Thursday, 17 November 2011


We make a great deal of myth and myth-making. But only in condemnation, in the denial of myth.

Yet myth is more important than we think. It guides us more than we ever admit. And, it is that thing making us human, fallible and wrong:

I would that I might with the minstrels sing
and stir the unseen with a throbbing string.
I would be with the mariners of the deep
that cut their slender planks on mountains steep
and voyage upon a vague and wandering quest,
for some have passed beyond the fabled West.
I would with the beleaguered fools be told,
that keep an inner fastness where their gold,
impure and scanty, yet they loyally bring
to mint in image blurred of distant king,
or in fantastic banners weave the sheen
heraldic emblems of a lord unseen.

We dismiss myth at our peril, for there is truth in it. A deeper truth about ourselves maybe, a truth of longing, of desperation for something finer, but still a truth. By all means stir the air with contending facts, argue away about percentages of this and ratios of that. I will join you knowing, as you know too, that beneath it all lie our culture’s myths – the myths of trade, the legends of business and the stories of England.

To lose all this in some fit of argued rationality would be to lose something grand. It would be to lose the myths that define us, that tell us who we are:

He sees no stars who does not see them first
of living silver made that sudden burst
to flame like flowers beneath an ancient song,
whose very echo after-music long
has since pursued. There is no firmament,
only a void, unless a jewelled tent
myth-woven and elf-pattened; and no earth,
unless the mother's womb whence all have birth.

The sense of wonderment that Tolkein captures here is intended -absolutely - as a defence of myth-making. Its says that without myth, our exploration ceases, the "truth" is settled and man dies.

So let's hear it for myth...


1 comment:

Pat Nurse MA said...

Not when it is made up, dressed as science, and then used to encourage hatred of people as happened yesterday with the BMA