LD: Arthur Hugh Clough, Victorian poet (1819-1861), was best known for his shorter poems, especially the 16-line ‘Say not the Struggle Nought Availeth’. Clough was a great influence on TS Eliot because of his intense preoccupation with the ‘God question’, fluctuating between doubt and belief.
The title of the poem below is either ironic or ought to be in inverted commas—’There is no God’. The author clearly believes that most of the people who say ‘There is no God’ , are young, foolish, empty-headed, and shallow; whereas those who believe in God tend to be older and wiser. Their faith is based on their personal experience in the school of suffering.
That the author believes in something akin to God —”something very like Him”, to quote his own words—is clear from his most famous 16-line poem ‘Say Not the Struggle Nought Availeth’. (See video below). Published in 1850, at the height of Queen Victoria’s reign when the British Empire was at its noonday peak, this poem is to be found in every single anthology of English poetry. It is one of the great inspirational poems of the English language. [LD]
THERE IS NO GOD
By Arthur Hugh Clough
‘There is no God,’ the wicked saith,
‘And truly it’s a blessing,
For what he might have done with us
It’s better only guessing.’
‘There is no God,’ a youngster thinks,
‘Or really, if there may be,
He surely did not mean a man
Always to be a baby.’
‘There is no God, or if there is,’
The tradesman thinks, ‘’twere funny
If he should take it ill in me
To make a little money.’
‘Whether there be,’ the rich man says,
‘It matters very little,
For I and mine, thank somebody,
Are not in want of victual.’
Some others, also, to themselves,
Who scarce so much as doubt it,
Think there is none, when they are well,
And do not think about it.
But country folks who live beneath
The shadow of the steeple;
The parson and the parson’s wife,
And mostly married people;
Youths green and happy in first love,
So thankful for illusion;
And men caught out in what the world
Calls guilt, in first confusion;
And almost everyone when age,
Disease, or sorrows strike him,
Inclines to think there is a God,
Or something very like Him.
Say not the Struggle Nought Availeth’ superbly read by Paul Scofield.
VIDEO : 1.02 mins