Poetic Revelations: Word Made Flesh Made Word: The Power of the Word III 9781472468307, 9781315600932

This book explores the much debated relation of language and bodily experience (i.e. the 'flesh'), considering

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Table of contents :
Notes on contributors
Introduction: poetry, Incarnation and ‘the wonder of unexpected supply’
PART I Word made Word: poetry and the re-making of the world
1 Poetry human and divine
2 ‘The Word spoke in our words that we might speak in his’: Augustine, the Psalms and the poetry of the incarnate Word
3 The Word of God woven into the poetic word: the idea of Logos in the poetry of George Herbert and Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski
4 ‘Eternity shut in a span’: the Word being born and giving birth in the poetry of Richard Crashaw
5 Elizabeth Jennings and the mysticism of words
PART II Flesh made Word: poetry as the shaping of the self
6 Revelation and inspiration among theologians and poets
7 Word made flesh made word: on the poetic force of Macbeth
8 ‘Like a word still ripening in the silences’: Rainer Maria Rilke and the transformations of poetry
9 The logos of the guess
10 Still-born words and still life worlds in the poetry of T. S. Eliot
PART III Word made flesh: the poem as body enclosed in language
11 Incarnations in the ear: on poetry and presence
12 T. S. Eliot on metaphysical poetry and the case of Prufrock
13 ‘The poem’s muscle, blood and lymph’: David Constantine’s poetic bodies
14 Divine eloquence: R. S. Thomas and the matter of Logos
15 Incarnation and the feminine in David Jones’s In Parenthesis
Epilogue: poetry as vehicle of divine presence
Index of scriptural references
Index of persons
Subject index
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Poetic Revelations

This book explores the much debated relation of language and bodily experience (i.e. the ‘flesh’), considering in particular how poetry functions as revelatory discourse and thus relates to the formal horizon of theological inquiry. The central thematic focus is around a ‘phenomenology of the flesh’ as that which connects us with the world, being the site of perception and feeling, joy and suffering, and of life itself in all its vulnerability. The voices represented in this collection reflect interdisciplinary methods of interpretation and broadly ecumenical sensibilities, focusing attention on such matters as the revelatory nature of language in general and poetic language in particular, the function of poetry in society, the question of Incarnation and its relation to language and the poetic arts, the kenosis of the Word, and human embodiment in relation to the word ‘enfleshed’ in poetry. Mark S. Burrows is Professor of Religion and Literature at the University of Applied Sciences in Bochum, Germany. Recent publications include two volumes of German poetry in translation: Rainer Maria Rilke’s Prayers of a Young Poet (2013) and the German-Iranian poet SAID’s 99 Psalms (2013); a forthcoming volume of his recent poems, The Chance of Home, will be published in 2016. Jean Ward is Professor of English Literature at the Institute of English and American Studies, Gdańsk University, Poland. Her publications include Christian Poetry in the Post-Christian Day: Geoffrey Hill, R. S. Thomas, Elizabeth Jennings (2009) and a translation of Tadeusz Sławek’s monograph Henry David Thoreau – Grasping the Community of the World (2014). Małgorzata Grzegorzewska is Professor of English Literature in the Institute of English Studies, University of Warsaw, Poland. Her most recent book is entitled George Herbert and Post-Phenomenology: A Gift for Our Times (2016).

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Poetic Revelations Word Made Flesh Made Word The Power of the Word III

Edited by Mark S. Burrows, Jean Ward and Małgorzata Grzegorzewska

First published 2017 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2017 selection and editorial matter, Mark S. Burrows, Jean Ward, and Małgorzata Grzegorzewska; individual chapters, the contributors The right of the editors to be identified as the authors of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Names: Burrows, Mark S., 1955– editor. Title: Poetic revelations : word made flesh made word / edited by Mark S. Burrows, Jean Ward, and Malgorzata Grzegorzewska. Description: 1 [edition]. | New York ; London : Routledge, 2016. | Series: The power of the word ; volume 3 | Includes bibliographical references and indexes. Identifiers: LCCN 2016012222 | ISBN 9781472468307 (v. 3 : hardback : alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Religious poetry—History and criticism. | Christian poetry—History and criticism. | Religion and poetry. | Religion in literature. | God in literature. Classification: LCC PN1077 .P5725 2016 | DDC 809.1/9382—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016012222 ISBN: 978-1-4724-6830-7 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-60093-2 (ebk) Typeset in Sabon by Book Now Ltd, London


