Saturday, March 19, 2011

`Unable to Fear What is Too Strange'

As the grays rain in the gray rains of the Pacific Northwest, borne on rain-rich winds out of the west, daffodils bloom, dogwoods swell and juncos nest in our shrubs. A woman at school says Fukushima is revenge for Hiroshima, and she seems to approve of this dime-store brand of karma. Fear and ignorance breed new-found interest in signs and portents, and suburban matrons channel Thomas Gray:

“Iron sleet of arrowy shower
Hurtles in the darkened air.”

I fear doom-reveling alarmists more than microsieverts of radiation. Richard Wilbur, whose ninetieth birthday we observed earlier this month, wrote “Advice to a Prophet” early in the Atomic Age:

“When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,
Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,
Not proclaiming our fall but begging us
In God's name to have self-pity,

“Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range,
The long numbers that rocket the mind;
Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,
Unable to fear what is too strange.”

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

I hadn't yet heard that particular divination, but wasn't surprised - only because I'd already heard someone helpfully explain the Earthquake and Tsunami as punishment for Pearl Harbor. It just boggles the mind.