A Forward by the Webmaster of An Incomplete Glossary to Robert Graves's The White Goddess
The White Goddess, as the subtitle "a historical grammar of poetic myth" suggests, examines the nature of the poem in the western world. Graves says that the true poem as compared to verse makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end or makes a shiver go down your spine. As a poet, Graves is interested in what makes this happen, what distinguishes a poem from merely verse.
Graves's thesis on this is that poetry, the art of the bardic orders of the Celts and of their counterparts throughout the Indo-European world, tells parts of the story of the triple goddess of the moon and her consort the god of the hunt. In proving his thesis, Graves first starts by examining two Celtic poems, Cad Goddeu (The Battle of the Trees) and Hanes Taliesin, but soon starts tracking the migration of the Celtic and pre-Celtic or Danaan people across Europe and Asia. This process involves a simple yet interwoven correspondence of deities (hence the reason for this glossary).
Note that Robert Graves is a poet who works as a translator and author. He is not an anthropologist or historian and much of what he presents in this book is considered wrong by people of those branches of academia. Graves defends his work by saying that as a poet perhaps he can see through the preconceived notions of the academic students of the Indo-European peoples. It is up to you, reader, to make up your own mind on this issue, but I recommend you follow my links page to Recommended Books on Druidism and Indo-European Paleopaganism and do your own research.
So why would one want to even read The White Goddess? Despite Graves's foray into anthropology, he still presents an interesting thesis on poetry, worth the reading of any student of poetry. Also, the book displays the workings of Graves's mind, as he treks from Ireland to India in search of clues to his thesis, along the way exploring the insoluble riddles of antiquity, such as how to untie the Gordian Knot and why the anti-Christ has the number 666.
So in the words of Apuleius (and a translation of Graves), read on and enjoy yourself!
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