Friday, December 19, 2008
The Insufferable Christ
Looking for the text of MacDiarmid’s ‘The Innumerable Christ’ online, I was surprised to find it posted on a wikipedia clone called conservapedia, which I presume is a project devoted to the conservation of encyclopaedias, and which describes the poem as ‘one of the most remarkable meditations on the theme of Christian redemption and other worlds.’ Did Christ save any aliens out there too, as well as us humans? I always read the poem as a meditation on the cosmically laughable hubris of religious belief, but maybe that’s just me. A Vatican observer, I also notice from a quick google search, has noted the possibility of life on other worlds and the risk that some of these creatures, amidst the protozoic slime on any habitable moons of Saturn or Jupiter, might even (for shame!) have been born without original sin.
William Empson was much exercised by John Donne’s interest in extra-terrestrial life, I remember. And just last week we learned of a clause in the X-factor winner’s contract about its terms being binding anywhere in the solar system. If only MacDiarmid could have lived to write a poem about that. Instead of which, here are the last two stanzas of that chilling and wonderful poem, ‘The Innumerable Christ’:
I’ mony an unco warl’ the nicht
The lift gaes black as pitch at noon,
An’ sideways on their chests the heids
O’ endless Christs roll doon.
An’ when the earth’s as cauld’s the mune
An’ a’ its folk are lang syne deid,
On coontless stars the Babe maun cry
An’ the Crucified maun bleed.