Monday, November 28, 2011

David Jones

David Jones (1895—1974) is a modernist poet, of Welsh heritage, who lived in London. His work was highly praised by influential contemporaries such as T.S. Eliot. More recently, Edward Lucie-Smith mentioned, “The extreme complexity of David Jones’s work...” in his introduction to Jones in British Poetry Since 1945 — calling him a “twentieth century equivalent of William Blake.”

Jones served as an infantryman in World War I and was wounded in the Battle of the Somme. He fictionalized his experience in his first extensive poem, In Parenthesis, in which he seeks to encapsulate military experience from the beginning of time.

His second major work, The Anathemata, reflects his faith, and his understanding of art. Jones believed that art should be a form of worship, and that worship is a form of art. W.H. Auden called The Anathemata, “one of the most important poems of our times.”

A, a, a, Domine Deus

I said, Ah! what shall I write?
I inquired up and down
------------(He's tricked me before
with his manifold lurking-places.)
I looked for His symbol at the door.
I have looked for a long while
------------at the textures and contours.
I have run a hand over the trivial intersections.
I have journeyed among the dead forms
------------causation projects from pillar to pylon.
I have tired the eyes of the mind
------------regarding the colours and lights.
I have felt for His wounds
------------in nozzles and containers.
I have wondered for the automatic devices.
I have tested the inane patterns
------------without prejudice.
I have been on my guard
------------not to condemn the unfamiliar.
For it is easy to miss Him
------------at the turn of a civilisation.
I have watched the wheels go round in case I might see the living creatures like the appearance of lamps, in case I might see the Living God projected from the machine. I have said to the perfected steel, be my sister and for the glassy towers I thought I felt some beginnings of His creature, but A,a,a, Domine Deus, my hands found the glazed work unrefined and the terrible crystal a stage-paste . . . Eia, Domine Deus.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca