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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic myth explained
Robert Graves himself says that poetic myth is an instinctive retelling of the old stories that never basically change. It is only the content that varies with each recitation, the meaning is always the same.
I had a copy of this for my GCE A Level many years ago, and it was invaluable to interpret W.B. Yeat's poetry. Since then I have often referred to it, and...
Published on 4 April 2011 by Mrs. Penelope J. Jaquet

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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An insight into inspiration
Robert Graves comes to his subject as a poet first and foremost; he seeks the wellspring of poetic inspiration from which poetry originated, and links it to the forces which move poets today (ie in the mid 20th century).

At the root of his tale is the Triple Goddess, maiden, mother and crone, whose worship he sees as the earliest religion of our ancestors and...
Published on 12 Oct. 2011 by Peasant


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic myth explained, 4 April 2011
By 
Mrs. Penelope J. Jaquet (Cheltenham UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (Paperback)
Robert Graves himself says that poetic myth is an instinctive retelling of the old stories that never basically change. It is only the content that varies with each recitation, the meaning is always the same.
I had a copy of this for my GCE A Level many years ago, and it was invaluable to interpret W.B. Yeat's poetry. Since then I have often referred to it, and even once read it through complete.
It is incredibly difficult sometimes, but really rewarding, and to me far more useful than Fraser's Golden Bough. Celtic myth and Druidic history have suffered with the passage of time, but once you have read Graves' book you will never look at any literature again in the same way, but see the little sparkling reminders of the Goddess herself still waiting to catch the unwary!
If you are really serious about our past, whether literature, myth or legend, then this is the book to have on your shelf.
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71 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Myths, poetic power, a store of ancient verse, 24 Feb. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (Paperback)
The White Goddess by Robert Graves A new edition edited by Grevel Lindop
Three things that enrich the poet: Myths, poetic power, a store of ancient verse.
Graves first published "The White Goddess" in 1948, and he published revised and expanded editions in 1952 (1958 USA) and 1961. Now a fourth edition has been published by Carcanet in England as part of the Robert Graves Programme, and Faber and Faber has published a paperback edition. So far this edition is not published in the USA.
The editor Grevel Lindop has written a good introduction to the book. He calls the book "a historical grammar of poetic myth" (Graves's subtitle), "an adventure in historical detective work, a headlong quest through the forests of half the world's mythologies, a poet's introduction to poetry, a critique of western civilisation, a polemic about the relationship between man and woman, and a disguised autobiography." (Page vii.) What he does not call the book is a miscellany of poems by Graves and others. That's too bad, because what is permanently valuable about the book is not Graves's theories, but rather the poems that are included. Graves included about 15 of his own poems in the book, and they are some of his best. Most of Grave's poems that were included here were first published in his Collected Poems 1914-1947. Here we get not only the poems but the explanations of them. It is as if Graves is his own scholaist. An example of this is found in Chapter XX "A Conversation at Paphos--43 AD" where Graves writes the first three lines of the poem "Nuns and Fish," and then 14 pages later he gives the final two lines.
That's not to say that I am entirely happy with Lindop's editing. One of Graves's annoying habits was that he did not always indentifying his quotations. If you are not familar with his poetry then you will have no way of identifying "On Portents" as the poem Graves quotes on page 334. On the next page Graves misdates and misquotes his poem "The Fallen Tower of Siloam." Lindop gives the date of the poem in the introduction (p. xxii) but does not give the line as it appears in Graves' Collect Poems. By the way the line runs "Should the building totter, run [not spring'] for an archway!" On page 435 Graves quotes a poem by Laura Riding but does not name it. Only those familar with Riding's poetry know that he is quoting stanza 17 of her poem "Echoes." Another deficency is the lack of a bibliography of the books Graves referenced. Also the index leaves much to be desired. Shakespeare and Lewis Carrol are mentioned but other poets, Keats, Shelly, etc., are not to be found. These annoyences could have easily been remedied with aggressive editing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "A prodigious, monstrous, stupefying, indescribable book ...", 28 April 2013
This review is from: The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (Paperback)
As the reviews indicate, this is a popular, influential, and controversial book. Let's put things in perspective by quoting the first and best review of it, the statement by T. S. Eliot, who was responsible for its publication, that this is a 'prodigious, monstrous, stupefying, indescribable book.' Eliot was not, to say the least, given to exaggeration, so his opinion is all the more suggestive that there must be something special here.

