Monday, May 31, 2010

The Power of a Poem 9





I have often come across Boethius especially in the history of philosophy, but never with respect to the poetic craft.  It would seem from a little research via Google that he wrote much of his philosophical work in verse.  In hindsight, this fact does not surprise me at all.  As I type these few lines, I am reading a wonderful little book called The Green Book of Poetry, edited by Ivo Mosley, Frontier Publishing, 1993.  Here is a beautiful meditation in poetry on the nature of freedom:

The Caged Bird

The bird was happy once in the high trees.
You cage it in your cellar, bring it seed,
Honey to sip, all that it's heart can need
Or human love can think of: till it sees,
Leaping too high within its narrow room
The old familiar shadow of the leaves,
And spurns the seed with tiny desperate claws.
Naught but the woods despairing pleads.
The woods, the woods again, it grieves, it grieves.

(Boethius, Roman, 480-525; tr. from the atin by Helen Wadell.  Quoted in op.cit., p. 209)
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius, commonly called Boethius (ca. 480–524 or 525) was a Christian philosopher of the early 6th century. He was born in Rome to an ancient and important family which included some emperors.  He entered public life at a young age and was already a senator by the age of 25 and  Boethius himself was consul in 510 in the kingdom of the Ostrogoths.  Then in 522 he saw his two sons become consuls.  However, rather tragically, Boethius was executed by King Theodoric the Great, who suspected him of conspiring with the Byzantine Empire.  The Catholic Church canonized Boethius early as a saint as they felt his execution was mainly due to his defence of orthodox christianity against the Arian heresy professed by King Theodoric.  His remains were entombed in the church of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro in Pavia.  In Dante's Paradise of The Divine Comedy, the spirit of Boethius is pointed out by St. Thomas Aquinas.  In conclusion, let me point out a small detail: The proper name "Boethius" has four syllables as the o and e are pronounced separately. It is hence traditionally written with a diæresis, viz. "Boëthius", a spelling which has been disappearing due to the limitations of typewriters and word processors in these modern times.

Above a picture I took about two years ago of a sculpture of a cormorant in Skerries, Co. Dublin.

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