The White Goddess
‘What is the use or function of poetry nowadays?’ is a question not the less poignant for being defiantly asked by so many stupid people or apologetically answered by so many silly people. The function of poetry is religious invocation of the Muse; its use is the experience of mixed exaltation and horror that her presence excites. But ‘nowadays’? Function and use remain the same: only the application has changed. This was once a warning to man that he must keep in harmony with the family of living creatures among which he was born, by obedience to the wishes of the lady of the house; it is now a reminder that he has disregarded the warning, turned the house upside down by capricious experiments in philosophy, science and industry, and brought ruin on himself and his family. ‘Nowadays’ is a civilization in which the prime emblems of poetry are dishonoured. In which serpent, lion and eagle belong to the circus tent; ox, salmon and boar to the cannery; racehorse and greyhound to the betting ring; and the sacred grove to the saw-mill. In which the Moon is despised as a burned-out satellite of the Earth and woman reckoned as ‘auxiliary State personnel’. In which money will buy almost anything but truth, and almost anyone but the truth-possessed poet.
Robert Graves, The White Goddess
Alongside The Stooges Fun House, Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks, Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, Butthole Surfers’ Locust Abortion Technician and Pussy Galore’s Dial M For Motherfucker, this is one of the greatest album covers of all time, and perfectly expresses the essence of what Robert Graves takes nearly 500 pages to explain.