I am working on a different project today, but I came across this amazing poem by E.A. Robinson (1869-1935), who won more than one Pulitzer Prize in poetry. It’s called “Zola,” and it so perfectly captures why I disliked Germinal at the same time I absolutely loved it. If you’ve read any Zola before, you have to read this poem. If you want to read Zola, same thing.
Even if you’ve never read Zola before, what do you think of this poem? Does it capture your thoughts about any novel or author you’ve ever read?
Because he puts the compromising chart
Of hell before your eyes, you are afraid;
Because he counts the price that you have paid
For innocence, and counts it from the start,
You loathe him. But he sees the human heart
Of God meanwhile, and in His hand was weighed
Your squeamish and emasculate crusade
Against the grim dominion of his art.
Never until we conquer the uncouth
Connivings of our shamed indifference
(We call it Christian faith) are we to scan
The racked and shrieking hideousness of Truth
To find, in hate’s polluted self-defense
Throbbing, the pulse, the divine heart of man.
I find myself reading this over and over again. I am not even completely sure what Robinson is saying and yet it is Truth somehow and it’s deep and it is so beautifully worded I can’t help reading it one more time.