Archeology

Topics: Ritual, Old One / Pages: 3 (587 words) / Published: Jun 16th, 2014
Archaeology - W. H. Auden

The archaeologist's spade delves into dwellings vacancied long ago,

unearthing evidence of life-ways no one would dream of leading now,

concerning which he has not much to say that he can prove: the lucky man!

Knowledge may have its purposes, but guessing is always more fun than knowing.

We do know that Man, from fear or affection, has always graved His dead.

What disastered a city, volcanic effusion, fluvial outrage,

or a human horde, agog for slaves and glory, is visually patent,

and we're pretty sure that, as soon as places were built, their rulers,

though gluttoned on sex and blanded by flattery, must often have yawned.

But do grain-pits signify a year of famine?
Where a coin-series

peters out, should we infer some major catastrophe?
Maybe. Maybe.

From murals and statues we get a glimpse of what the Old Ones bowed down to,

but cannot conceit in what situations they blushed or shrugged their shoulders.

Poets have learned us their myths, but just how did They take them?
That's a stumper.

When Norsemen heard thunder, did they seriously believe
Thor was hammering?

No, I'd say: I'd swear that men have always lounged in myths as Tall Stories,

that their real earnest has been to grant excuses for ritual actions.

Only in rites can we renounce our oddities and be truly entired.

Not that all rites should be equally fonded: some are abominable.

There's nothing the Crucified would like less than butchery to appease Him.

CODA

From Archaeology one moral, at least, may be drawn, to wit, that all

our school text-books lie.
What they call History is nothing to vaunt of,

being made, as it is, by the criminal in us: goodness is timeless.
We must ask ourselves what purpose is ultimately served by this suspension of all the accepted

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