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To Glorify: The Essence of Poetry and Religion

  • T. R. Martland (a1)


Martin Heidegger's explication of Pindar's assertion that ‘to glorify was the essence of poetry’ puts it quite well. He tells us that for Pindar the word does not derive its force from what is already complete in itself. For then man would be glorifying what is already glorious, that which already has the power to impress men. At best the word then would denote an acknowledgment or a confession of being impressed. Instead, he insists, the word denotes the power of making to appear, or to extol a place.1



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page 413 note 1 Heidegger, Martin, An Introduction to Metaphysics (Garden City, 1961), p. 87.

page 414 note 1 Ramakrishna, , The Gospel of Ramakrishna (New York, 1907), p. 306.

page 414 note 2 See his How To Do Things with Words (Cambridge, Mass., 1962) and also ‘Performative Utterances’ in Philosophical Papers (Oxford, 1961), pp. 220–39. Obviously in so identifying Vyâsa's faith and prayer with Austin's performative utterance which also effects the world, I have conflated Vyâsa's religious uttering and his religious doing. I think I can do it for the same reason Austin does it, ‘precisely because the distinction is not in point’ ( How To Do Things with Words, p. 11). What is in point is what this kind of uttering does, or what Austin calls ‘the force’ of utterance. In uttering q in of course the appropriate circumstances, I do q. I only wish to add that in doing p which has, in of course the appropriate circumstances, the force of saying q, I also do q.

page 415 note 1 Toklas, Alice B., The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (New York, 1933), p. 14.

page 415 note 2 How this sounds like Kierkegaard! In his analysis of Abraham he asserts that ‘only he who works has bread, only he who is troubled finds rest, only he who descends into the nether-world rescues the beloved, only he who draws the knife obtains Isaac’. Kiekegaard, Soren, Fear and Trembling (London, 1939), p. 23.

page 415 note 3 Cited in Blyth, R. H., Oriental Humour (Tokyo, 1959), p. 93.

page 416 note 1 Ward, Hilery, Documents of Dialogue (Englewood Cliffs, 1966), p. 257. This is an example of religion clearly not functioning as ‘some internal spiritual act, of which the words then are to be the report’. Love, fear and even forgetfulness can be religiously enjoined because it isn't the sincerity of these observances that is at issue but only certain liturgical acts, in of course the appropriate circumstances. Obviously sincerity can't be enjoined though it can be invoked.

page 416 note 2 Conze, Edward, Buddhism (New York, n.d.), p. 81.

page 416 note 3 This same emphasis is obvious in the common religious rite of initiation. As the word suggests, the rite is a way to begin, to commence, to originate. First the men of the tribe inflict on the adolescent candidate physical and mental suffering: by torture, by terrorizing, by beatings and/or by forcing him to drink a narcotic brew. As it is with a monk's voluntary withdrawal from the world or the involuntary beating which the Zen master administers to his pupils, the men intend this harsh treatment to stimulate the necessary rejection which logically precedes the desired stretching into rebirth or redirection. Their assumption is that it is necessary ‘to die’ to the old, to the profane, before the candidate can be born into the new and the holy. As for the rebirth itself, or the venturing forth into the yet to be, this may not come for many years. But when it does come a new wisdom marks it and the adoption of a new name and the assignment of a new place in society usually accompanies it. The family weeps and laments because what they had, they no longer have. The child is not the child they once knew. He is another.

page 417 note 1 Singer, Isaac Bashevis, ‘A Piece of Advice’, The Spinoza of Market Street (New York, 1961), p. 144. This quote supports the reductionist analysis that talk about things is really disguised talk about sense-data. It also conflates the criteria-evidence distinction, in the sense that the meaning of what it is to be a Jew is made equivalent to the empirical expectation of what it is to be a Jew. But it can't be helped. So far as religion is concerned, and maybe poetry too, perhaps the criteria-evidence distinction is bogus. Ramakrishna contributes to this observation. He tells us that ‘The fool who repeats again and again. “I am bound, I am bound,” remains in bondage, He who repeats day and night, “I am a sinner, I am a sinner,” becomes a sinner indeed.’ Ramakrishna, , op. cit. p. 159.

page 417 note 2 Stevens, Wallace, Letters of Wallace Stevens, ed. Stevens, Holly (London, 1966), p. 364.

page 420 note 1 Adams, Henry, Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (New York, 1905), p. 253.

page 420 note 2 Ibid. p. 243.

page 420 note 3 Ibid. p. 239.

page 420 note 4 Suzuki, D. T., ‘History of Zen Buddhism from Bodhidharma to Enō (Hui Hing)’, The Essentials of Zen Buddhism (London, 1963), p. 117.

page 423 note 1 I think of this article as the second wing of my triptych. Whereas the first only analyzes what I then called the implausible or the incredible [ An Analysis of the Religious Use of the Implausible, or More Particularly the Incredible’, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, XLIV/4 Supplement (December), 478497 ] this article relates the material to poetry. The third contribution will appear in the Spring and consider Religion As Art: An Interpretation (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1981).


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