I was struck by the role played by poetry - rather insistently minor poetry, 
perhaps - in the official reaction to the 7/7 terrorist incident in London.  In 
one way, I thought that there was something rather nice about the implied 
message to al Qaeda - 'you've got the bombs, we've got the poems'.  V does 
dwell on the idea of poetry as answer and remedy for war and perhaps for 
terrorism. (Maybe we should think of ancient terrorism, before there were 
explosives, as a matter of assassinations plus the marauding acts of certain 
violent bands, sometimes acting with official sanction, reminding the 
population of what would happen to them if they opposed those to whom the 
marauding bands were loyal.  The officially sanctioned post-civil-war land 
redistributions are certainly presented as terrifying, perhaps as terrorist, by 
V.)  But I think that major poets avoid the more facile optimism of minor ones. 
 In E9 the poets are the Chaonian doves scattered by the eagle.  It is not so 
 ch that poetry is able to put together what violence has broken up but that 
poetry - culture generally, perhaps - itself has become fragmented, like 
Menalcas' half-remembered verses, in the violent conditions of the time.  In G4 
Orpheus' effort to reclaim his victimised wife leads in the end to his own 
dismemberment - but then Aristaeus, originally an unprepossessing mixture of 
violence and self-pity, succeeds where Orpheus had failed in controlling the 
transition from chaos to order and from death to life.  There is a vein of hope 
here, but definitely not of a facile kind. - Martin Hughes

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