MAMMON AND THE BLACK GODDESS
We expect anything and everything from Robert Graves, but even so it's a little difficult to think of him addressing the London School of Economics or our own Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1963 he lectured at both places, respectively on money ("Mammon") and science ("Nine Hundred Iron Chariots"). In dealing with these subjects his technique is typically Gravesian: a deep brew of etymological and historical probings, a collection of cross-references from the literary past to the most Journalistic present, an admission with Socratic irony that he knows nothing about such-and-such, and then a startling summation in which poetic myth and a matriarchal culture are somehow seen to be the only refuge for modern man. With his wit, his Olympian lucidity, and his mischievous asides, he disarms the reader or listener, leaving only the haziest suspicion of legerdemain or irrelevancy. His "Three Oxford Lectures on Poetry," especially the last, "The Poet in a Valley of Dry Bones," are among the wisest and most biting of his discussions concerning craft, sensibility and inspiration, while "Intimations of the Black Goddess" investigates his own (and generally most recent) poetry against the background of myth, the man-woman relationship, the dictates of the White Goddess and so forth- a complex affair about which one expects Graves will soon have much more to say. The two remaining essays, "Real Women" and "Moral Principles in Translation," are lesser efforts. An admirable gathering.