Wednesday, February 12, 2014

One Foot in Eden

I remember a conversation with Wendy Robinson, Orthodox Christian and unconventional Jungian analyst, on the poetry of Edwin Muir, that we both immeasurably loved, and we settled on this poem, "One Foot in Eden", as his greatest achievement. For here there was an absolute balancing between his underlying Platonism - that there is another world, ideal, paradisal of which this is a moving image - and his Christianity - that in this moving image, in its compromised, messy suchness, just being so, is to be discovered the fullness of reality.  
The mystery of creation, our creatureliness, is to be revealed no where else but 'here' and, if there is to be a 'new creation', it starts, sprouts, now in these 'beclouded skies' and no where else. The 'world' is neither an occluded meaningless landscape nor a waiting station for 'heaven'. It is the place, seen aright, where the fullness of being reveals itself  when we meet it in the openness and vulnerability that is navigating "charity in the midst of sin". 

As Wittgenstein remarked (to paraphrase) - the solution to the mystery of life must be lived now for there is never anywhere but now in which a 'solution' might be discovered and that 'solution' is not an 'answer' but an attitude 'of hope and pity and love'...

"One foot in Eden still, I stand
And look across the other land.
The world's great day is growing late,
Yet strange these fields that we have planted
So long with crops of love and hate.
Time's handiworks by time are haunted,
And nothing now can separate
The corn and tares compactly grown.
The armorial weed in stillness bound
About the stalk; these are our own.
Evil and good stand thick around
In fields of charity and sin
Where we shall lead our harvest in.
Yet still from Eden springs the root
As clean as on the starting day.
Time takes the foliage and the fruit
And burns the archetypal leaf
To shapes of terror and of grief
Scattered along the winter way.
But famished field and blackened tree
Bear flowers in Eden never known.
Blossoms of grief and charity
Bloom in these darkened fields alone.
What had Eden ever to say
Of hope and faith and pity and love
Until was buried all its day
And memory found its treasure trove?
Strange blessings never in Paradise
Fall from these beclouded skies."
Here is Nicholas Maw's setting of Muir's poem, placed in song:


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