While clear definitions of death are hard to find in official publications, support for the withdrawal of mechanical support is clearly stated in both study guides and publications. Artificial hydration and nutrition are included in the medical interventions which can be withdrawn.
Acknowledging that withdrawing treatment may be an agonizing decision for families, various Anglican writings uphold the right of the individual and family to make decisions in these cases and the Church provides resources to their congregants to support those making difficult moral decisions about the use of medical treatment [ 57 ]. Presbyterian beliefs and practices are rooted in the theology of John Calvin — who saw understanding Scripture as central to Christian life. In this tradition, individuals are responsible for cultivating their own spirituality through study and reflection.
The Church supports this by providing resources to help individuals understand and assess complex moral situations. Members may find statements issued by the governing body, the General Assembly, helpful, but they are not binding. It contains reflections on scripture relating to death and dying, articles from philosophical ethics, and an extensive bibliography.
In the General Assembly produced a position paper dealing specifically with questions about withdrawing support. It is not the goal of medicine simply to prevent death. Thus, the goal of medical care to relieve suffering remains clear even when healing or restoration is not a realistic hope.
Roughly fifty denominations and fellowships belong to this association. They include a number Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, and Pentecostal expressions that have not joined with the national associations. The Association has created a brief statement dealing with determining death. It notes:. The National Association of evangelicals believes that in cases where extensive brain injury has occurred and there is clear medical indication that the patient has suffered brain death permanent unconscious state , no medical treatment can reverse the process [ 60 ].
Brain death is not the equivalent of a coma.
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A patient might awaken from a coma, but not from brain death. Removal of any extraordinary life-support system at this time is morally appropriate and allows the dying process to proceed [ 60 ]. Islam traces its roots to Abraham and accepts that Moses and Jesus were prophets. However Muhammad is understood to be the final prophet and the Qur'an the final revelation of God. That Islam is rooted in both Jewish and Christian thought and influenced by Greek philosophy is clear from these competing and often unclear views.
These Islamic texts spend considerable time talking about death and afterlife, but not the criteria for declaring death.
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If texts are silent on an issue, Islamic jurists create fiqh , l egal interpretations, using principles such as the dominant probability of good or harm resulting from an act and potential societal benefit to make ethical decisions [ 61 ], p. As in Judaism, the interpretations of text and rational arguments can vary widely since there is no one person who is vested with interpretation for the group as a whole. On occasion, when national councils are tasked with determining the morality of a contemporary moral issue, those who dissent will simply convene a new council and produce an alternative ruling.
Before the advent of mechanical life support measures, there was no disagreement between physicians and clerics about the definition of death. Hence, Muslim physicians have served a key role in applying tradition to developing medical situations. When physicians wrote in support of brain death, they relied on two Islamic traditions. The first was as an ancient ruling that if the king can no longer use his mind, a new king can be crowned.
Since only a deceased king can be replaced, this ruling is used to justify applying brain death criteria to a potential donor. The second, more common discussion, looks to rules hunters use to determine whether an animal is dying or has died. If an animal is to be consumed by humans, Islam requires that it be slaughtered in a specific, ritual way. If a hunted animal dies before the ritual slaughter then its meat is not halal and cannot be eaten.
This idea is then applied to the determination of death in humans to argue that brain death is an appropriate vehicle for assessing that death has occurred [ 62 ], p. While there is widespread support from Islamic physicians for using neurological criteria, religious scholars overwhelmingly dispute it. Most Muslim jurists, however, believe this cannot be ascertained medically and as a result find cardio-respiratory death the only suitable determination [ 62 ], p.
For the most part, however, opinions throughout the Muslim world fall into the three categories: those who oppose neurological criteria, those who accept them, and a third group that technically accepts neurological criteria while acting in a way that belies acceptance of those criteria. A summary of recent judicial decisions exemplifies the varied views. In Amman , Islamic scholars and medical experts attempted to come to agreement on the criteria for determining death.
No resolution was reached during the first session. It has provisions for both brain death and cardio-respiratory death satisfying both the clerics and scientists. A person is pronounced legally dead and consequently, all dispositions of the Islamic law in case of death apply if one of the two following conditions has been established:. There is total cessation of cardiac and respiratory functions, and doctors have ruled that such cessation is irreversible.