Notes on contributors Preface Acknowledgements Introduction: poetry, Incarnation and ‘the wonder of unexpected supply’

vii xi xiii




Word made Word: poetry and the re-making of the world


1 Poetry human and divine



2 ‘The Word spoke in our words that we might speak in his’: Augustine, the Psalms and the poetry of the incarnate Word



3 The Word of God woven into the poetic word: the idea of Logos in the poetry of George Herbert and Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski



4 ‘Eternity shut in a span’: the Word being born and giving birth in the poetry of Richard Crashaw



5 Elizabeth Jennings and the mysticism of words ANNA WALCZUK


vi Contents PART II

Flesh made Word: poetry as the shaping of the self


6 Revelation and inspiration among theologians and poets



7 Word made flesh made word: on the poetic force of Macbeth



8 ‘Like a word still ripening in the silences’: Rainer Maria Rilke and the transformations of poetry



9 The logos of the guess



10 Still-born words and still life worlds in the poetry of T. S. Eliot




Word made flesh: the poem as body enclosed in language


11 Incarnations in the ear: on poetry and presence



12 T. S. Eliot on metaphysical poetry and the case of Prufrock



13 ‘The poem’s muscle, blood and lymph’: David Constantine’s poetic bodies



14 Divine eloquence: R. S. Thomas and the matter of Logos



15 Incarnation and the feminine in David Jones’s In Parenthesis



Epilogue: poetry as vehicle of divine presence



Index of scriptural references Index of persons Subject index

246 248 252


David Brown is Wardlaw Professor of Theology, Aesthetics and Culture at the University of St Andrews, having previously held posts at Oxford and Durham. His writings have explored relations between theology and philosophy, with a special focus on matters related to theology and the arts. He is best known for his series of five volumes on this subject, beginning with Tradition and Imagination: Revelation and Change (1999) and concluding with God and Mystery in Words: Experience through Metaphor and Drama (2008). He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2002. Mark S. Burrows is Professor of Religion and Literature at the University of Applied Sciences in Bochum, Germany. He is a medievalist by training, and his academic work focuses on the intersection of mysticism and poetics. His poems and translations have recently appeared in Poetry, 91st Meridian, Anglican Theological Review, Southern Quarterly, Eremos, Tablet, Weavings, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Metamorphoses and Almost Island among others. Recent publications include two volumes of German poetry in translation: Rainer Maria Rilke’s Prayers of a Young Poet (2013) and the German-Iranian poet SAID’s 99 Psalms (2013); a forthcoming volume of his recent poems, The Chance of Home, will be published in 2016. Sir Michael Edwards is a member of the Académie française, Professor at the Collège de France and Honorary Fellow of Christ’s College, University of Cambridge. He is also a poet and writer, in English and in French, and the author of numerous books developing a long reflection on the nature and finality of art, examining painting, music, philosophy, theology and especially European literature from Homer, Ovid and Dante to Geoffrey Hill and Philippe Jaccottet. His books in English include Towards a Christian Poetics (1984), Poetry and Possibility (1988) and Of Making Many Books (1990). Marta Gibińska teaches at the Jozef Tischner European University in Krakow, Poland. Her specialist fields are Shakespeare studies and

