I will always reply to comments and always re-reply to re-replies.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Children, if you dare to think
Of the greatness, rareness, muchness
Fewness of this precious only
Endless world in which you say
You live, you think of things like this:
Blocks of slate enclosing dappled
Red and green, enclosing tawny
Yellow nets, enclosing white
And black acres of dominoes,
Where a neat brown paper parcel
Tempts you to untie the string.
In the parcel a small island,
On the island a large tree,
On the tree a husky fruit.
Strip the husk and pare the rind off:
In the kernel you will see
Blocks of slate enclosed by dappled
Red and green, enclosed by tawny
Yellow nets, enclosed by white
And black acres of dominoes,
Where the same brown paper parcel -
Children, leave the string alone!
For who dares undo the parcel
Finds himself at once inside it,
On the island, in the fruit,
Blocks of slate about his head,
Finds himself enclosed by dappled
Green and red, enclosed by yellow
Tawny nets, enclosed by black
And white acres of dominoes,
With the same brown paper parcel
Still untied upon his knee.
And, if he then should dare to think
Of the fewness, muchness, rareness,
Greatness of this endless only
Precious world in which he says
He lives - he then unties the string.

Robert Graves

I love this poem. It somehow has great meaning, but I find it impossible to tie it down.
One commentator likens it to " the poetic equivalent of one of Escher's paintings (if you're not familiar with Escher, take a look at http://www.worldofescher.com/gallery/), where the question is not so much what it *means* as what it *is*. Look through some of the Escher paintings, then go back and read the poem aloud, noting the loops and subtle variations, the way parts of it appear to contain and be contained by other parts, the way the sound and imagery weave themselves into the theme." (for these latter thoughts, thank you Martin )


Anonymous said...

Thanks for introducing me to Escher - and to this particular Graves poem. I love the feeling of being in a spiral that it gives me. So true of life too; the 'circle game', as Joni Mitchell's song implies.

Avus said...

Chiefbiscuit; Indeed - "The Circle Game" - most appropriate!
"And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game"

herhimnbryn said...

I read it aloud at 6.15am ( with the dog giving me a very strange look!).
'Like a wheel within a wheel' Windmills of my mind.

Spirals and up and down and in and out and still we don't know all the answers.
great post. Will have to save this poem.

Avus said...

I am sure Bryn thoroughly enjoyed your poetry reading session!

Knowleypowley said...


Thanks for introducing me to this wonderful poem. Fair sets the mind reeling. Wonderful

Vita said...

I'm reeling, too.

Why? Why what?

Patry Francis said...

"...this precious only/Endless world in which you say you live

I especially love that line.

Avus said...

V: Yes, one feels as if there is a need to hold on to something.

PF: I love that line too

Nea said...

ah yes, very familiar with Escher, one of my sons is an artist and he does a similar type work, probably because he studied and loved Escher. And the poem, a very apt description, "Escher of writing."

Although children can't be warned, the package will be undone... :)

Avus said...

Nea: Perhaps you should post an example of your son's work?
I agree - little fingers will always edge towards the forbidden article whilst carefully watching out of the corner of the eye (can fingers watch out of eyes?) to see how far they can go.