Read Orrin's interview of Frederick Glaysher.
The Enlightenment writ large spelt the end
This is a narrative poem that can, and should be, read in one sitting. It depicts one long, troubled night in the life of philosopher Peter Marsh, whose wife has recently been murdered. Early in the night, Marsh discusses his wife, Mary, with a friend, David Emerson. With Emerson and then continuing to think about Mary and their children even after Emerson leaves, Marsh reveals the distance he feels from his family. They are products of the Enlightenment, of the Age of Reason, of the Sexual Revolution, of the drug scene, of Modernity in all its terrible guises and have fallen prey to its various pathologies.
This leads Mr. Glaysher, in the second and I think strongest section of the poem, into a learned and devastating critique of modern culture. Here Marsh resembles a Biblical prophet or at least a T.S. Eliot or Geoffrey Hill, raging against the ruination of Western Civilization. Marsh begins, in a refutation of his wife's irreligion, with twin declarations that: "Whether one believes or not...the soul exists." And, "Reason and faith go hand in hand." He embarks on a sustained attack, reminiscent of Michael Oakeshott's Rationalism in Politics, on modern Man's fealty to Reason at the expense of religious belief and philosophical inquiry:
O Dame Philosophy, he mused, where is
[...] Descartes was a dead fish,
Montaigne may have thought we have lost
By the end of this section Peter Marsh is near total despair, as his survey of philosophy has led him to point where we are today, a moment of utter nihilism, complete lack of faith, and surrender to the view that life has no purpose. He picks up a pair of scissors and lays down on the ground.
The third section opens and as he lies there, the new day begins to dawn, the first bird begins to sing, and hope begins to return to Peter Marsh. The first hope is that God will reveal his will to Man again. The second is that democracy will give rise to a better world:
For all its decadence democracy
At this point, even a religious believer and a democratic optimist can't help feeling that Mr. Glaysher is getting ahead of himself--not to mention well ahead of most of the competing civilizations in the modern world--and by the time he gets to this--"Sooner or later the time will come, regalvanizing the United Nations..."--he begins to lose us a little. And this:
Slowly, gradually, a marvelous
...is just too much. Surely God's purpose for us here on Earth can not be so mundane as to create a World Government? In fact, we have little reason to believe that God favors one kind of government over another. As Robert Kraynak has written in his excellent recent book,Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: God and Politics in the Fallen World:
The difficulty is that modern democracy's need for
a religious basis is no guarantee that one is readily available.
Thus, we must face the disturbing dilemma that
modern liberal democracy needs God, but God is not as liberal or as democratic
But from what I've read Mr. Glaysher is devoted to the cause of the United Nations--this seems a personal dream of his. And, since we can't know God's purposes, it's possible this could be one. At any rate, the poem closes well with an especially nice Baha'i prayer of self-abnegation:
"I bear witness, O my God, Thou hast
and with Peter Marsh's faith in God and in Man's future fully restored. He is once again reconciled to the "torment and struggle" of his life.
Mr. Glaysher writes with a genuine passion, with an obvious thrill at the play of ideas, and with an often compelling sense of purpose. Though I personally found the world government stuff to be dubious, the excesses seem excusable because I also happen to agree with nearly all of his analysis of how we got to where we are and to share his hope for a better tomorrow, one that remains within our grasp because of a combination of the universality of our God and of our political system. On balance the poem is very worthwhile reading and the middle section is just outstanding.
-The Bahai Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience
-ETEXT: The Bower of Nil (Section I of III)
-REVIEW: of Him With His Foot In His Mouth and Other Stories (Frederick Glaysher)
-REVIEW: of Selected Letters of Charles Baudelaire: The Conquest of Solitude (Frederick Glaysher, CrossCurrents)
-REVIEW: of Literature Against Itself: Literary Ideas in Modern Society by Gerald Graff (Frederick Glaysher, World Order)
-REVIEW: of Into the Ruins by Frederick Glaysher (Arthur Mortensen, Expansive Poetry)
-REVIEW: of Into the Ruins (Adam Swinford-Wasem, Chicago Poet)
Copyright 1998-2015 Orrin Judd