Edmund Griffiths  

E d m u n d   G r i f f i t h s

‘So it was really only to be expected...’

So it was really only to be expected that we,
who have never found it easy to decide between
the village commune and the universal Republic,
should have come at last to those tall blue volumes:
the works of Marr.
And in truth it’s a glorious thing to be able to trace
the curlicued fancies of nature back
to any their four fundamental units—
earth air fire water, say, or
adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine,
or, yes, the four
linguistic elements,

SAL is a sail of sullen sable you saw on the sea of the soul.
BER is a bird borne by on the breeze when the borough was brittened and burned.
YON is iron and you and I and the yonder for which we yearned.
ROSH is the rushes’ irrational rustle between the shore and the shoal.

How to knot primordial
vocables into charms—
that, at least, we might learn
from this old grammarian and mystery-monger,
the founder of the New
Teaching on Language,
who was criticized after his death
in an essay of Stalin’s.