‘They fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.’
Isaac Watts, ‘O God, Our Help in Ages Past’
We play because we kow-tow and are free;
a set of guidelines activating choice
or so we hope. The mineral poet wrote,
‘By loss of memory we are reborn’,
but memory’s the root of active power:
we grab the minute and we grasp the hour
hoping that such engagements prove us free.
Let’s fancy a parrot-coloured, balmy world
muralled with insatiable spring
where cluey despots hold the twisted strings of power,
suppose they could breed vice clean out of us
morphing us into a Sunday school,
would we accept that kind of rule?
Can genetic philosophers change the world?
The trouble is, we can’t imagine it;
like centaur, flying saucer, basilisk
it’s made from fancy’s molecules and glue:
purely synthetic thought. And yet it has
a charm, like building cottages from blocks –
the looming castle-wall your children’s toy box.
You’re free to fancy folk to put in it.
Where lies the bridge between pure fate and thinking?
One answer might be found in William James,
a magical stylist, like his portly brother.
(I wonder how those two got on so well.)
But on a looming larger scale, or stricture,
how does our transience occupy that picture
smudged by the Fall – and thinking?
Ah, that’s the canny rub, I see:
keeping the long and short of things elastic,
when set in motion, folk engender fate,
hoping that we are free…
or might be free.