viii Contributors translation studies. Her publications include Functioning of Language in Shakespeare’s Plays: A Pragma-dramatic Approach (1989) and Polish Poets Read Shakespeare (2000). She is a member of the Polish Shakespeare Society, Deutsche Shakespearegesellschaft, International Shakespeare Association and European Shakespeare Research Association. Kevin Grove, CSC, is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study, Indiana. Grove received his doctorate in philosophical theology at Trinity College, University of Cambridge and worked as a post-doctoral research fellow at L’Institut Catholique de Paris, France. His academic work concerns memory, Christology, St Augustine and the mediation of religious experience. Grove is a Catholic priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross. Małgorzata Grzegorzewska is Professor of English Literature in the Institute of English Studies, University of Warsaw, Poland. She has published extensively on Shakespeare (her two books in Polish were devoted to the discussion of Shakespeare’s tragedies of revenge and the connections between metaphysical aspects of ancient tragedy and Shakespeare’s drama) and the Metaphysical Poets, as well as on the connections between literature and philosophy (Kierkegaard, Marion, Henry). Her most recent book is entitled George Herbert and Post-Phenomenology: A Gift for Our Times (2016). Sonia Jaworska graduated from the University of Gdańsk and the University of Warsaw, Poland. She received her MA in English Philology from the University of Warsaw. Her master’s thesis investigated spatial relations in C. S. Lewis’s Cosmic Trilogy. In addition to her research and writing interests, she enjoys trekking, travelling, playing the violin and exploring the world of digital media. Francesca Bugliani Knox is a research associate at Heythrop College and Teaching Fellow at University College London. Among her publications are translations into Italian as well as books and articles on various aspects of English and Italian literature from the Renaissance to the present, including The Eye of the Eagle: John Donne and the Legacy of Ignatius Loyola (2011). She was editor, with David Lonsdale, of the first volume in this series, Poetry and the Religious Imagination (2015), and, with John Took, of the second volume, Poetry and Prayer (2015). Her essay ‘Between Fire and Fire: T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land’ recently appeared in Heythrop Journal (2014), and she has contributed to and edited Ronald Knox: A Man for All Seasons. Essays on His Life and Works (2016). Angela Leighton is Professor of English and Senior Research Fellow at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. She has published many critical works on nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature, including, most recently, On Form: Poetry, Aestheticism, and the Legacy of a Word (2007) and Voyages over Voices: Critical Essays on Anne Stevenson

Contributors  ix (2011). In addition, she has published four volumes of poetry, including A Cold Spell (2000), Sea Level (2007) and The Messages (2012). Her most recent collection, Spills (2016), consists of new poetry, memoir, short stories and translations. She is completing a book on literature and sound, as well as another on Walter de la Mare. Bradford William Manderfield is a doctoral student at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, KU Leuven, Belgium. He is a member of the Research Unit of Systematic Theology and the Study of Religions. His dissertation research, ‘Love and the Sublime: A Dialogue of Julian of Norwich and Jean-François Lyotard’, compares Lyotard’s notion of the sublime to Julian’s conception of love. His interests also focus on Lyotard’s conception of the sublime and its function in contemporary theological discourse. Joanna Soćko is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Silesia, Poland. Her research interests embrace postsecular studies, geocriticism and narratology, and she is a keen reader of contemporary Polish and British poetry. Her current work focuses on the poetry of R. S. Thomas. Her articles have appeared in Fa-art journal as well as in several monographs devoted to post-secular thought. She has also translated essays by John Caputo and by Saba Mahmood for a collection of post-secular texts published in Poland, and has taken part in several research projects undertaken at the University of Silesia. Monika Szuba completed her Ph.D. on the subject of strategies of contestation in the novels of contemporary Scottish women authors at Gdańsk University, Poland. She has published several articles on contemporary fiction and poetry, and is co-organizer of the International Literary Festival BETWEEN in Sopot, Poland. She is also co-editor of the between pomiędzy series and one of the founding members of the Textual Studies Research Group as well as the Scottish Studies Research Group at the University of Gdańsk. Her research interests include contemporary British poetry and prose. Richard Viladesau is Professor of Theology at Fordham University, New York. After philosophical studies, he pursued his theological degrees at the Gregorian University in Rome (S.T.L., 1970; S.T.D., 1975). His work centres on philosophical theology in both Christian and non-Christian traditions, and on theological aesthetics. His latest book is The Pathos of the Cross (2014). Anna Walczuk is Associate Professor in the Institute of English Philology of the Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland. Her doctoral dissertation was a comparative study of G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis. She has also published a book on irony in the novels of Muriel Spark. Her academic interests focus upon various modes of using the potential of language to portray social and cultural reality as well as to communicate

