First published in Debits and Credits (1926), preceding the story “The Eye of Allah”.
The poem foreshadows the ending of “The Eye of Allah,” giving us the viewpoint of the Abbot, who has to make a hard choice between existing Church doctrine and scientific research that could, if it had been permitted, have saved many lives and much suffering.
Philip Mason [p. 262] comments:
It does not conform to the conventional shape of a sonnet, the rhymes being arranged in a scheme so complex and unusual that they may escape notice at first reading, and the beats to a line being varied. In a sense it is a sonnet reversed, the opening theme being stated in six lines instead of eight, while a second theme comes in a central section of five lines and the third theme is expressed in a longer metre in the last three lines. It states the main theme of “The Eye of Allah” and should be read in full, preferably aloud, slowly and with a heavy beat.
A note on the text
Daniel Hadas writes: The English of stanza 1 is convoluted enough that a gloss may be helpful:
‘All new things that men have made for men to use were revealed long before the time when they became current, revealed to men in past ages that are now forgotten, just as are the names of the men who dreamt up those things in those forgotten ages’. [D.H.]