14 / CHRONICLESnboredom or whatever; maybe some letters could be discovered,nor something else. But we know that, at best, we stillnwould not be wholly sure. Human motive is locked innhuman breasts, to whose chambers with their recesses wenhave some, but not all keys.nPoetry, then, is an exploration and understanding ofnhuman motive. In that I agree with Yvor Winters that thenbest technique is that which makes a poem more true, morenappropriate, more richly attuned to the motives discoverednand unfolded. I hold, with Winters, that we can know andnunderstand much of human motive and that good poetrynexpresses such understanding with singularly exacting power;nI would also emphasize, perhaps even more thannWinters, how much in human motive remains intractable,nmysterious, hard to assess. And that is true of religiousnpoetry as of any other: motive and mystery are integral to it,nand not every rendition has the same power and integritynand exactitude as the best.nPoetry is a good, and evil is a privation of good. Thatntheory, from Aquinas and others, does not cover everythingnor solve all problems, but it is powerful, useful, and in somendeep senses true. I am fond of telling students that it is goodnto invent something, to express how one feels, to tellnsomething which will (more or less) interest other people.nSome poetry is much better than other, but poetry can reallynbe bad only when it is pretentious, when it claims to be morenthan it is. Often one needs to tell a student, preferably gentlynand firmly, “Your poem is longer than it is.”nAlso, many poems claim to be more than they are. Thentruth that human motive is often unknowable or mysteriousndoes not mean that anything goes, or that every obscure andnbardic gesture about the mystery of things is necessarilynvalid.nA poem, then, can be true about human motive; andnthere are means of judging that—and how it handlesnlanguage. Unfortunately, so much in current academicndiscussion and defense of Christian ideas and standards isntentative and defensive. Are there not some things we maynproclaim?nWe often say we are fallible; we make mistakes; we are notnsure about much that we say; we learn and qualify andnchange our minds. But there’s a trick in the language ofnfallibility, which can make us sound more skeptical ornconfused or unbelieving than we are. For, if by saying “wenare fallible” we mean that we sometimes make mistakes,nthen by logical parity we should equally be entitled to say,n”We are infallible,” because we sometimes get things right,nsay that which is true. Of course we don’t claim we areninfallible and would be roundly scolded if we did, but thenlogical point is still relevant, both to our capacity for judgingn(poetry among other things) and making relevant distinctionsnin language (in and of poetry).nPoetry should have fit language, a “just and lovely image”nof what the poem conveys and is, and that fitness, thatnappropriateness, takes long and is hard and good to achieve.nIt is done partially by adjusting language when it does not fit.nThe process continues, is philosophical, religious, human,nand gets somewhere.nHere is one example. Sometimes we read in a newspapernthat someone died unexpectedly. An unusual comment onnthat I once heard is, “No one ever dies unexpectedly.” Wennnknow what the newspaper meant to say; but our sense ofnlanguage and our lives and deaths are clearer for thenadjustment. We do expect to die, and should learn to dienwell. Religious discourse, including poetry, has told us so forna long time.nLanguage does and does not fit reality, and the process ofnaccommodation is perpetual, possible, fruitful, and our task.nJohn Dryden tells us that poetry should be a just and livelynimage of reality, and Alexander Pope tells us that soundnshould be an echo to the sense. The only way that can be isnfor the sense to be in some way a sound. Echoes are soundsnreflecting sounds. Language and meaning and reality standnapart and mutually enter.nRichard M. Gale, a philosopher responding to HenrinBergson’s charge that our symbols distort reality, writes thatnBergson’s claim is true only in the trivial sense that “symbolsnare qualitatively different from their referents: the wordn’amorous,’ for example, is not itself warm and passionate.nOne does not say a physicist’s vector diagram is a viciousndistortion of reality because it does not get up and runnaround the room.” But if a poet writes an amorous poem,nwe want it to be warm and passionate (or otherwisenappropriate); and if a poet were to do a vector diagram, itnshould gallop about the room. We do what we can, as bestnwe may.nReligious discourse or poetry is apt to provoke specialnclaims and disclaimers, virtual frenzies of timidity. ThenBible is not mealymouthed; theories of religious languagenoften are. We are often told that our language for talkingnabout God is inadequate and that we need metaphors, nonmetaphor wholly sufficing. We can overrate or underrate thenplace that “metaphor” has in our discourse. For instance,nthe term “literal” is a metaphor. But we still can speak.nWhen a Christian says, “Jesus of Nazareth is God,” thenstatement is in no sense metaphorically intended. We meannthat it is true. And, certainly, it does not follow from ournnervousness about metaphor and language that anythingnequally goes in speaking about God.nLanguage is language. The word rabbit does not exhaustnrabbitness or include each rabbit, born or yet to be born, butnstill we are not free to substitute words at random for rabbit.nI suggest that we treat God at least as well linguistically as wentreat rabbits.nKarl Barth says in The Faith of the Church that God’snhands are literal, ours metaphorical — an astonishingly wisenthing to say. We are the “metaphor,” God the reality. Wenare the vapor, God the Rock.nAristotle writes in the Poetics, “to scatter seed is to sow,nbut the scattering of the sun’s rays has no name. But the actnof sowing in regard to grain bears an analogous relation tonthe sun’s dispersing of its rays, and so we have the phrasen’sowing the god-created fire.'” Aristotle perceives a hole innlanguage, and promptly closes it. That sun sows light on thenproblem of understanding our language, knowledge, andnfaith, even now.nAs an enthusiast in philosophy, I respect the work ofnWittgenstein and Peter Geach and Max Black and PaulnHolmer and G.E.M. Anscombe and Aristotle and Aquinasnand John Wisdom and others who have helped us see hownlanguage can be used to clarify, to strengthen, to understand,nnot just to speculate and entangle and doubt. Then