There’s a lot of fear, frustration and anger flying about at the moment, and this last year we’ve read many headlines and seen photos and footage we never want to have seen. Since the beginning of this strange and disturbing month one of the poems echoing in my head has been Frost’s ‘Fire and Ice‘ (click the red arrow by the title if you’d like to be read to). Does it resonate with you?
This is one of those deceptively simple-seeming poems, short, unadorned, its tight abaabcbcb rhyme scheme holding it all together neatly without obtruding itself or constraining meaning. For me the poem has a dark wit and neatness, a sort of Wilde-meets-Parker epigrammatic quality which delights even as it sobers. There is perhaps a dash of Nash, too. ‘Fire and Ice’ reminds us that hatred’s closedness, its impenetrability, are as potentially destructive as the fire of rage. And at the moment we can see a lot of this, with fear, desperation and hatred on show pretty much every time we put on the news.
So when I was looking up the meaning of “apocalypse” the other day (as you do), I was interested to discover that the Greek word “αποκαλυπτήρια”, or apokalyptíria, from which it derives, translates as “unveiling”. (Hence revelation.) Oh. If apocalypse needn’t only mean The End Of The World but also—or alternatively—the opportunity for a new and deeper level of understanding, then surely that’s a helpful thought? It feels like it offers a more substantial kind of hopefulness than the firemen rescue kitten from tree slot at the end of the news. It reminds us that we can choose not simply to react but to respond to events and new understandings—so that the “new normal”, as well as being different, might possibly have some bits of better in it too.