Monday, May 24, 2010

Peace Between Heaven and Hell: The Harmonizing of Beauty

So, I've talked about the Symbiosis of Heaven and Hell with Blake and Bulgakov, and the Hellish Heaven and Heavenly Hell with Blake and Calvino. Let's give Blake a little rest and turn to Yeats!

The Rose of Peace

If Michael, leader of God's host
When Heaven and Hell are met,
Looked down on you from Heaven's door-post
He would his deeds forget.

Brooding no more upon God's wars
In his divine homestead,
He would go weave out of the stars
A chaplet for your head.

And all folk seeing him bow down,
And white stars tell your praise,
Would come at least to God's great town,
Led on by gentle ways;

And God would bid His warfare cease,
Saying all things were well;
And softly make a rosy peace,
A peace of Heaven with Hell.

W.B. Yeats, "The Rose of Peace," The Rose, 1893)

Yeats transfixes Michael, God's archangelic general, in a domestic moment. He does not stand on the field of battle, but in his heavenly home. A homely and very physical home: "door-post," "divine homestead," "God's great town." In the contemplation on the unnamed rose, thoughts of wars become a garland of stars. The greatest angel, the heavenly bodies, bow down before the earthly rose. As aesthetics overcome ideology, it is by peace, by "gentle ways" that people come to God's fold, to his "great town." Beauty is greater than the Manichean fight of light vs. darkness, good vs. evil: it is all beautiful when the "vs." is removed; when the "vs" is removed, it is peaceful. When it is peaceful, that is when the "folk" will be impressed. When heaven ceases its quarrel with hell, finally all things will be "well." The line "saying all things were well" is an interesting twist on Genesis 1. In Gen. 1:1-2:3, when God creates something, he often ends the creation by saying that it was "good" or saying it was "very good." The shift from "good" to "well," from goodness to wellness emphasizes the health and wholeness of all things--they are harmoniously working together, unlike in the disease of war that tears down and infects, making all things ill. In beauty, one moves beyond good and evil to well and ill.

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