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Bishop Berkeley Gives Comfort To His Wife

by Roger Caldwell

They say I am mad, but you know I am not,
my dear: you are as real to me as I to you,
and as are both of us to God, and Him to us.
They mock me, say I eat and drink ideas,
am clothed with them, that I have banished
all that’s solid from the world, have made
chimeras out of all that men held certain,
turned to dreams the ground beneath our feet.
It is not so – I say that if our wise Creator
for one moment turned His steady gaze away
(He won’t, of course) then this abundant fabric
of the world would vanish in that instant.
What’s improbable in this? If we ourselves
could close our mortal senses up, stop eyes and ears,
what leaves would rustle, how could grass be green?
We trust in them because we trust in God,
know we are present in His mind: the common man
here sees better than philosophers, that no idea
can exist except within a mind, that common matter –
these mere clods of clay – can have no substance
if no spirit once conceived, or now perceives, them.
If this is madness then most men are mad. John Locke
himself admits he can’t say where its essence lies,
this lifeless matter he so much adheres to,
or what exists in his world that is not in mine:
does he doubt that the very fitness of a glove
consists in what I see, and feel, and come to wear?
No, my dear, forget ingenious philosophers
who would tell us two and two make five, but trust
the common man, and common sense, and God.

© Roger Caldwell 2012

Roger Caldwell is a writer living in Essex. He writes for numerous journals on philosophy and literature. His latest collection of poetry, Waiting for World 93, has recently appeared from Shoestring Press.

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