A second data point: this book is just what it says it is: 'A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth.' It may be the only one ever written. But be that as it may, criticisms of the book's scholarship are quite beside the point, because it isn't and doesn't claim to be a work of scholarship. It's a work of visionary poetic intuition which uses Celtic mythology as a paradigm to explore the roots of poetic inspiration. To criticize its scholarship is like criticizing the Old Testament for employing invalid anthropological methods.

Admittedly, the book is not easy reading, and much of it may never be clear to many readers. Graves himself warns that 'this remains a very difficult book, as well as a very queer one, to be avoided by anyone with a distracted, tired, or rigidly scientific mind.' But he goes on to give a useful reference point to which his whole complex, and often convoluted, argument ultimately remains related: that 'the language of poetic myth anciently current in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe was a magical language bound up with popular religious ceremonies in honour of the Mood-goddess, or Muse, and that this remains the language of true poetry.' The argument for, or one might better call it the exploration of, this thesis takes the reader on something of a wild ride. But however much or little one is convinced of the thesis, there is barely a paragraph of it which is not intensely interesting and intensely suggestive, leading one to new insights of one's own in considering poetry, mythology, and religion.

This is not, perhaps, a book everyone will want to sit down and read straight through; many people may benefit more from keeping it around to dip into every once in a while, thinking about the paragraphs which seem most intriguing and saving the obscure or less convincing seeming ones for later. (I myself have done both: I recently bought this new edition because I had to buy a new copy after the old one I bought years ago started falling apart.)

Hence the five stars, meaning that this is a must have book for anyone interested in Robert Graves, poetry, mythology, Celtic culture, or religion. I don't think even those who aren't convinced by it could say it is ever a dull read.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So what's it about?, 6 Aug. 2010
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This review is from: The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (Paperback)
The central idea is that there exists a single fundamental story, an essential motif in mythology and in all "true" poetry;

TWO MEN CONTEND FOR THE LOVE OF A POWERFUL WOMAN.

The woman is the White Goddess of the title. The men are the demigods of Summer and Winter, and their battle is an allegory of the changing of the seasons. Every other story, fictional or otherwise, is a part of or a retelling of or a distortion of this central truth. The wealth of examples used by Graves is astonishing; even the Scriptures can be interpreted in the light of it.

Graves assembles his argument by cracking the code of two ancient Welsh poems. "The Battle of the Trees" (Cad Goddeu) and "The History of Taliesin" (Hanes Taliesin) are found to conceal two mystical alphabet-cum-calendar charms, Celtic equivalents of the Norse Runes. These charms are the means by which the story of the eternal love triangle is preserved, and they also hide the names of two Celtic deities, theoretically in conflict in the fourth century BC. The process by which the decoding is made is brilliant, erudite, and academically outrageous- no University would sanction it. And yet, Graves is certainly on to something.

Even if you disagree, it's worth reading this book and making your mind up yourself. No knowledge of Welsh is required (Graves himself proceeds from English translations). On the way you'll learn more about mythology, religion and anthropology than from any officially sanctioned source- only Frazer's "The Golden Bough" comes close to it. Treat it all cautiously- but discount none of it.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An insight into inspiration, 12 Oct. 2011
By 
Peasant (Deepest England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (Paperback)
Robert Graves comes to his subject as a poet first and foremost; he seeks the wellspring of poetic inspiration from which poetry originated, and links it to the forces which move poets today (ie in the mid 20th century).