There is total cessation of all cerebral functions and experienced specialized doctors have ruled that such cessation is irreversible and the brain has started to disintegrate [ 63 ]. In Kuwait, two councils on jurisprudence produced opposite conclusions within a short period of time — one arguing that the presence of a heartbeat always indicated that the patient was alive, one claiming neurological criteria trumped the beating heart [ 5 ], p. The Ayatollah Khomeini, spiritual leader of Iran, pronounced as morally acceptable the use of brain death criteria only to have that rejected by Iranian Islamic jurists [ 62 ], p.
Perhaps the most conflicted ruling comes from the Islamic Juridical Council who determined that an individual who met the neurological criteria for brain death was biologically dead but only became legally dead when artificially supported breathing breathing stops completely [ 62 ], p In the early stages of the debate, Islamic jurists deferred to physicians and generally did not present arguments based on Islamic understanding of either the nature of the human being or on criteria used to determine that death had occurred.
What appears to be the case in Islam is similar to Christianity, namely there is only partial understanding of the actual criteria. After an explanation of the criteria used, seven emended their view to indicate the appropriateness of brain death [ 5 ], p. In this situation, when some individuals were better informed on the details of brain death and its differentiation from conditions such as persistent vegetative state, they were more inclined to accept neurological criteria.
Though the issue of how to determine if someone has died remains contentious, there is little disagreement on withdrawing futile treatment. The physician and family are charged with making this decision. Factors that can be considered include the benefit to be derived from the treatment, the burden to the patient and the burden to the family. Although each form has unique aspects, these traditions share features that cut across regional boundaries.
Lake of fire
These include an animistic world view, concern for universal harmony, centeredness in nature and place, and right practice. Animistic traditions have several features that have bearing on the discussion at hand. In Animism, humans have both a physical and a spiritual component. At death, the spirit, often called an ancestor, will both abide in another world and be present in this one.
Respect for those who have died is a hallmark of these traditions; some include ancestor worship. Seeing themselves as part of a whole living world, indigenous traditions often value the land and place. Sacred rocks, mountains and religious artifacts made of clay and stone connect people to the land. The correct enactment of life stage rituals protects the entire community and keeps evil forces at bay. Disruption to harmony can arise from an individual breaking a taboo—whether intended or not—or from improper ritual performance.
The orientation and goal of moral reasoning in these traditions is maintaining harmony. Stories about the ancestors and listening to their voices and those of spirit beings and animal helpers provide the moral framework for decision-making [ 65 ]. Often, the entire community involves itself in determining how to act. At other times, community elders will decide for the group. Each moral decision is seen to affect the entire community. Failure to follow the proper procedures in caring for the dead, for example, will bring harm to the deceased and the community. For most indigenous traditions including those in China and Japan which are discussed below, mentioning death is taboo; a common view is that talking about death will invite it [ 66 ].
Most indigenous groups share a focus on the taboos, proper rituals and the location of death, which should be outdoors, on the ground or in a specially constructed hut. Indigenous people around the world have resisted medical intervention in death. Second, the desire to die in a specific location--at home or outdoors, for example, means that hospital deaths are often avoided.
For some groups, the place where death occurs becomes dangerous and community members will avoid it for varying periods of time making hospital deaths particularly problematic. Third is the view that medical intervention at death should be limited [ 69 ], p. Attitudes toward withdrawing mechanical support in China and Japan are discussed below. In the Americas and Australia there is information from a variety of indigenous expressions [ 70 ] that does point to reluctance to accept medical treatment at the end of life and a desire to die in the home area [ 71 ].
These two factors can be related especially when the reservation is located at some distance from medical facilities; dying in hospital would remove the individual from their community support system. In addition, a typical, though not universal view, is that individuals should die in the land where they are born, otherwise their spirit will wander aimlessly [ 72 ], p.
Because their spirit will be lost, yeah, looking for home. Many Eastern religions are layered onto pre-existing, indigenous traditions. Hinduism is the name Persians and Greeks gave to the grouping of religions found in India and presents itself in varieties that have regional and cultural differences. In general, Hinduism believes the current body is not the true self—rather the body is like a coat that is shed when it wears out. Underneath the coat is the self, Atman, which moves from life to life.
The actions you do in this life, Karma, will determine the form that your body takes in the next life. The ultimate goal is to gain permanent release, moksha , from the cycle of death and rebirth and experience oneness with Brahman God. Intermediate goals vary from group to group but many include possible existence in paradise which, though temporary, will be blissful, or birth in a better life station which will increase the chance of gaining permanent release. Hinduism characterizes itself as a way of life rather than as one religious tradition and centers on practice, specifically doing what is right, or dharma.
