Poem 91

Knowledge is search; search, the denial that the Beloved is here.
Knowledge is the stock-piling of the means of terror and fear.

Not just the weapons but all the knowledge of power and control that the ignorant and greedy accumulate. The extraordinary blindness that sees knowledge as something external and values it for its own sake, creating technology that isolates and manipulates, keeps Francis’ pot of prophetic denunciation on the boil.

Knowledge makes distance grow greater and the Loneliness increase –
And nowhere, with itself or with others, can the soul find peace.

By knowledge the hearth is ruined, the family broken and driven out.
By knowledge Big Fist watches us and knows our secret thought.

The constant knell of ‘knowledge’ is like Ezra Pound’s well known condemnation of usury (Canto XLV) which, magnificently read by Pound, can easily be listened to online. Pound’s style of reading makes an interesting contrast with Francis’ dry Aussie drawl. The knowledge attacked is not just technology but all that is divorced from being and love.

With knowledge we become spectators and the heart forgets to sing
And the Robots go in procession honouring the Silent Spring.

No S.F. robots these, these are us! An echo too of Rachel Carson’s great book, The Silent Spring. Then next a dig at those moderns preoccupied with the garbage of their own subconsciousness.

With knowledge we would bring the secrets of the night into the light of harsh day,
With knowledge we would obliterate the shining Song Way.

(Nice isn’t it to avoid the clichéd ‘harsh light of day’)

Knowledge is a man with germ-guns for eyes, a belly full of bombs and lead in his breast,
But it will take no more than God-Man’s crooking a finger to send him back into stone for a long, long rest.

Sardonic humour here as this mechanical seeker after power and control is fancifully compared with those on the 4th Plane who can be sent back to stone state if they abuse their great powers! That long line emphasizes just how great the fall is.

The poet’s world of fancy, analogy and song contrasts with the cold rationality of the control freaks. Here darkness is good.

The schools of learning close at night; but in the taverns the day then begins,
And the master pours wine. And cracked notes and poor tempo are the only sins.

After building to a climax the poem ends in this whimsical affirmation of inebriation in the divine. Despite the strength of his protests against the monstrous modern world, he avoids arrogant trumpeting. The next poem deliberately gives a humble follow-up to the attack. He too is ‘sea-sunk in illusion’. Who is he to judge and condemn? – ‘I am but a song being sung by a singer who infinitely is./ I am non-existent: He is eternal and I am His.’