In his remarkable 1983 book, The Gift: On the Erotic Life of Property, Lewis Hyde suggests we have three languages to discuss property, the gift, giftedness, and poetics.
- The language of the hearth: Here a mother sings lullabies to an infant, tells fairy tales to toddlers, and passes on terrifying stories of ogres and others, from the other side of the mountain, or from under the bed.
- The language of the altar: Here the tribe gathers to worship their gods, call each other brethren, consecrate communion rituals, make blood sacrifice, give gifts and celebrate grace.
- The language of the gate: Here the warriors go in and out to defend the town and its borders. Here, when the gate is open, come and go merchants crossing borders, creating wealth, and a more cosmopolitan society.
1983, the book was written, and it ends with a clairvoyant reading of Ezra Pound's poetry in the light of his crazed support of Mussolini. (Pound felt that Mussolini harked back to what had been great in Rome before commerce soiled artistic craft.) What Lewis makes clear is that when the gods show up, so does the demonic. When heroes show up, so do villains and dragons. When mothers and priests sow reverence and manners so also do they sow fear and obedience, disgust and partis pri. I believe Ezra Pound was a great poet. And America is a great country. But then, too, Pound was a bad man. And we may not always be that great either. I know I could be better, if the price were not so high.