To assess the correct action in a moral issue, Hindus will consult scriptures, reflect on tradition, follow examples of gurus, and consider their duty as it applies to their gender, caste and life station. The overriding issue that determines what action to follow is the goal of moksha , liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth [ 73 ], p. When dealing with issues regarding death, however, many Hindus are uncomfortable with medical determinations of death [ 74 ].
Although India passed a resolution in that included provisions accepting brain death criteria, and several sources state that Hindus accept neurological criteria [ 75 ], internet and library searches turn up few discussions of the issues surrounding medical definitions of death. Instead discourse on death typically focuses on what constitutes a good or bad death in religious and next life terms. A good death, essential for both the dying person and the family, occurs when the individual is properly prepared to die, the astrological signs are right, and the proper rituals are performed.
Experiencing either liberation or a good rebirth requires a good death. A bad death will have permanent ramifications in subsequent lives; the deceased may be reborn in a lesser station or wander unable to be reborn but not liberated. There will be unfortunate consequences for the family—e. Sudden death, death with excessive bodily fluids, or a death accompanied by poorly performed rituals constitutes bad death [ 76 ], p. The place of death also matters. Dying in the holy city of Benares near the Ganges is preferred, but if that is not possible individuals will be lowered to the floor to avoid the area between the ceiling and floor which is filled with turmoil.
The focus of the individual must remain on a religious thought [ 77 ], p. Some people chant the name of their deity, others chant passages from the Bhagavad Gita , and family members place a light near the head of their loved one. Interrupting this process can have consequences that will continue eternally since it will affect all future births. Most people do not die in hospital in India; rather they are sent home when death approaches [ 79 ], p In a study of Hindu immigrants to North America, Kyoko Murato outlines the adaptations the community has made to death rituals.
In North America, people do die in hospitals and the Hindu community has adjusted to that. Murato also notes that in urban areas in India, there are gradual changes in practice [ 79 ], p Water from the Ganges is brought to the hospital room and the practice of moving the patient to the floor is abandoned.
Hindu concern for both interfering with the timing of death and allowing the individual to focus correctly shows itself directly in attitudes toward suspending treatment, especially mechanical means of life support. Twentieth century saint and spiritual master, Sivaya Subramuniysawami Gurudeva — notes:. To prolong life in the debilitated physical body past the point that the natural will of the person has sustained is to incarcerate, to jail, to place that person in prison.
The prison is the hospital. The guards are the life-support machines and the tranquilizing drugs [ 80 ]. This attitude is shared by Hindu people living in India and those who have migrated to new lands; families will attempt to avoid artificial life support or terminate it as soon as its futility is evident. Moreover, suspending artificial nutrition and hydration is sometimes supported because there will be fewer bodily fluids and the soul can more easily leave the body.
Founded in the 6th century b. It quickly became popular, moved throughout Asia and was able to meld itself to the pre-existing cultures of the locations in which it found itself. For example, Buddhism is practiced alongside indigenous traditions, such as feng-shui in China and Shinto in Japan, and earlier formal religious and philosophical systems, Confucianism and Taoism. Like Hinduism, Buddhism believes in the cycle of death and rebirth, samsara ,and proffers a way to liberation, Nirvana.
There are two main types of Buddhism, Theravada and Mahayana ; there are only slight variations between these two groups on the issues of determining death. Lay people will rely on monks and nuns for guidance in making moral decisions, but they are not obligated to follow their advice. In Buddhism, death is distinguished from life by the absence of three things, vitality, heat and consciousness.
Two western Buddhist scholars, one traditional physician-monk from Thailand, and the president of the lay Buddhist group, Soka Gakkai International, are the only Buddhists who have argued publically that brain death criteria are consistent with the Buddhist understanding of death. Scholar Damien Keown, saw the category of vitality and heat corresponding to bodily metabolic processes that generate heat and claimed that Buddhist texts support the idea that the brain is the source of integrating consciousness. Keown has, however, recently changed his view and now agrees with most of Buddhism that the loss of bodily heat is the only reliable indicator of death [ 3 ], p.
Adherents to Pure Land Buddhism of China and Japan believe this happens over a period of twelve to twenty-four hours. Disrupting the body prior to actual death will interfere with rebirth or attaining release from samsara. A brief look at Buddhism in several locations illustrates how these general features operate and how they merge with other religions. Buddhism arrived in China in the first century c.