x Contributors transcendence. At present her main area of research comprises the dialogue between literature and theology, and concentrates on Christian themes and religious motifs, especially in the poetry of T. S. Eliot and Elizabeth Jennings. Jean Ward is Professor of English Literature at the Institute of English and American Studies of Gdańsk University, Poland. Her research interests include British, Irish and Polish poetry, religious poetry and problems of literary translation. Her study in Polish of the Polish reception of T. S. Eliot’s poetry was published in 2001, and she has edited a collection of critical essays in Polish on incarnational aspects of T. S. Eliot’s poetry (2015). Her publications include Christian Poetry in the Post-Christian Day: Geoffrey Hill, R. S. Thomas, Elizabeth Jennings (2009) and a translation of Tadeusz Sławek’s monograph Henry David Thoreau: Grasping the Community of the World (2014). Krystyna Wierzbicka-Trwoga works at the University of Warsaw, Poland, where she specializes in early modern literature. She received MAs from the Institute of German Studies (2001) and the Faculty of Polish Studies (2004) as well as a Ph.D. (2011) from the University of Warsaw. In 2014 she published, in Polish, her dissertation, Poesis sacra: Three Poetic Cycles of the European Baroque (Angelus Silesius’ Cherubinischer Wandersmann, George Herbert’s The Temple, Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski’s Poezyje Postu Świętego). She is a member of the Polish Comparative Literature Association.


The Power of the Word project, with its aim of fostering conversation among literary scholars, theologians, philosophers and poets, was inaugurated at London’s Heythrop College with an international conference in 2011. This initiative subsequently gave rise to three further conferences, the second also hosted by the University of London in 2012, the third by Gdańsk University (Poland) in 2013 and the most recent by the Pontifical University of St Anselm (Rome) in the summer of 2015. These interdisciplinary conferences, ecumenical in scope, explore connections and disconnections, continuities and discontinuities between religious experience, religious practice, theological reflection, biblical interpretation, ethics and spirituality on the one hand and poetry (not always explicitly religious) on the other. Both theoretical discussion and analysis of specific texts, with reflection on the work of particular authors, poets and thinkers of different countries, cultures and religious traditions, have been welcomed from the outset; and the decision by the Advisory Board to hold the third conference in Poland and the fourth in Italy further confirmed the thoroughly international character of these events, bringing in scholars, particularly from Poland and Italy but from many other countries besides, who had not participated in the earlier conferences. The project has been fortunate in the interest that Ashgate took in it from its inception. This has already borne fruit in two volumes of essays, both published in 2015, which reflect the themes of the first two conferences in London: Poetry and the Religious Imagination: The Power of the Word, edited by Francesca Bugliani Knox and David Lonsdale, based on the inaugural Power of the Word Conference of 2011; and Poetry and Prayer: The Power of the Word II, edited by Francesca Bugliani Knox and John Took, a selection of essays based on papers from the 2012 Conference. The present volume represents the third in this series. It is inspired by the theme of the 2013 Conference held in Gdańsk, ‘Poetry: Word Made Flesh: Flesh Made Word’, and has been shaped by a re-working of some of the original talks and keynote addresses which most directly reflected that theme. The range and quality of papers presented in Gdańsk also made possible a second publication on a related theme which emerged in the course of the Conference. This recently appeared as Breaking the Silence: Poetry and the

xii Preface Kenotic Word, edited by Małgorzata Grzegorzewska, Jean Ward and Mark Burrows (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2015). A third volume of essays inspired by the Gdańsk Conference, on motifs of spirit and flesh in Polish poetry from the Baroque era to the present day, is forthcoming from Gdańsk University Press. The specific focus of the 2013 conference reflected the currently much debated relation of language and bodily experience with regard to both the theological concept of the Incarnation and the broader perspective of the phenomenology of flesh as that which connects us with the world, being the site of perception and feeling, joy and suffering, and of life itself in all its vulnerability. This focus evoked an inspiring range of responses, many interdisciplinary in method and approach, drawing on poets from antiquity to late modernity as well as theologians and philosophers whose work engages these matters. Certain themes received persistent attention: the nature of language as revelatory; the function of poetry in society; the question of incarnation and its relation to language and the poetic arts; the kenosis of the Word; and, finally, human embodiment in relation to the word ‘enfleshed’ in poetry. In the arrangement of essays for the present volume, we sought to capture the spirit of deeply engaged conversation and debate around these themes that characterized sessions at that conference. To reflect this, the book is divided into sections, each led by one of the keynote addresses of this conference, which sound the major themes that occupied our attention during these days; these are followed by four essays whose authors engaged this lead essay in order to deepen the conversation initiated in Gdańsk. The approach we have chosen, we hope, will also reach beyond the confines of the book, inviting the reader’s response.


