The Grave that Time Dug

by Muriel Spark

This is the child an instant born
      that lit the stove
            that warmed the hand
                  that rapped on the box
                        that lay in the grave that time dug.
This is the pink deceptive thorn
      that bled the child an instant born
            that lit the stove
                  that warmed the hand
                        that rapped on the box
                              that lay in the grave that time dug.
Muriel Spark came into the world as Muriel Sarah Camberg in Edinburgh on the first day of February, 1918 as Jewish, and left this mortal coil in 2006 as a some time Catholic convert. If the adventurously inquisitive mix saltpeter, sulphur and charcoal you produce an explosion loud enough to shake heaven`s roof; when Muriel put pen to paper the world of literature shook and rumbled to the scent of cordite.
Although a successful novelist, she always considered herself a poet, “I was destined to poetry by my mentors” and has left us with many memorable works to enjoy, one of which is the wonderful The Grave that Time Dug, which was written in 1951, the same year as her first published book on her life long interest, another writer with the whiff of explosives hanging around her name – Mary Shelley. 
Her love of Mary Shelley at a time when the great novelist`s reputation was yet to be exhumed from the shadows of her famous husband, is a fine example of Muriel`s subversive, impish and mischievous nature. She had the vision to see what no one else at the time had the nous to spot in her heroine, that Mary Shelley`s novels “……are almost entirely without their counterpart in feminine literature, being the prototypes of the scientific extravaganza popularized by H.G. Wells, and recently reflected in the novels of Aldous Huxley and George Orwell.”
Death, memory and time are prime preoccupations in Muriel`s writing; indeed, it could be argued that she virtually invented “prime” as an intellectual force of nature. Miss Jean Brodie was always happy to inform everyone that she was in her prime: a place and time when she was at the pinnacle of her powers between the ages of forty and sixty.
And death walks side by side with us, an invisible shadow personified as well as philosophised in her writings. It takes the child`s hand and leads it through the pink deceptive, thorny brier patch of life, which pricks and bleeds countless souls until the warm hand lays cold in the grave that time dug.
Muriel Spark was tricky, edgy, dynamic and a radical bender of reality, who wasn`t so much interested in the real truth of her characters, but in creating a particular truth for them, The Ballad of Peckham Rye for instance, is a delicious fantasy where the unverifiable is the norm. 
Pin her down at your peril, for she will explode in your face with all the blistering force of a protean cannonball.

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