Description of an idea – Bruce Dawe – Analysis

Description of an idea

You can nail it to a cross
And it will rise again after three days.
You can put it in the arena with several wild beasts
and it will survive its own dismemberment.
You can tie it to a stake and light faggots under it
and the crackling of the flames will speak volumes.
You can exile it to Siberia
and it will still cry out with the voice of Ivan Denisovich.
You can beat it to a bloody pulp in a public square in Peking
and it will still think of freedom.
You can turn the Star Chamber and the SS
and the KGB and the Savak
and the State Security Bureau
loose on it

and someone somewhere will still think it
and someone somewhere will still die for it
and someone somewhere will give it new life.

For an idea is an organism more mysterious in its action
than the miracidium.
…You can declare an idea anathema to 999,999,999 people
and the billionth will reach for a dictionary.

Bruce Dawe (1930 – 2020)

Miracidium – a free-swimming cillated larval stage which a parasitic fluke passes from the egg to its first host, typically a snail

Anathema – something greatly disliked

Essentially a list poem of six ‘You can …’ type statements which show serious repressive organisations and associated horrific happenings over the ages in chronological order …

The crucifixion
Gladiator fights
Burning at the stake
Siberia – used by Russia as a place of exile
Ivan Denisovich – a prisoner of war by the Germans who was incorrectly sentenced to 10 years forced labour by Russia
Star Chamber – English court which sat in the royal Palace of Westminster from the 15th century to the mid-17th century
SS – military branch of the Nazi party
KGB – Secret Police of the Soviet Union
Savak – secret police in Iran supported by the USA
State Security Bureau – secret intelligence and security in China
(George Floyd can now be added to the list.)

And then the three ‘and someone somewhere’ responses that the idea will still live … and of more importance ‘someone will die for it’ … indicating the idea has value.

And then the closing two statements that an idea is a truly mysterious thing in its action … and that word miracidium a mysterious wonder of the natural world … and the idea may be anathema to a billion but to someone it will be worth considering … looking in the ‘dictionary’ = to try to understand what it means.

And other thoughts come to mind on this idea of an impregnable idea … perhaps freedom and the human spirit itself is equally impregnable … I like to think so.

Bruce Dawe an Australian poet who died earlier this year … a link to one of his memorable poems – ‘At Shaggers Funeral’.

Bruce Dawe on Wikipedia.

The Red Cockatoo – Po Chu-I – Comments

The Red Cockatoo

Sent as a present from Annam –
A red cockatoo,
Coloured like the peach-tree blossom,
Speaking with the speech of men.
And they did with it what is always done
To the learned and the eloquent:
They took a cage with stout bars
And shut it up inside.

Po Chu-I (772 -846)
Translated by Arthur Waley

Annam – the southernmost province of China

This eight line Chinese poem is divided into two distinct components each of four lines. I would prefer to see a blank line between the change to give sufficient pause. A distinct image is taken and presented to the reader. A present from a foreign land, a spectacular bird visually and red being so appropriate to the theme of the poem. And a bird that relates to mankind – speaking with the speech of men –this line is the link to second part.

The outcome of the gift is stated – what happens to the bird, what happens to the words of the learned and the eloquent. Mankind suppresses and the gift is caged and is not appreciated and freedom lost. This simple poem makes a powerful statement so often defining the unfortunate plight of mankind but hopefully not what is always done. I am reminded on what happened to Nelson Mandela.

Some information on Po Chu-I – apparently he tested the accessibility of his work by ensuring it was understood when presented to an old country woman … see the following …

and another Blog Site on this poem …