You said to me, “Why read a fantasy?
Can’t we learn enough from history?
Why should I care about some universe
That’s non-existent—well, except in verse—
When this poor world of mine is such a mess?
Talking animals are foolishness;
Goblins, witches, wizards, dwarves, and elves
Useless at best: at worst, they’re something else
Demonic or idolatrous. These gods
Of wood and water—what are they but frauds
In lovely forms? Go learn your catechism,
Leave Middle-Earth, or Narnia, or Bism
Inside their own mythologies. Come read
Some facts, and don’t tell me the poetry
Is fairer there, for I don’t really care.”
Oh, do you not? I thought I saw you stare
With fixéd wonder at a painted page:
A green hill, golden cup, and sword arranged
In an enchanted wood. I thought your gaze
Meandered idly to the printed page,
Then started open with a blissful shock
Of beauty. There, although the beasts could talk,
Although a dryad stepped from every tree,
Although the landscape was an allegory:
Still you read on. I wonder what you felt
When unicorns appeared and broke your heart
With whiteness and their poignancy of grace;
When the ocean’s secrets, doubled on its face,
Were your own secrets, mirrored in its depths;
When what the beasties had to say was truth,
And your heart leapt and grew to give it room.