Pure Land Buddhism is the most popular form of Buddhism in China; adherents are devoted to a Buddha called, Amitabha, who presides over a heavenly place called the Pure Land. People who believe in him pray to him and meditate on him so that they will join him in his paradise when they die. The Pure Land is a desirable spot described as a fragrant paradise with hundreds of thousands of colors. It is filled with precious things. When people arrive, they can do whatever they want [ 83 ]. From indigenous roots China takes reluctance to discuss death and veneration of ancestors.
From Confucianism it takes proper practices and filial piety, and from Taoism, a focus on Nature, prolonging life and the idea of life force that pervades the universe. To ensure the passage from death to the status of ancestor, complex rituals are required and begin immediately when the life force is gone. Failure to perform appropriate rituals will affect the deceased and the family [ 86 ], p. Death occurs when the life force Chi leaves the body. Chi , a concept in both Taoism and Chan Buddhism, is not located in any one organ but is physically diffused throughout the body.
Neurological criteria for determining death are not easily reconciled with the idea of chi. Although death practices are changing in China, the idea of a good death occurring at home, in the main hall in the presence of ancestor tablets is still cherished. Proper place of death helps the deceased attain the status of ancestor and ensures harmony [ 86 ], p.
Pure Land Buddhism is layered onto and practiced alongside these ideas. Dying at home is preferred. To ensure a good death, the dying person focuses on Amitabha by chanting, Amituofo. Pure Land Buddhists believe the subtle body leaves the body over a twelve to twenty-four hour time period after respiration ceases. During this time the patient can still feel pain and sadness [ 86 ]. Specific rituals will assist the deceased in a safe arrival in the Pure Land.
If the process of dying is interrupted, the newly deceased person, ancestors already in the Pure Land, and the current family will suffer. Pure Land adherents prefer not to start artificial means of life support but treatment may be withdrawn if the family feels its obligations to the individual have been met. Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism migrated to Japan and became part of the Japanese religious landscape which also includes the indigenous Japanese religion, Shinto, the way of the Gods. Widely practiced, Shinto is an optimistic religion that focuses on life, purity, and seasonal rituals [ 90 ].
Reverence for nature and what is natural are hallmarks of Shinto. Death is a source of impurity in the Shinto tradition; there are no Shinto funerals or cemeteries. Shinto priests will use the rituals of Buddhism or Taoism when performing funeral rituals. In Japan, most people die in hospital; the medical infrastructure accommodates itself to death rituals by providing a space in the hospital where the family and hospital staff gather with the newly deceased for ritual practice. Determining death through neurological criteria has provoked serious controversy in Japan.
Helen Hardacre has written a nuanced article on Japanese Buddhist and Shinto responses to attempts to define death medically. She notes that the Buddhist principle of engi , in which the individual is always becoming, is difficult to reconcile with the death of any particular organ or a particular moment in time [ 91 ].
A complex system for understanding and negotiating the stages of dying developed from the combination of these religious traditions [ 4 ], p. The text, known in English as The Tibetan Book of the Dead, is read at the bedside of the dying to help them reach the goal of the Clear Light, a state similar to Nirvana.
The dying process takes a total of forty-nine days after respiration stops [ 81 ]. This practice can be incorporated with Pure Land practices for the less spiritually adept who may not have the expertise to enter the Clear Light but have the potential to reach an area where they can improve their chances in their next life.
The first requires consultation with a lama who through divination or meditative processes determines whether the subtle consciousness has left the body; the second, third, and fourth depend on empirical observations of the body and include seeing a drop of mucus on the nostrils, determining the loss of body heat, and witnessing the beginning of physical decomposition [ 4 ], p. Tsomo recommends not beginning mechanical support at the end of life, since the discomfort it might causes would interfere with the calmness essential to a good death.
Once mechanical support is started, however, Tsomo cautions that it should not be discontinued until it can be determined that the subtle consciousness has left the body through the methods mentioned above. Over the past several centuries various forms of Buddhism have intersected with the West in a variety of ways, including Colonialism and War, but philosophical and religious interest began in earnest at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
These emphasized the rational basis for Buddhist belief [ 92 ] Scholars distinguish three ways in which practitioners relate to Western Buddhism. The first is practiced by individuals whose ancestors emigrated from areas where Buddhism was the main tradition. In addition, they draw on a wide variety of material from other faith traditions, science and philosophy.
Western and Japanese Zen differ in a number of ways. There are two forms of Zen in Japan, but in the West they have been merged. Japanese Zen is monastic; Western Zen is a lay movement. Western convert Zen does not carry with it Taoist, Shinto and indigenous practices such as ancestor worship. Western Zen Centers support hospices to provide compassionate care for the dying; Zen practitioners and teachers write considerably about caring for the dying but very little about clinical definitions of death and withdrawal mechanical.
