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Customer Review

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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Initial post: 10 Aug 2009 15:28:59 BDT
Bob Humm says:
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