At the root of his tale is the Triple Goddess, maiden, mother and crone, whose worship he sees as the earliest religion of our ancestors and the pre-runner of all later pantheistic and patriarchal religions. But he constructs a whole paraphernalia on top of this, involving druidism, Ogham writing and a "tree alphabet" used for divination. This he ties into, and uses to explain, passages in Irish, Welsh, Norse, Middle Eastern and Greek mythology, as well as certain elements of early Jewish beliefs. He uses the work of earlier researchers who he cites extensively; a great part of his source material comes from the late 19th and early 20th century academic world of Celtic studies.

His tale is rich and complex; the work throughout of a poet, not an anthropologist or archaeologist. The unfortunate side-effect of this is that one is never quite sure where he is genuinely passing on scholarship, and when he is speaking with the voice of the muse. One cannot use this book (as some have tried) as a text to explain prehistory. However, there is much here which genuinely informs our understanding of the world of our ancestors. If your interest is anthropological, you'll need to read it in conjunction with some other key texts and keep a weather eye open for Graves getting carried away. If you are interested in the same thing as Graves - inspiration, the power of myth to move us and its continuing usefulness in creative writing, you can absorb its power without worrying so much about accuracy.

In its day this was an immensely influential work; it enjoyed a revival in the 1970s and is probably due for another. The world of New Age "Goddess Studies", initially kick-started by Graves but since become lost and enfeebled down many fruitless byways, has a lot to learn from this powerful treatment of the subject. If this intrigues you, you should certainly read Jean Markale, "Women of the Celts", but you'll have to enter it into the search box as the Insert Link function mysteriously ignores it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The White Goddess - A Review by Barry Van-Asten, 16 Aug. 2013
By 
Mr. B. P. Van-asten (London, England.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (Paperback)
The White Goddess was first published in 1948 and it examines the theory that all true poets receive their poetic inspiration from the Muse, a Goddess of the Moon, the feminine principle which was prevalent in primitive cultures of Western Europe and Britain, particularly Wales and Ireland. This pagan worship of the Goddess became overlooked in the modern, logical age. Robert Graves (1895-1985) who would have been familiar with Sir James Frazer's `The Golden Bough', strengthens his case through an in-depth investigation of folklore, mythology, religion and magic, looking at the origins of the mythic tales of antiquity in such chapters as: `The Battle of the Trees', `Dog, Roebuck and Lapwing', `The white Goddess', `Gwion's Riddle', `Hercules on the Lotus', `The Tree Alphabet', `The Seven Pillars', `The Bull-Footed God', `The Number of the Beast', `The Waters of Styx', `The Triple Muse', `War in Heaven' etc. Although originally The White Goddess was not taken seriously by critics, Graves being a poet and not a scholar, it has become an influential source to writers and a fascinating journey through mythology, as only Graves knows how! Inspiring!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable, 3 Jun. 2009
By 
Ligia Luckhurst (UK) - See all my reviews
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"The White Goddess" is an essential textbook and source of inspiration for any serious writer in the English language. It is not a book one can borrow and read through; it is a book one needs at one's side for constant reference. It is quite hard to get an affordable edition; moreover, the above edition is a very good and authoritative one. Buy a copy while you can; tomorrow will be too late.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Archetypal, 3 Nov. 2013
This review is from: The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (Paperback)
You should buy this book, read it thoroughly, annotate it, relate it to your own life, consider the women you have loved in the light of it, write a novel inspired by it, and then put it down like good wine and let it mature in your mind. Then, twenty years later, return to it and maybe you will begin to really appreciate it. It helps if in the 20 year gap you also read Jung. It will take all of 20 years to do that. Alternatively, put both aside and unearth Ted Hughes.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Basically a treatise on ancient Celtic beliefs and customs, via the author's interepretations of several ancient Celtic texts., 21 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (Paperback)
As everything by this author, very thorough and profound, although it takes much effort to read, as text is rather small.
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5.0 out of 5 stars husband wish list, 9 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (Paperback)
I got this for my husband for Christmas as it was on his wish list he was very happy with it
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The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth
The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth by Robert Graves (Paperback - 23 Aug. 1999)
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