The focus, when discussing death, is on a good death, which is an aware death. The goal is to avoid a death where the patient is not conscious when the heart stops beating [ 96 ]. In those few places where clinical issues are raised, Western Zen like all other forms of Buddhism, believes the process of dying begins with the cessation of the heart and lungs and ends some time later, often three days, when the subtle consciousness leaves the body [ 97 ]. Others argue that it is better to avoid organ donation in case the difficulties cannot be overcome [ 98 ]. Withdrawing treatment from an unconscious, dying patient presents issues similar to those of organ donation.
The interruption of the dying process can produce serious, unwanted consequences in rebirth [ 99 ]. Belief in demons and rituals to placate them that are common in Tibetan indigenous religions are not part of this Western form. Shambhala adherents blend their own pre-existing ideas, such as ideas about the nature of body and soul, with their Buddhist views.
Shambhala is eclectic and while rooted in Tibetan Buddhism it draws on other Eastern traditions religion as well [ ]. The differences between Buddhism in Tibet and Shambhala in the West result in some variations in both thinking and practice. Blending existing ideas, incorporating the views of other faith expressions, philosophy and science, and making the religion distinctly your own is characteristic of adherents in this group.
But his work takes several decidedly Western turns. Let your life and your death be your own. Holecek, who writes for the Shambhala organization, views the practices of the Tibetan Book of the Dead as the most valuable in preparing for death. He carefully explains the ritual practices relating to the deceased and cautions against moving the body until three days after the heart has stopped beating. Organ harvesting should begin immediately. Holecek and Shambhala as an institution, in sharp contrast to the majority of non-Western Buddhists, believe that the dying individual can overcome the difficulties in reaching the appropriate afterlife that interrupting the dying process would produce [ ] Although the majority of Buddhist writing on withdrawing treatment determines that it will have harmful consequences for both the dying individual and the person who actively participates in this process, Shambhala has a nuanced view that shows Western influence.
Actively killing someone, as in most traditions, is wrong because the karmic effects, even if the intent is good, will be eternal and negative. Moreover, the influence of indigenous systems on the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism is significant. From prescribing the location of death, to resisting medical intervention and definitions of death, Hinduism and Buddhism in their many forms, echo these indigenous traditions.
Adding to the complexity for these two traditions is the idea that death is a process that continues after the body has met most empirical criteria for determining death. Although not all members of a given tradition will believe or practice in the same way, they are often guided by the religious perspectives which surround them. In times of crises, and the death of a loved one is surely such an event, even the agnostic might summon long forgotten symbols, rituals and prayers and draw comfort from them. In the face of death, religious systems have provided mechanisms for coping with all the areas of life into which the death of a loved one intrudes—from prescriptions and proscriptions on handling the body, to ritual obligations that provide concrete actions the family can perform on behalf of the deceased, to comforting visions of afterlives.
The struggle with medical definitions of death on the part of many world religions comes, in no small measure, because of the symbol systems and the ways in which they function to keep anomie at bay. It does not include a discussion of patients in a persistent vegetative state; no religious tradition considers such a patient dead. His views are shared by others including Gedalia Schwartz, Moshe Tendle and the chief rabbinate of Israel.
As an institution, Christian Science does not approve of any medical intervention, hence it has no pronouncements on moral issues that involve medical treatment. Individual Christian Scientists are free to make their own decisions. Blood transfusions are specifically and absolutely prohibited because of what this group sees as a clear Biblical mandate against them.
Partaking of a transfusion will have, in their view, eternal consequences and will lead to an individual being disfellowshipped from their organization. Transplant surgery from living or cadaver donation is allowed if the surgery is bloodless. Organ donation is encouraged. Though these two groups can diverge widely on many theological and practical issues, they do not differ in general on the issue at hand despite the rift between them.
The Sunnah is the code of practices taught by the Prophet. See also [ 79 ] Van Loon. See also [ 83 ]. See also [ 3 ]. Chan is not focused on a heavenly paradise but is a meditative school focusing on developing the individual self. Japan has two definitions of death; neurological criteria are used for people who have previously consented to organ donation and cardio-respiratory death for everyone else. Keown now calls for a robust set of tests that include the cardiovascular, respiratory, and nervous systems to determine death in accordance with Buddhist thought [ 3 ], p.
