Jesting Pilate asks what is truth
George Szirtes - 6 May 2008
He asked but would not stay for an answer. In fact there is no appropriate waiting time because we don't know. Nevertheless, we feel and are, sometimes, for a while, convinced. It is not that we think there are no truths, only that they are often complex and provisional. We may think of the truths of the imagination, but I suspect that, as far as poetry is concerned, it is a form of truth to language. What does that mean? And is that so?
Water is water. Words are words. But sometimes words can be as much water, or fire, or colour or anything, as is possible for words to be. In poetry we are convinced of truth to the extent that words become things, not objects as such, but our experience of things. Ordinary speech is not enough. We need music, rhythm, association, metaphor, all working at once to present our state to us. We know that instinctively. The least literate people know it: they sing, they mutter, they chant, they pronounce. It is not about consequences but about the nature and depth of our lives (which may well include consequences). "O westron wind, when wilt though blow" IS the wind in language. It hits us directly, bracing and lost, so "the small rain down can rain". Is that not a kind of truth?