001
PRISONS: OLD AND NEW
The metaphor of imprisonment haunts Australian literature.-Randolph Stow
We’re used to being ill-at-ease,
we in Canada and Australia,
in our garrisons and prisons1
from sea to sea, wall-to-wall,
fated by our history,
preoccupied but hardly knowing
with distant echoes,
resounding into the present,
in our strategic locations,
especially the pioneer,
archetype, putting down roots,
roots that go all over a continent,
in a new prison:
our coursings through east and west.2
You don’t escape the prison
of the past that easily
even in these days of tourism,
candy-floss, take-aways and endless engines.
It’s fitting really: a new prison
can now be found across this land,
this hall of mirrors and vapours in the desert,
far from those old prisons and forts,
far from those Indians, the indigenes,
who were hardly-not even-human,
from exile and expulsion,
here on the verandah,
here where new dreams are born,
where strangeness is removed from the heart
and laid with gold, brought by a loyal lover’s caravan.
And around this house, its intimate space,
place of dreams, sign of new spirituality,
home for a new Revelation,
no darksome well, but place of burning desire,
hazardous, tortuous, narrow:
no facile pop-psychology here,
no pseudo-political jargon--
one level above the ordinary
with the lover seated in the heart3
and one level below the ordinary
where we court restlessness, failure,
difficulty, more and more urgency
and eagerness, quicksilver-like,
2 November 1996
1 Gillian Whitlock compares the early history of Canada and its garrisons to Australia and its prisons. She goes on to compare the Arctic to the Outback. See Australian/Canadian Literatures in English, Russell McDougall and Gillian Whitlock, editors, Methuen, Melbourne, 1987, pp. 49-67.
2 ‘Abdu’l-Baha in Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Haifa, 1978, p.236.
3’Abdu’l-Baha in Four on an Island, Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, George Ronald, Oxford, 1983, p.67.
THE CURRENT, THE SHALLOWS AND THE MISERIES
In the first year of the first teaching Plan, 1937/8, Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar was performed in New York. In a strange and yet not-so-strange way the running of Julius Caesar(some 157 performances) in that opening year of the formal implementation of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's teaching Plan was symbolic. For the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC represented the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Empire. Various social analysts have commented on how, beginning with the presidency of FDR in the 1930s, the American democracy became increasingly more authoritarian, more like the panoply and pageantry of the Roman Empire and less like the Republic. In addition, the spectres of fascism and communism, one man despotisms in their different ways, hung over Europe. Sociologists like Max Weber saw the threat in the form of bureaucracy. Western civilization was struggling in its death throes, perhaps as far back as the 1st WW, 1914-1918, when 'Abdu'l-Bahá penned those Tablets. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 5 May 2001.
It was so clear on the stage,
in New York, even back then,
that liberalism was bankrupt.
In Orson Welles' production1
Brutus was the perennial liberal
precipitating calamities even worse
than those he sought to avert.
His tragedy was the destruction
of his own virtue through that virtue.
It might take another generation
to show the end of socialism:
isms becoming wasms
as a new Order was being born,
but oh so slowly,
one person here and one there,
a group of nine here and then there,
the tree was putting down its roots
and emerging, a gentle sapling.
As the bard wrote:
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood,
leads on to fortune;
omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries,
On such a full sea are we now afloat
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.2
And so, more than sixty years on,
we see the fortune.
We see, too, all the shallows and miseries
on this full sea where we are afloat.
Take the current, my friends.
It serves you now
on the voyage of your life.
1 Orsen Welles wanted to portray the darkening skies under fascism and the play was set within blood-red walls.
2 Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 4, Scene 2, lines 268-273.
5 May 2001
THE BEGINNING OF THE DREAM
Professor Jared Diamond, in an Alfred Deakin lecture given on ABC Radio on May 15th*8:30-10:00pm* discussed the development of a positive recognition and acceptance of indigenous culture in North America and Australia. He saw the importance of native rights and the sense of an indigenous identity emerging first in the 1950s, with its roots as far back, arguably, as the 1920s. His lecture outlined the story of the development of a more supportive, a more understanding and a more equalitarian relationship with Indians, Eskimos and Aboriginals in the years since the 1950s. He stressed the need to preserve indigenous languages as a key to fostering identity. There were seven languages in Australia which had more than one thousand speakers and two in North America with radio stations which used a native language as a medium of communication. He stressed, too, the importance of affirmative action and reverse discrimination in the context of many of the present and tragic situations found among indigenous peoples in these countries. I could not help but think of these developments in Western society in terms of the spread of the Bahá'í teachings over the several Plans especially since 1953, but also going back to 1921 and 1916 when the Tablets of the Divine Plan were first written. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, May 15th 2001.
We went there on the weekend
and had a watery corn soup.1
It felt a little bizarre, I remember,
being with real Indians,
for these guys weren't on TV
or in the movies
in a celluloid safety
incapable of nothing less
than filling my Saturday afternoon
with a whole world of excitement.
Later, after I got married
and moved far north
and then to Australia,2
I had them in my classrooms
and saw them in the street,
but they always seemed
on the periphery, never centre,
like they lived in another world.
Occasionally, they became part
of my ordinary world,
unscripted, flawed and plausible,
far from technicolour manipulation,
in the kitchen eating a meal on Friday,
morning tea, could be my brother,
very westernized, an inch away
from whoever I was,
Johnny Weetaltuk in Windsor,
Josephee Temotee in Frobisher,
What's-his-name in Hedland.?3
The Oneness of Humankind
in the first half-century
of the greatest experiment,
drama, in spiritual history.4
1 About 1960 I joined some Bahá'ís to go to the Six Nations Indian Reserve in Southern Ontario.
2 Frobisher Bay in 1967-8 and Whyalla in 1971-2, first with Eskimos and then with Aboriginals.
3 I got to know many Aboriginals and a few Eskimos very well, some were as close as I got to anyone in my travels.
4 The first half century of relationships between Bahá'ís in the Canadian Arctic
and Eskimos, or Bahá'ís in the Northern Territory and Aboriginals, took place from about 1947 to 1997.
16 May 2001
A NEW VITALITY
There was a new energy and vitality that came from the American theatre and its stage in the first two epochs of the Formative Age(1921-1963). Playwrights like Arthur Miller and Eugene O'Neil and musical like Showboat, Oklahoma and West Side Story
brought a new spirit to the American public and its theatre audiences. It was this same vitality, this same energy, this same spirit that helped the Guardian lay the foundation for Bahá'í Administration in the U.S.A. by 1936 and that led to the successful completion of the two Seven Year Plans and the Ten Year Crusade in the U.S.A. by 1963. -Ron Price with thanks to ABC TV, 18 May 2001, "Changing Stages: Part 3-America," 9:30-10:20 pm.
You gave new life to the old,
spread it around the world,1
ignited the sixties in your way,
set me alight, sent me north
and as far from home as I could go.2
It had been there in the beginning
in the Tablets
and in Bound East for Cardiff
1 American theatre gave new life to British theatre in the 1950s and 1960s; American Bahá'ís pioneered all around the world during the Ten Year Crusade, bringing new life.
2 Australia was as far away as one could go from Canada.
3 The 'Tablets of the Divine Plan' were begun in 1916 and Eugene O'Neil's first one act play, 'Bound East for Cardiff,' was produced in that same year.
18 May 2001