American born Tibetan nun and Buddhist scholar, Karma Lekshe Tsomo exemplifies the convert who holds firmly to the original form of their new tradition. Margaret Lock and John McConnell both note that acceptance of medical definitions, new imaging technologies, and reproductive technologies have met little resistance in Japan. Lock writes that anxiety about the management of death apparently threatens the social order as most other forms of medical intervention do not [ 72 ]. Competing interests.
S Setta prepared the research on religious traditions and drafted the manuscript. Eliot at tseliot. Works like Guernica and his […]. A few years ago, the great historian William H. McNeill died. His obituary can be found here. Below is a […]. We need to grasp our lives inseparable from those rancid dreams, that blurt of […]. Thomas One way to understand where poetry is now is to see where it was a hundred years ago. Thomas at Wiki, […]. But […]. Blindness I often […].
Yes, my memory of learning to read goes back to my first days in Anahorish School, the charts for the letters, the big-lettered reading books. Bobby Delano The labor to breathe that younger, rawer air: St. Why does that stale light stay? First Form hazing, first day being sent on errands by an oldboy, Bobby Delano, cousin of Franklin […].
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow, And soonest our […]. Vernon Watkins at Wiki, Poetry Foundation […]. What to make of any of these voices? Finally, voices from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many of the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project had families in Europe, or were refugees from Europe themselves, and so the atomic bomb they were helping to make had an obvious adversary in mind.
When Germany surrendered, however, many felt much less animus against Japan, and in part this conflict is narrated in the voices below. Also included […]. The first book of poetry I ever owned was the anthology Atomic Ghosts, which featured dozens of poets responding to the nuclear age; and after I first moved away from home to […]. The Figured Wheel, by Robert Pinsky The figured wheel rolls through shopping malls and prisons, Over farms, small and immense, and the rotten little downtowns.
Covered with symbols, it mills everything alive and grinds The remains of the dead in the cemeteries, in unmarked graves and oceans. Sluiced by salt water and fresh, by pure and contaminated rivers, By snow […]. Day-Lewis at Wiki, Poetry Foundation […]. Even though most of the […]. You can find other pieces from the book here. From the time he […]. Every step afterwards is an innovation. Modern roads follow the line of old paths and trackways. The boundaries of many contemporary parishes follow previous patterns of settlement, along which ancient burials are still to be found. Our distant ancestors are still around us.
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There […]. It gives the freest scope to imagination, speculation, and reason. Religion, as always, is variety, response, change: You could easily use […]. I hoped to write novels. A random scattering, some barely aphorisms, from the first two volumes of the notebooks of Albert Camus. They are gold: One must not cut oneself off from the world. No one who lives in the sunlight makes a failure of his life. My whole effort, whatever the situation, misfortune or disillusion, must be to make contact again. But even within […]. Even more than other […]. I have already explained, in the course of this narrative, that the writing of history is often another way of defining chaos.
There is […]. Kugel, himself an Orthodox Jew and an astonishing scholar, shows that the life of any scripture precludes its being owned by any one religious, interpretive, or scholarly community. In this case, the real Psalm […]. One way to understand where poetry is now is to see where it was a hundred years ago. Chomei at Toyama Kamo-no-Chomei, born at Kamo , […]. Later: …At the end of a pleasant evening Joseph offered to walk Jean home; she tucked her copy of […]. What is a housewife? You think it […]. And as I watched his last home game […].
Held in the National Gallery in Washington, D. The Song of a Man who has Come […]. So far as I can ascertain, no one had ever thought to do this before them. In the same period, Anabaptist communities in Germany, Switzerland, and Holland were beginning to encourage […]. They broke the silence, let fall one by one Like solder weeping off the soldering iron: Cold comforts set between us, things to share Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. And all through the eighteenth century, and down even into our own times, the stereotyped phrase of approbation for good verse found in our early poetry has been, that it even approached the verse of Dryden, Addison, Pope, and Johnson. Are Dryden and Pope poetical classics? Is the historic estimate, which represents them as such, and which has been so long established that it cannot easily give way, the real estimate? Wordsworth and Coleridge; as is well known, denied it; but the authority of Wordsworth and Coleridge does not weigh much with the young generation, and there are many signs to show that the eighteenth century and its judgments are coming into favour again.
Are the favourite poets of the eighteenth century classics? It is impossible within my present limits to discuss the question fully. And what man of letters would not shrink from seeming to dispose dictatorially of the claims of two men who are, at any rate, such masters in letters as Dryden and Pope; two men of such admirable talent, both of them, and one of them, Dryden, a man, on all sides, of such energetic and genial power?
