Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Favorite line in "Mythopoiea"

What is your favorite line or a couple of lines from Tolkien's poem "Mythopoeia"? What is so appealing about the line(s) to make it your favorite?

9 comments:

Vana said...

My favorite line of Mythopoeia is
"He sees no stars who does not see them first
of living silver made that sudden burst
to flame like flowers beneath an ancient song,
whose very echo after-music long
has since pursued."

I find it appealing because I love the idea of seeing stars with a sense of innocent wonder rather than a scientific eye. Romanticizing the stars to be made of silver and sing is just fantastically beautiful to me.

Aulë said...

I love the line "Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with elves and goblins, though we dared to build
gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sow the seed of dragons, 'twas our right
(used or misused)," because each of us as kids (and beyond, if we're lucky) works to fill the world around us with elements of things greater than reality. We can believe there are elves in the woods, or Nessy is swimming around somewhere just out of sight, or that maybe it is goblins that take our missing socks, and the best part is that it is our right to create these stories and explanations and that we have the freedom to slip up every now and then, to "misuse" this power and test it for ourselves.

Estë said...

Favorite Line of Mythopoeia

"God made the petreous rocks, the arboreal trees,
tellurian earth, and stellar stars, and these
homuncular men, who walk upon the ground
with nerves that tingle touched by light and sound.
The movements of the sea, the wind in the boughs,
green grass, the large slow oddity of cows,
thunder and lightning, birds that wheel and cry,
slime crawling up from mud to live and die,
these each are duly registered and print
the brains contortions with a separate dint."

I love this descriptive passage because I think it serves as an example of how Tolkien viewed the world around him. There is an element of reverence and mystery that he seems to associate with the natural world, with man being only a small part of the whole of existence. Here he lists that which is directly observable. We acknowledge, with our senses, the existence of plants and animals (despite their occasional oddity). He goes onto describe those things that are not as easily observable but still undeniably a part of existence. This is his reverence for imagination, sub-creation. I believe that as a religious man Tolkien loved and revered God’s creation, namely the world that he inhabited. In addition to this perspective though, I think Tolkien saw mythmaking and storytelling as almost the duty of mankind. This is from my free-write: “The world of Middle-earth is influenced by Tolkien’s experiences. Snyder tells us of how the forest of Lothlorien contains echoes of the woods near where Tolkien grew up, for example, or the Shire bearing resemblance to villages of Tolkien’s childhood, peaceful homages to the possibility of simple life. He takes these experiences and embellishes them, fills them with new life. Punctuating his memory and experience with creation of his own.” This passage from Mythopoeia I think shows how Tolkien saw the world around him, at once a magnificent creation and the foundation for further creativity.

Varda said...

"Yet trees are not 'trees', until so named and seen
and never were so named, tifi those had been
who speech's involuted breath unfurled,
faint echo and dim picture of the world,
but neither record nor a photograph,
being divination, judgement, and a laugh
response of those that felt astir within
by deep monition movements that were kin
to life and death of trees, of beasts, of stars:
free captives undermining shadowy bars,
digging the foreknown from experience
and panning the vein of spirit out of sense . . . "

The section of Mythopoeia above is my personal favorite, and it actually relates back to the section quoted by Este. I enjoy this section because it illustrates the difference between the things in our world and how we respond to them. In truth, trees are only "trees" because that is how they have been represented in our world. Not only does this section expand on how Tolkien saw his world, but the words may also represent part of Tolkien's approach to creating Middle-earth.

Oromë said...

"Disgraced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship one he owned,
his world-dominion by creative act:
not his to worship the great Artefact,
man, sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind."

One of the reasons that I really like this poem is that it speaks on so many different levels. It is about creation and Creation, two things that were obviously of extreme importance to Tolkien. I particularly like this passage of the poem because it talks about the remnants of God in man despite his sin. Man may have fallen, but he is still made in the image of God, and thus he creates like God creates. I had never heard the term "subcreation' before this class, and I think it's a really beautiful notion. Through creation, whether it be art, literature, innovation, or anything else, man imitates the God who made him. And like God, man can create truly remarkable things.

Ossë said...

I really enjoyed reading this poem, and there were several lines that I really liked. One of my favorite sections is:
"Blessed are the timid hearts that evil hate,
that quail in its shadow, and yet shut the gate;
that seek no parley, and in guarded room,
through small and bare, upon a clumsy loom
weave rissues gilded by the far-off day
hoped and believed in under Shadow's sway."

