“Brahma” By Ralph Waldo Emerson


If the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.

Far or forgot to me is near
Shadow and sunlight are the same;
The vanished gods to me appear;
And one to me are shame and fame.

They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;

I am the doubter and the doubt,
And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.

The strong gods pine for my abode,
And pine in vain the sacred Seven;
But thou, meek lover of the good!
Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.

Brahma the creator in the Hindu pantheon here speaks like Krishna in the Bhagavadgita where the latter advises Arjuna the reluctant warrior standing in the battlefield with crippling doubts about the correctness of fighting a battle . In much the same way-the red slayer, the slain are one and the same,both functioning in their roles already scripted when the world began. Neither the slayer nor the slain can claim credit for the roles and being concerned with the killing of the near and the dear ones one arrogates to oneself the power to change one’s own destiny and others’.

Brahma is the creator ,while Vishnu ,who is also Krishna, maintains order. The knowledge of Brahma is knowledge of the world which makes one aware of one’s own insignificance in the scheme of things. The doubter as well as the doubt is Brahma .It is from him that God’s existence as well as skepticism about his existence flow. If one finds Brahma one can turn one’s back on heaven.

“I am the doubter and the doubt” -in Hinduism the system of belief accommodates skepticism, explained by an all-pervading maya(roughly,illusion) ,which casts doubts on the existence itself.

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“Grass” – By Carl Sandburg

.
Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work—
I am the grass; I cover all.
And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.

Pile the bodies high…shovel them under… and let me work Remember Pol Pot’s stack of skulls. The holocaust that happened after Sandburg’s poem .Man’s continuing inhumanity to man.

Our memories of the scars of war are short-lived. Are they? We merely shovel them under. We grow grass over them. We let the grass grow under our feet. Otherwise after Austerlitz, Waterloo, why did Gettysburg,Ypres and Verdun happen?

The grass covers them all , like ‘”winter covering the earth in forgetful snow” (The Waste Land’ -by T.S.Eliot). The grass has work to do- of covering our sins, the fruits of our foolish actions.

The tourists are here. Only the grass knows what the tourists are asking about :What place is this? Where are we now?

“Cross” – by Langston Hughes

Cross
By Langston Hughes
1926

My old man’s a white old man
And my old mother’s black.
If ever I cursed my white old man
I take my curses back.

If ever I cursed my black old mother
And wished she were in hell,
I’m sorry for that evil wish
And now I wish her well.

My old man died in a fine big house.
My ma died in a shack.
I wonder where I’m gonna die,
Being neither white nor black?

I like the stark simplicity of the poem about the inner turmoil experienced by a child of the mixed parentage,of a white father and a black mother.Notice the several connotations of the word “cross” :

1)The speaker is a cross born of a white father and black mother,a mulatto
2)The speaker is cross with his fate which makes him exposed to the vagaries of luck,being born of a father who will die in a fine big house and a mother who will die in a shack,his own future uncertain in the knowledge of where he will die.
3) The speaker carries with him the burden (cross) of a mixed parentage all his life, like Jesus Christ
4) As a cross he does not know where he belongs.Neither is he well off like his father who died in a fine big house nor is poor like his mother who was destined to die in a shack.

“They fuck you up,your mum and dad” (Philip Larkin)

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

By Philip Larkin


The most famous first line of Larkin is not perhaps designed to shock but contains an extremely evocative image .The word “fuck’ is used here beautifully in the way it uses “raw “ swear words to convey a certain violence in the act of love leading to unintended consequences for what comes out of such love. “Fuck you up” is a beautiful modern usage in the context of somebody messing up things. Parental love smothers the children and stunts their individual growth if it is not directed properly towards allowing the child to grow its wings and find its way.

“Man hands on misery to man’ is a Biblical reference to the story of Adam, the first man who “fucked up” the happiness of the future generations by committing the primal sin. Man still has a choice to decide against procreation and can refrain from handing the misery passed on to him by his fathers to the future generations.