One of the most famous pieces of verse to come from the pen of Irish poet Michael Coady (born 1939) is entitled 'Though There Are Torturers'. Without wanting to say too much about it (for fear of stifling original discussion), it is a poem that explores the perennial issue of evil and suffering, and yet also how amidst the darkness of this world, there are shards of light, and music is one of the brightest of those shards. As such, music is one of our most powerful apologetic tools as Christians for puncturing the illusion of a "disenchanted" universe, i.e. the worldview that has no place for anything other than the material, where God or indeed anything supernatural, simply is not, nor can be. This poem articulates that far more beautifully and lyrically, and has become a favourite of mine.
I urge you to go and read it - I was tempted to reproduce it here in full, but was reminded that to do so would breach copyright laws, and there's even a poem about that! - but the text is elsewhere online, and even better you could buy the poetry collection of Coady's in which it features, Oven Lane and Other Poems.
Or, if you like, you can hear the poet himself read it in this video:
Brilliant, isn't it?
Here are some discussion questions to think through yourself, or perhaps talk through with a friend:
- What is it about music that so punctures the illusion of a 'disenchanted' universe?
- Why might the joy ('sensuous celebration') or beauty ('glories of the Spirit') of music suggest there is more to life than simply what we can see?
- Do you think music is an adequate 'foil' to the evil of torture that Coady describes? If so, why? If not, why not?
- How does the poem suggest that the evil is not just 'out there', but also within each of us, how, as Coady himself says in the video, 'we are all possibly involved'?
- What do you make of Coady's five different mini-portraits of music-making in the poem? Which was most redolent of meaning to you? Why?
- What questions does the poem raise for you?