Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 478

In “Homage to the Fox” and “Judas, Flowering,” the speaker glorified evildoers because, as the epigraph points out, they are both interesting and successful. However, the epigraph ends by noting that evil results in “misery and affliction.” Certainly it did for Judas, who committed suicide and presumably is spending eternity in Hell. It is obvious, then, that though Hudgins’s persona may be deceived, the poet is not. Instead, he is using his speaker to demonstrate how human beings are seduced by evil and specifically by lies and lying.

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“Repentance” differs from the segments before and after it in that, here, lying is not shown as a way to worldly power but as a positive good. For example, people would be happier, the speaker argues, if they could not anticipate the deaths of those they love. The knowledge God gave humankind, then, is a burden, not a blessing. The persona then insists that it is lies, not facts, that make a person happy. For one thing, reality is limited, while the human imagination can invent possibilities “six times a second.” Even if these dreams do not come true, anticipation alone can bring one great delight.

It is difficult to refute this argument, especially when one broadens it to include in the category of “lies” all the works of the imagination. If one were to divide the world on that basis, as a writer Hudgins must be on the side of lies, and so would everyone be who has chosen to read this poem. Hudgins now proceeds to another argument in favor of lies: that they are kinder than the truth. As has been noted, his examples of cruelty vary from the trivial, such as a comment about an unbecoming dress, to scathing attacks on character traits, such as “stinginess.” In a peculiar reversal of Christian doctrine, then, one hopes to be “blessed” with lies, rather than being damned by telling the hurtful truth.

Having pointed out the value of lying to oneself and to others, the persona carries his argument one step further, insisting that one should also believe all the lies one is told. Since he then alludes to Thomas’s encounter with the risen Christ, one might read the final lines as a suggestion that faith is a matter of believing in untruths. However, the allusion itself contradicts that implication, for Thomas felt real flesh. His doubts, therefore, were beside the point, for he did not create or imagine Christ. “The Liar’s Psalm,” then, is not an argument for evil, but an examination of humanity’s susceptibility to it. Thus the speaker in the final section of the poem foolishly rethinks his brief moment of faith, while in “Repentance” the liar somehow manages to miss the important truth: that when he decides to “repent the actual,” he is rejecting the God who does not lie.

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