And yet, if we are to gain the full benefit from poetry, we must have the real estimate of it. I cast about for some mode of arriving, in the present case, at such an estimate without offence. And perhaps the best way is to begin, as it is easy to begin, with cordial praise. But after the Restoration the time had come when our nation felt the imperious need of a fit prose.
So, too, the time had likewise come when our nation felt the imperious need of freeing itself from the absorbing preoccupation which religion in the Puritan age had exercised. It was impossible that this freedom should be brought about without some negative excess, without some neglect and impairment of the religious life of the soul; and the spiritual history of the eighteenth century shows us that the freedom was not achieved without them.
Still, the freedom was achieved; the preoccupation, an undoubtedly baneful and retarding one if it had continued, was got rid of. And as with religion amongst us at that period, so it was also with letters. A fit prose was a necessity; but it was impossible that a fit prose should establish itself amongst us without some touch of frost to the imaginative life of the soul.
The needful qualities for a fit prose are regularity, uniformity, precision, balance. The men of letters, whose destiny it may be to bring their nation to the attainment of a fit prose, must of necessity, whether they work in prose or in verse, give a predominating, an almost exclusive attention to the qualities of regularity, uniformity, precision, balance.
But an almost exclusive attention to these qualities involves some repression and silencing of poetry. We are to regard Dryden as the puissant and glorious founder, Pope as the splendid high priest, of our age of prose and reason, of our excellent and indispensable eighteenth century. For the purposes of their mission and destiny their poetry, like their prose, is admirable.
I answer: Admirable for the purposes of the inaugurator of an age of prose and reason. I answer: Admirable for the purposes of the high priest of an age of prose and reason. But do you ask me whether such verse proceeds from men with an adequate poetic criticism of life, from men whose criticism of life has a high seriousness, or even, without that high seriousness, has poetic largeness, freedom, insight, benignity? Do you ask me whether the application of ideas to life in the verse of these men, often a powerful application, no doubt, is a powerful poetic application?
Do you ask me whether the poetry of these men has either the matter or the inseparable manner of such an adequate poetic criticism; whether it has the accent of. I answer: It has not and cannot have them; it is the poetry of the builders of an age of prose and reason. Though they may write in verse, though they may in a certain sense be masters of the art of versification, Dryden and Pope are not classics of our poetry, they are classics of our prose.
Gray is our poetical classic of that literature and age; the position of Gray is singular, and demands a word of notice here. He has not the volume or the power of poets who, coming in times more favourable, have attained to an independent criticism of life. But he lived with the great poets, he lived, above all, with the Greeks, through perpetually studying and enjoying them; and he caught their poetic point of view for regarding life, caught their poetic manner. The point of view and the manner are not self-sprung in him, he caught them of others; and he had not the free and abundant use of them.
But, whereas Addison and Pope never had the use of them, Gray had the use of them at times. He is the scantiest and frailest of classics in our poetry, but he is a classic. And now, after Gray, we are met, as we draw towards the end of the eighteenth century, we are met by the great name of Burns. We enter now on times where the personal estimate of poets begins to be rife, and where the real estimate of them is not reached without difficulty.
But in spite of the disturbing pressures of personal partiality, of national partiality, let us try to reach a real estimate of the poetry of Burns. By his English poetry Burns in general belongs to the eighteenth century, and has little importance for us. Evidently this is not the real Burns, or his name and fame would have disappeared long ago. I have not the command of the language that I have of my native tongue.
In fact, I think that my ideas are more barren in English than in Scotch. I have been at Duncan Gray to dress it in English, but all I can do is desperately stupid. The real Burns is of course in this Scotch poems. A Scotchman is used to this world of Scotch drink, Scotch religion, and Scotch manners; he has a tenderness for it; he meets its poet halfway. In this tender mood he reads pieces like the Holy Fair or Halloween. But this world of Scotch drink, Scotch religion, and Scotch manners is against a poet, not for him, when it is not a partial countryman who reads him; for in itself it is not a beautiful world, and no one can deny that it is of advantage to a poet to deal with a beautiful world.
Burns may triumph over his world, often he does triumph over his world, but let us observe how and where. Burns is the first case we have had where the bias of the personal estimate tends to mislead; let us look at him closely, he can bear it. Leeze me on drink! There is a great deal of that sort of thing in Burns, and it is unsatisfactory, not because it is bacchanalian poetry, but because it has not that accent of sincerity which bacchanalian poetry, to do it justice, very often has.