(I'm assuming "rissues" is supposed to be "tissues" and "through" should be "though," but I'm not sure.)

I love this stanza, and it reminds me of several characters in LOTR (especially Frodo and Sam- Book Frodo, not open-mouthed Elijah Wood Movie Frodo). One of the major themes in LOTR is hope in the face of great evil, and a lot of the time, it is the underdogs (Frodo, Sam, Éowyn, Faramir, etc.) who seem to have the strongest hope.

Lórien said...

My favorite portion of the poem is actually one which we discussed in class.

I would that I might with the minstrels sing
and stir the unseen with a throbbing string.
I would be with the mariners of the deep
that cut their slender planks on mountains steep
and voyage upon a vague and wandering quest,
for some have passed beyond the fabled West.
I would with the beleaguered fools be told,
that keep an inner fastness where their gold,
impure and scanty, yet they loyally bring
to mint in image blurred of distant king,
or in fantastic banners weave the sheen
heraldic emblems of a lord unseen.

In a cursory glance it really seems to sum up the purpose of the poem as an explanation for why myths are important, and yet there is so much more happening within these lines. As we know, Tolkien wrote the poem as an attempt to explain to Lewis the purpose and importance of myths. One such purpose is hope and connection with the unseen. Four times the speaker refers to something that cannot be seen or is not readily accessible ("...stir the unseen with a throbbing string...passed beyond the fabled West...in image blurred of distant king...emblems of a lord unseen.") Myths have the ability to unveil within us things that we do not know or understand. And while they may not explain these things, they help us to better handle them. They give us hope that we are part of something bigger, something that goes beyond our own menial existence here.

Each of the images that Tolkien uses demonstrates the same event in different contexts. Music has an ability to conjure different emotions through different combinations of notes. Something that we cannot see or touch can make us feel happy, sad, excited, anxious. The idea of finding new life in unexplored territory is one familiar to most people. Despite the fact that no one has been there, we choose to see it in a hopeful light. The last image of a people pulling together in reverence for a person they have never met or seen is perhaps the most interesting. It is meant to be about a lordly leader, and yet its language also suggests religious meaning. In a biblical sense it is reminiscent of the Israelites fashioning a golden calf, or Jesus telling his disciples to render unto Cesar what is Cesar's while discussing coins with his image on it. This example is difficult for us to relate with on this level. In today's digital age we are accustomed to seeing and hearing from our leaders. It is the only way in which they can gain our support. We would never campaign for someone who might not actually exist. And yet when it comes to books, we do just this. This very class is centered around this concept. We read Tolkien's books and fall in love with his worlds and his characters. These are fictional worlds and fictional characters, and yet we love them so dearly. We sit around and talk about them and make films about them. But the films come out "blurred" and not like the original which we have only seen in our minds. But that's okay because that is precisely what myths are for. They give something around which to rally, something which we can all relate to on some level.

Ulmo said...

My favorite line was:

Blessed are the timid hearts that evil hate
that quail in its shadow, and yet shut the gate;
that seek no parley, and in guarded room,
though small and bate, upon a clumsy loom
weave tissues gilded by the far-off day
hoped and believed in under Shadow's sway.

I like the phrase "Blessed are the timid hearts that evil hate" the most out of the whole stanza. Oftentimes heroes come from unexpected places (Frodo would be a prime example), and are afraid or timid with regard to their task. However, being afraid doesn't mean that you can't be courageous. Regular people can be heroes by simply doing the right thing even in the face of adversity. Maybe Tolkien was trying to say that mythology gives me or anybody else the power to be a hero in the right circumstances, by just doing the right thing.

Yavanna said...

I'm actually a surprising fan of how the poem starts.

You look at trees and label them just so,
(for trees are 'trees', and growing is 'to grow');
you walk the earth and tread with solemn pace
one of the many minor globes of Space:

It starts rather cold, and grammatical, focusing on setting the tonal pace of the rest of the poem. Yet, through this cold facade, it keeps a colorful rhyme which will make the transition into the more esoteric and fanciful parts of the poem natural instead of stilted. Even a few line latter, the words "regimented, cold, inane" appear and immediately tells the reader what will come to pass, even if they have little understanding of what the names Philomythus and Misomythus mean.