May 19, 2010

The immortal bones

The British poet and classical scholar A.E. Housman’s poem The Immortal Part presents the notion that, like a pregnant woman waiting to give birth, we are all preparing to deliver the only thing that lasts, the bones:

“Every mother’s son
Labours with a skeleton.
The immortal bones obey control
Of dying flesh and dying soul.

‘Tis late till eve and morn are gone
Slow the endless night comes on
And late to fullness grows the birth
That shall last as long as earth.”

Jolly, yeah?

It is also an image of our situation, where the bones are beginning to stick through the flesh. When the white sand beaches of Alabama are covered with sticky black goo and dead sea birds, when everything is owned by Halliburton, BP, and Goldman Sachs, when the Gulf of Mexico is one vast dead zone, where no plant or living thing can exist, when Britain is covered in ice, and Florida a place even retired policemen would not want to go, the birth is complete.