Poetry 64: The Flaw in Paganism by Dorothy Parker

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Drink and dance and laugh and lie,
Love, the reeling midnight through,
For tomorrow we shall die!
(But, alas, we never do.)

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About Barry Daniel

I live in the Lake District in the UK where I run a guesthouse with my partner Kate and my cat Manuel. I enjoy painting, hillwalking, reading, visiting and entertaining friends, T’ai Chi and playing the guitar. I’m engaged to a certain degree in the local community, as a volunteer with Samaritans and I’m a fairly active member of the local Green party. I’ve had a relatively intuitive sense of the Middle Way most of my adult life but it found a greater articulation and a practical direction through joining the society. It’s also been interesting and great fun engaging with other people with a similar outlook. My main contribution to the society is conducting the podcast interviews, something that gives me a lot of satisfaction and that I’ve learnt a lot from.

3 thoughts on “Poetry 64: The Flaw in Paganism by Dorothy Parker

  1. My first response was that the title was provocative. I expect the flaw to be made explicit, but it wasn’t. The second (with some releif) was that the poem was very short; then that the cadences of the poem evoked a pagan chant: this resonates with certain past experiences of mine that are thrilling, in a troubling way.

    I wondered if this was the flaw. That it exposed a flaw in me. It suggests (to me) “Live for the moment, and damn the consequences” even though the consequences are as plain and stark in the moment as the act likely to give rise to them .

  2. Me too, Pete. It sort of epitomises how the craving for/being in the intoxicated present moment feels when you’re really in the mood for it . I’ve spent many a moment in that mindset but through hard earned experience have a bit more compassion for my future self these days. On another level, it could be seen as how we’re just enjoying the fruits of our planet without enough consideration for its well being. I understand the poem was written in the ‘roaring twenties’ and for me evokes something of the ‘devil may care’ attitude of that era as well.

  3. I agree that the title is provocative. I’m expecting protests from outraged Wiccans (should any pass by) at the unthinking identification of paganism with heedless hedonism. I suppose that was just part of the cultural assumptions made in the twenties, where Christianity was considered to be identical to civilised social control, and paganism to its absence. I did enjoy the twist of “(But alas, we never do)” showing the perverse death-wish, the interdependence of unintegrated hedonistic beliefs with the urge to end one’s experience. Eros is intermingled with thanatos.

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