I Wish I Could believe
- Author:Hopely Li
- Release on :2016-06-17
by C. Day Lewis
"The best lack all conviction,
While the worst are full of passionate intesity."
Those two lines of Yeats for me sum up the matter as it stands today when the very currencyof belief seems debased. I was brought up in the Christian church. Later I believed for a whilethat communism offered the best hope for this world. I acknowledge the need for belief, but Icannot forget how through the ages great faiths have been vitiated by fanaticism anddogmatism, by intolerance and cruelty, by the intellectual dishonesty, the folly, thecrankiness or the opportunism of their adherents.
Have I no faith at all, then? Faith is the thing at the core of you, the sediment that's left whenhopes and illusions are drained away. The thing for which you make any sacrifice becausewithout it you would be nothing - a mere walking shadow. I know what my own core is. Iwould in the last resort sacrifice any human relationship, any way of living to the search fortruth which produces my poem. I know there are heavy odds against any poem I write survivingafter my death. I realize that writing poetry may seem the most preposterously useless thing aman can be doing today. Yet it is just at such times of crisis that each man discovers orrediscovers what he values most. My poet's instinct to make something comes out moststrongly then, enabling me to use fear, doubt, even despair as creative stimuli. In doing so, Ifeel my kinship with humanity, with the common man who carries on doing his job till thebomb falls or the sea closes over him. Carries on because of his belief, however inarticulate, thatthis is the best thing he can do.
But the poet is luckier than the layman, for his job is always a vacation. Indeed, it's so like areligious vacation that he may feel little need for a religious faith, but because it is always tryingto get past the trivial and the transient or to reveal these as images of the essential and thepermanent, poetry is at least a kind of spiritual activity.
Men need a religious belief to make sense out of life. I wish I had such a belief myself, but anycreed of mine would be honeycombed with confusions and reservations. Yet when I write apoem I am trying to make sense out of life. And just now and then my experience composesand transmutes itself into a poem which tells me something I didn't know I knew.
So for me the compulsion of poetry is the sign of a belief, not the less real for beingunformulated ... a belief that men must enjoy life, explore life, enhance life. Each as best hecan. And that I shall do these things best through the practice of poetry.
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