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Two hundred years before the death of Roger White in 1993, Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsai "arose to dedicate the remaining days of his life to the task" of preparing the way, as one of the two critical precursors of the Baha'i Revelation, "for the advent of a new Manifestation." In the next several years of that fin de siecle he began to write a great deal about the metaphorical nature of the prophecies relating to the birth of a new and independent Revelation of God.
There was a strong poetic strain in the Shakyh's writings: symbolism and metaphor abounded. Shaykh Ahmad was very unorthodox and many "professed themselves incapable of comprehending the meaning of his mysterious allusions." This poetic, symbolic, strand has continued through the writings of the two precursors of the Babi Revelation, the Revelation of the two Manifestations of God and the writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha, all part of what you might call the poetic tradition in the Baha'i Era.
There has been, too, a series of poets beginning with Tahireh in the 1840s, to Na'im late in the nineteenth and early in the twentieth centuries, to George Townshend up to mid-twentieth century and later Robert Hayden, Roger White, Bahiyyih Nahkjavani, John Hatcher and Michael Fitzgerald, among others, who have made important contributions to the literature and commentary on the Cause in a poetic idiom. In some ways it could be said that the passing of Roger White in 1993 marks and end of two centuries of intense and significant poetic writing in a tradition centred on the appearance of two Manifestations of God in the nineteenth century. It is not the purpose of this book or this chapter to describe this long history, this tradition, of poetic influence, of poetic writing. The experience of poetry begins anew with each generation.
Since the first teaching Plan, 1937-1944, poetry written by Baha'is has slowly become a part of world literature, first through Robert Hayden and second through Roger White, the subject of this study. The poetry of White is seen as continuation and development, as part of "the decisive, the most significant, contemporary life of tradition," as poetry critic F.R. Leavis once described the poetry of the present. White should be seen, too, as part of that rich treasure of human life which is now stored within the pale of a new and emerging world religion. White had much of the culture of this embryonic Force, this Movement, fermenting, crystallizing, in his head and it took him on a voyage over the deep of poetry with its delicacy and tenderness, with its inexhaustible resources, infinitely new and striking.