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Poems about Religion

In the paradox of contemplation of the divine, the sticking point is not so much whether God exists--a tiresome preoccupation--as whether God is worth the trouble if extant. One important reason is the problem of evil, as articulated in the writings of many philosophers and poets, If God be God he is not good; if God be good he is not God. Another reason is the ambiguity, the "unreachableness," of divine presence and agency in the world more generally. That is because God is, ultimately, unknowable by human beings. They are left to postulate and consider God's behavior, if any, but whether they are hostile to the idea of God or eager to express their faith, God as a concept, being, creative principle, or providential presence remains elusive. That is where the poet enters the picture, exploring the problems, ambiguities, and paradoxes of God in a variety of ways.

The creative principle of God is given treatment by Robinson Jeffers in "Shiva," a sonnet that develops that concept through meditation on the behavior of the Hindu god of destruction and subsequent creation. The treatment is somewhat ironic, for the poem's principal focus is destruction, not creation. In the first quatrain, the god takes the form of a preying female hawk that hunts down and kills intangibles that are considered important to human experience, peace, security, honesty, confidence, and liberty. The imagery is the hunting of other birds--pigeons, the heron, and, ultimately, the "wild white swan of the beauty of things" (l. 10).

The omnipotence of Shiva is portrayed in the very ubiquity with which the hawk covers and destroys everything in heaven and earth, "Nothing will escape her at last, flying nor running. / This is the hawk that picks out the stars' eyes" (l. 7-8). The overall sense of the text is that human experience is fragile and that humans, the experience, and where the experience occurs are fungible, equally inconsequential...

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Poems about Religion. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 12:50, April 26, 2019, from