Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009



File:Narcissus poeticus.jpg

Hélas! My narcissi are stinky

after only two weeks: 2:52 a.m.

twenty one is it? degrees on the mercury ball

a serious shivering within the spiritual timbers

in the town named after the bishop

who argued away the existence of the material

why then doth it weigh so

(contra the hypostasis of the individual)

upon us all

File:George Berkeley by John Smibert.jpg

Narcissus poeticus: photo by Jean-Jacques Milan, 2004
George Berkeley: John Smibert (d. 1751) (National Portrait Gallery, London)


gamefaced said...

best first line ever.

phaneronoemikon said...

Bravo~~ !


carve the stink!

TC said...

Strange about narcissi, the first flowers to pop up in late December, so bright and delicately lovely and so very, very fragrant... when brought inside, delighting the rooms for a few days... and then... a cold night or two... and phew!

About the philosophy bit, in case anybody cares...

In a pinch, one would wish to refute Dr. Johnson's famous reductivist common-sensical materialist refutation of the idealism of Bishop Berkeley.

Kick something hard, and ouch! was pretty much the Johnsonian counter-argument.

In a pinch, one wishes one's toe NOT to be pinched. Again, only human nature--common sense.

As we all know, Sir Isaac Newton's physics had imagined God as a remote cosmic engineer whose celestial machinery had produced the tree in the college quadrangle. The tree is a thing produced in a factory called nature; it is real and material, not just an idea that Somebody had. Bishop Berkeley refuted this mechanistic theory of the universe. In contra, suggested the bishop, a person's perception of the tree is what "matters"; the tree is really nothing more than an idea that God's mind has produced in that person's mind; the tree continues to be present and alive in the quadrangle even when nobody is there, because God's mind is an infinity containing every idea, including the idea of the tree.

The theologian Ronald Knox, a century later, took exception to the bishop's philosophy of immaterialism in a memorable if perhaps somewhat narrowminded limerick:

There was a young man who said "God
Must find it exceedingly odd
To think that the tree
Should continue to be
When there's no one about in the quad."

To which there came an anonymous limerick in reply:

"Dear Sir: Your astonishment's odd;
*I* am always about in the quad.
And that's why the tree
Will continue to be
Since observed by, Yours faithfully, God."

Someone I met on the freezing streets a few hours ago was wearing happy smile that seemed incongruous as the night was cold, he was wandering alone, and was evidently not drunk.

"Why so happy?" enquired curious I.

"Well," he explained, "Christmas itself doesn't mean all that much to me because I'm Jewish, but I try to be up for the season, I try to get into a Big Mind..."

That's what I like about the bishop's philosophy, it's very Big Mind, when you stop and think of it.

aditya said...

What a way ! to start a poem !! Hell Yeah !!

Pretty informative, when you decide to clear up things like you did with this follow up.

Merry Christmas Tom. Hope you, and your folks have a good time together.

TC said...


Oh well, the information is just some words to help pass a long winter's night in the Big Mind.

A happy Christmas to you too, and to all those close...

Zephirine said...

Great poem, great opening line!

Happy Christmas to you Tom, and to all your blog readers.

TC said...

Thank you very much Zeph, and not only for this kind comment.

Perhaps up to now there are only the three of us who have known -- and I can see why you'd just as soon keep the awareness group to a minimum, but still, no blame and credit where due -- that this blog was actually originated by one Zephirine.

Indeed a major motive all along has been to live up to that noble inception by trying to avoid an overabundance of ignoble conceptions.

After all, as you are the technical blogger NOK, as they say in the military, the last thing I've wanted to have happen is uniformed messengers showing up at your door with grave faces, saying "We regret to inform you..."

So, in short, no bother, magnitudinous props, a million heartfelt thankyous, and enormous happy Christmas wishes from those of us (with and without fur) who dwell beyond the pale...

Zephirine said...

Ah well, Tom, anybody can start a blog, cyberspace is littered with the first pages of good intentions - it's the keeping it going is the thing. And you have most certainly kept it going! I knew you would, but didn't know how you would put to shame my own effort on Other Stuff with its paltry one, or occasionally two, entries per week. So congratulations to you for almost a year of superb virtual anthologising; you are creating something extraordinary here, and I'm proud to have given the little push to start it off.