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White Goddess, The

The White Goddess, Selected Letters

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Patrick White (Patrick Victor Martindale White) Biography to David Wojahn Biography

a ‘historical grammar of poetic myth’, by Robert Graves, published in 1948. The work propounds his beliefs concerning ‘true’ poetry, or lyrical and imaginative as opposed to rationally discursive and satirical verse; Graves maintains that work of this kind results from the interaction of the writer's masculine energies with the primeval and magical power of the matriarchal Moon Goddess, who is synonymous with the Muse. The book draws on archaeological, anthropological, and mythological material from a wide range of cultures, predominantly Celtic and Mediterranean, to substantiate its propositions by reference to the traditions of bardic and vatic practices. Graves emphasizes the cultural essentiality of the feminine principle and the invidious effects of its suppression by the restrictive male values of reason and logic; in this respect The White Goddess provides a mythology encompassing certain fundamental attitudes in his poetry, which is notable for the philosophical intensity of its treatments of women and its antagonism towards modern social and religious norms. As his Selected Letters (1982) indicates, the work was engendered by his correspondence with the Welsh poet Lynette Roberts regarding Gaelic and Brythonic influences on English poetry. The book's concern with the interdependence of poetry and magic is of relevance to the interests of W. B. Yeats and other twentieth-century poets whose involvements with aspects of the occult have informed their work.

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