From Stone To Steel by E.J Pratt

       From Stone To Steel Introductory Note From stone to bronze, from bronze to steel Along the road-dust of the sun,Two revolutions of the wheel From Java to Geneva run.The snarl Neanderthal is worn. Close to the smiling Aryan lips,The civil polish of the horn Gleams from our praying finger tips.The evolution of desire. Has but matured a toxic wine,Drunk long before its heady fire Reddened Euphrates or the Rhine. Between the temple and the cave. The boundary lies tissue-thin:The yearlings still the altars crave. As satisfaction for a sin.The road goes up, the road goes down --Let Java or Geneva be -- But whether to the cross or crown,The path lies through Gethsemane.

    "From Stone to Steel" demonstrates another strategic reversal, this time from a cynical ironic stance throughout to an unexpected note of compassion and hope at the end. The usual debunking function of irony is the norm of this poem, conflating all of human history into two positions: atavistic brutality ("snarl Neanderthal," "cave," "desire," "matur[ing] a toxic wine") and sophisticated brutality masked by religion ("Aryan lips," "praying finger tips," "temple"). The hopelessness of creating any distance between temple and cave is underlined by the preposterous image, "The yearlings still the altars crave / As satisfaction for a sin;" even the victims are complicit in this travesty of religion. And the relentlessly cheerful iambic rhythm seems to trivialize the cynicism, setting at a distance what narrative presence is there, until the last two lines simultaneously slow the rhythm and introduce an alternative not even hinted at elsewhere in the poem. Gethsemane, that moment of deliberate decision to sacrifice oneself in order to put an end to both temple and sacrifice of victims, that moment in which the broad "road" is forsaken in favour of the narrow "path," is the only possible alternative to the mindless roll of the wheel from one form of brutality to another. Though Pratt has maintained the detached pose of a cosmic viewer he has nevertheless affirmed individual choice, one that requires deep engagement with the woes of others, as an antidote to collective desire and guilt.

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