As we all know, Virginia Tech has now made history of the most dubious kind:
Previously, the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history was a rampage that took place in 1966 at the University of Texas at Austin, where Charles Whitman climbed the clock tower and opened fire with a rifle from the 28th-floor observation deck. He killed 16 people before he was shot to death by police.
The Associated Press
Cho Seung-Hui surpassed Charles Whitman’s carnage as we know. His methodical murder of 32 people has been well chronicled by news services and commented upon by blogs such as this one. Some of the reporting has been sensational; some of the blogging has tried to top the sensationalism of the news reporting.
As a person indirectly affected by this tragedy through my wife’s connection to the university, and as a Virginian, I am awash in grief and anger and disbelief. As a writer and musician and educator, I’m confounded by my inability to use my talents to help directly in some way….
I want no more of it.
I need something for my soul – a balm, a softening, a comfort.
I need William Butler Yeats to remind me of how humble poets feel when confronted by tragedy:
I THINK it better that in times like these
A poet keep his mouth shut, for in truth
We have no gift to set a statesman right;
He has had enough of meddling who can please
A young girl in the indolence of her youth,
Or an old man upon a winterâ€™s night.
I need Theodore Roethke to remind me how helpless we can feel in times like these:
I, with no rights in this matter,
Neither father nor lover.
I need Matthew Arnold to remind me how we try to hold on to anything we think makes sense:
Ah… let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
And finally, I need Shakespeare – maybe because he’s Shakespeare:
Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
I need the consolation of poetry.
XPOST: The Savoy Truffle
Thank you for this gift. I did not realize how heavy my soul felt until I read your post and immediately felt at peace. Somehow poetry brings a calm even in the midst of our uncertainty.
shebejack wrote: “Somehow poetry brings a calm even in the midst of our uncertainty.”
Very well said – I think that’s what turned me to this consolation in those first dark hours of disbelief, shock and grief.
Thanks for commenting.
Robert’s post steered me here. I’m glad it did.
Well done, Jim. Thanks.