...where they remained until 1946. Their first three children were born there: William in 1940, Lucia in 1943, and Juan in 1944. After the difficulties of the post-war years in Oxford, and the later tensions of his relationship with Laura, Graves had at last found the inner calm he needed for his writing, and his newly discovered happiness inspired some of his best love poems.
Old friends who disliked Laura began to return. Graves was also able to resume a relationship with his older four children. Tragically, David was killed in action in Burma in 1944, while serving in his father’s old regiment, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, against the Japanese.
Now began two decades of prolific book writing. Those written in Galmpton included the novels Sergeant Lamb and Proceed Sergeant Lamb, (covering the American War of Independence), Wife to Mr Milton, King Jesus and two non-fiction books in collaboration with Alan Hodge, The Long Week-end and The Reader Over Your Shoulder.
Another novel was The Golden Fleece, which involved exhaustive research of Greek mythology. Robert became fascinated by the powerful goddess figure on Mount Pelion and in the novel he proposes the existence of a pre-classical matriarchal society. However, he interrupted his work on The Golden Fleece to pursue evidence of goddess worship in Western culture throughout the ages and its connection with the mysterious powers of poetic inspiration. The result was the first draft of The White Goddess, then entitled The Roebuck in the Thicke
The White Goddess
Robert produced the first draft of The White Goddess (The Roebuck in the Thicket) almost in a trance – 70,000 words in three weeks of feverish writing – after discovering the conclusive presence of a pre-Christian cult to a feminine deity in a medieval Welsh poem called The Song of Taliesin. He then established that the Celtic Lunar Triple-goddess – who was called Brigit in Ireland and Scotland, and Caridwen in Wales –was the same goddess worshipped by the ancient Scandinavians. She was “Triple” because she represented the three phases of life, and “Lunar” because these three phases were symbolized by the three phases of the moon. The book weaves a net, tying loose ends and connecting, with astounding coherence, diverse elements of pre-Christian European mythologies and the Judaeo-Christian religion: calendars, secret alphabets, powers symbolized by trees, numbers, stones or animals. The White Goddess was for Robert the end of a long search. The ancient rejection of the intuitive, magical and natural power of the feminine, which still survives in our patriarchal present, was for him a clear and conclusive explanation for the errors of human behaviour throughout our history.
THE WHITE GODDESS
All saints revile her, and all sober men
Ruled by the God Apollo’s golden mean -
In scorn of whom we sailed to find her
In distant regions likeliest to hold her
Whom we desired above all things to know,
Sister of the mirage and echo.
It was a virtue not to stay,
To go our headstrong and heroic way
Seeking her out at the volcano’s head,
Among pack ice, or where the track had faded
Beyond the cavern of the seven sleepers:
Whose broad high brow was white as any leper’s,
Whose eyes were blue, with rowan-berry lips
With hair curled honey-coloured to white hips.
Green sap of Spring in the young wood a-stir
Will celebrate the Mountain Mother,
And every song-bird shout awhile for her;
But we are gifted, even in November
Rawest of seasons, with so huge a sense
Of her nakedly worn magnificence
We forget cruelty and past betrayal,
Heedless of where the next bright bolt may fall.