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There is something in it of bravado, something which makes us feel that we have not the man speaking to us with his real voice; something, therefore, poetically unsound. Here they find his grand, genuine touches; and still more, when this puissant genius, who so often set morality at defiance, falls moralising—. There is criticism of life for you, the admirers of Burns will say to us; there is the application of ideas to life!
There is, undoubtedly. The doctrine of the last-quoted lines coincides almost exactly with what was the aim and end, Xenophon tells us, of all the teaching of Socrates. And the application is a powerful one; made by a man of vigorous understanding, and need I say? But for supreme poetical success more is required than the powerful application of ideas to life; it must be an application under the conditions fixed by the laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty. The accent of high seriousness, born of absolute sincerity, is what gives to such verse as.
Is this accent felt in the passages which I have been quoting from Burns? Surely not; surely, if our sense is quick, we must perceive that we have not in those passages a voice from the very inmost soul of the genuine Burns; he is not speaking to us from these depths, he is more or less preaching. And the compensation for admiring such passages less, from missing the perfect poetic accent in them, will be that we shall admire more the poetry where that accent is found. No; Burns, like Chaucer, comes sort of the high seriousness of the great classics, and the virtue of matter and manner which goes with that high seriousness is wanting to his work.
But a whole poem of that quality Burns cannot make; the rest, in the Farewell to Nancy , is verbiage. We arrive best at the real estimate of Burns, I think, by conceiving his work as having truth of matter and truth of manner, but not the accent or the poetic virtue of the highest masters. His genuine criticism of life, when the sheer poet in him speaks, is ironic; it is not—. Yet we may say of him as of Chaucer, that of life and the world, as they come before him, his view is large, free, shrewd, benignant,—truly poetic therefore; and his manner of rendering what he sees is to match. But we must note, at the same time, his great difference from Chaucer.
The freedom of Chaucer is heightened, in Burns, by a fiery, reckless energy; the benignity of Chaucer deepens, in Burns, into an over-whelming sense of the pathos of things;—of the pathos of human nature, the pathos, also, of non-human nature. Burns is by far the greater force, though he has perhaps less charm. In the world of The Jolly Beggars there is more than hideousness and squalor, there is bestiality; yet the piece is a superb poetic success. Not a classic, nor with the excellent spoudaiotes [high seriousness—ed. We all of us have a leaning towards the pathetic, and may be inclined perhaps to prize Burns most for his touches of piercing, sometimes almost intolerable, pathos; for verse like—.
But perhaps it is by the perfection of soundness of his lighter and archer masterpieces that he is poetically most wholesome for us. For the votary misled by a personal estimate of Shelley, as so many of us have been, are, and will be,—of that beautiful spirit building his many-coloured haze of words and images. Side by side with the. On the brink of the night and the morning My coursers are wont to respire, But the Earth has just whispered a warning That their flight must be swifter than fire.
But we enter on burning ground as we approach the poetry of times so near to us—poetry like that of Byron, Shelley, and Wordsworth—of which the estimates are so often not only personal, but personal with passion. For my purpose, it is enough to have taken the single case of Burns, the first poet we come to of whose work the estimate formed is evidently apt to be personal, and to have suggested how we may proceed, using the poetry of the great classics as a sort of touchstone, to correct this estimate, as we had previously corrected by the same means the historic estimate where we met with it.
A collection like the present, with its succession of celebrated names and celebrated poems, offers a good opportunity to us for resolutely endeavouring to make our estimates of poetry real. I have sought to point out a method which will help us in making them so, and to exhibit it in use so far as to put any one who likes in a way of applying it for himself. At any rate the end to which the method and the estimate are designed to lead, and from leading to which, if they do lead to it, they get their whole value,—the benefit of being able clearly to feel and deeply to enjoy the best, the truly classic, in poetry,—is an end, let me say it once more at parting, of supreme importance.
We are often told that an era is opening in which we are to see multitudes of a common sort of readers, and masses of a common sort of literature; that such readers do not want and could not relish anything better than such literature, and that to provide it is becoming a vast and profitable industry. Even if good literature entirely lost currency with the world, it would still be abundantly worth while to continue to enjoy it by oneself.
But it never will lose currency with the world, in spite of monetary appearances; it never will lose supremacy. Among the major Victorian writers, Matthew Arnold is unique in that his reputation rests equally upon his poetry and his poetry criticism. Only a quarter of his productive life was given to writing poetry, but many of the same values, attitudes, and feelings that are expressed in his poems achieve Prose Home Harriet Blog.
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