Our Bog Is Dood
Our Bog is dood, our Bog is dood,
They lisped in accents mild,
But when I asked them to explain
They grew a little wild.
How do you know your Bog is dood
My darling little child?
We know because we wish it so
This is enough, they cried,
And straight within each infant eye
Stood up the flame of pride,
And if you do not think it so
You shall be crucified.
Then tell me, darling little ones,
What’s dood, suppose Bog is?
Just what we think, the answer came,
Just what we think it is.
They bowed their heads. Our Bog is ours
And we are wholly his.
But when they raised them up again
They had forgotten me
Each one upon each other glared
In pride and misery
For what was dood, and what their Bog
They never could agree.
Oh sweet it was to leave them then,
And sweeter not to see,
And sweetest of all to walk alone
Beside the encroaching sea,
The sea that soon should drown them all,
That never yet drowned me.
Smith’s Thoughts on Religion
Stevie Smith’s “Our Bog is Dood” is a simplistically rhythmic children’s fairytale, and considering its subject, can be categorized a ‘burlesque,’ a piece that presents a serious subject in a ludicrous light. The poem comments on the dangers of religion, specifically, how the speaker believes it inspires an irrational ‘mob mentality’ in worshippers.
The speaker’s condescending tone befits an adult speaking to a child or group of children, and indeed, in lines five and six, the speaker asks, “How do you know your Bog is dood/ My darling little child?” (Smith). The relationship between children and speaker begins as a lighthearted question-and-answer dialogue, but quickly darkens by the end of the second stanza with the threat of crucifixion at the speaker’s non-conformity to the group. Despite the children’s increasingly hostile reactions, the speaker continues her innocuous line of questioning—which illustrates Smith’s point: she asks very simple, basic questions and receives a disproportionately violent reaction, a remark on both the instability of the group (why she equates them with irrational children) and their intolerance to outside parties. Stanza four unveils the actual source of frustration among the children: “For what was dood, and what their Bog/ They never could agree” (23-4). This reveal leads smoothly into the fifth and final stanza when the speaker leaves the children bickering on the shore, oblivious to the rising waters—“The sea that soon should drown them all,/ That never yet drowned me” (29-30).
I have loved this poem for many years. It is a thirty-line powerhouse that limns its message in mellifluous, dripping rhymes, with just a touch of sneer in the last two—marked not by bombast but by clever subtly. This is the style of the poet on the whole, not only this particular poem, and it makes me appreciate her all the more.
The million-dollar question on the minds of many readers (which was certainly on mine at first reading) is: Is Smith bashing religion? Short Answer: yes; Long Answer: no. That is to say, she is not bashing the idea behind religion. She’s railing against what she believes it has become: an organization that attracts the radicals among us, that creates more factions than it dissolves. I imagine Smith is much more civil toward the notion of individual spirituality, one unbound to ancient doctrine.