The editors of Poetic Revelations: Word Made Flesh Made Word would like to thank Heythrop College and the Institute of English Studies, University of London for help in the organization of the third International Power of the Word Conference in 2013. Special thanks are due to Gdańsk University for organizing and hosting this event, on which the chapters in this volume are based, and to Heythrop College Research Committee and Gdańsk University for financial support for the conference. We are grateful in particular to the Dean of the Faculty of Languages of Gdańsk University, Andrzej Ceynowa, for his warm support for the event. We thank the Ashgate staff who began the long process leading to publication of this volume, and particularly Sarah Lloyd and David Shervington for their courteous and kind assistance. The transitions that led to this volume’s appearing with Routledge were as smooth as could have been imagined. We are grateful to Lindsey Brake for her expert copyediting; to Richard Cook, project manager of Book Now Ltd., who prepared the completed manuscript for print; and, in the final phase of editorial work with Routledge, to Alexandra Simmons, Joshua Wells, Matthew Twigg as well as to Jack Boothroyd, who oversaw the last phase of production. Above all, we thank Francesca Bugliani Knox for initiating the Power of the Word project, for her vision, generosity, constant help and unflagging zeal.

Permissions The editors gratefully acknowledge permission to reproduce copyright poems in this book: Extracts from the poetry of David Constantine are reprinted by permission of the author. Extracts from the poetry of Elizabeth Jennings are reprinted by permission of Georgia Glover for David Higham Literary, Film and TV Agents.

xiv Acknowledgements Extracts from David Jones’ In Parenthesis are reprinted by permission of Faber and Faber and the Trustees of the David Jones Estate. Extracts from the poetry of R. S. Thomas, copyright Elodie Thomas 2002, are reprinted by permission of Gwydion Thomas. Grateful thanks to Carcanet Press for permission to quote ‘From Where We Live on Presence’ and ‘Bats’ Ultrasound’, from Les Murray, Collected Poems (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1998, 392–393, 368) – all rights reserved.

Introduction Poetry, Incarnation and ‘the wonder of unexpected supply’ Mark S. Burrows

The title of this volume, Poetic Revelations, would surprise neither poets nor their readers. After all, we expect from good poems something other than a mere informing, and nothing less than a certain kind of revealing. We turn to them hoping they will disclose something essential about our lives and the world we inhabit. At their best, they steer us into deeper comprehensions of what we sometimes blithely call ‘reality’, reminding us that what is crucial in poems is not simply what they mean but how they mediate meaning within us, how they reveal something we might sense without having found a way to put it into words. In their revelatory nature, they often startle us by means of utterly ordinary words shaped by the poet in unexpected ways, steering or luring us toward that longed-for experience of insight. The opening line of Seamus Heaney’s ‘Sunlight’ is a case in point. The opening words, ‘There was…’, are commonplace, even dull, but the texture of the line shifts immediately with the words that follow: ‘There was a sunlit absence’ (ix). With such an opening, Heaney strings together five common words, yet arranges them to say something enigmatic and startling. What could it mean, we wonder, to speak of a sunlit absence? The poem lures us into the puzzle conveyed by this strange metaphor, one we cannot quite sort out at first glance. In the hands of a master like Heaney, the unobserved details of ordinary life collide with our expectations, producing within us that impulse of thought that alerts us to something we had not yet considered. In poems like this, as Christian Wiman recently put it in reflecting on Heaney’s legacy, ‘physical things acquire a porousness as if human life, and more than human life, were suddenly streaming through them’ (10). This sense of being startled into a sensory presence in a poem that begins with a terse musing on absence points to the revelatory power of poetry. We turn to poems because something in us delights in such moments of ‘startelement’, unsettling within us as they do our habits of complacence. They serve as an antidote to the diminished expectations that too often dull us to the plenitude present in our lives, offering bursts of seeing that awaken a sense of new and renewing vision within us. What Heaney accomplishes in this poem, at once simple and complex, points to significant meaning that can be discerned in the most ordinary

2  Mark S. Burrows and overlooked of things – here, observations of a farmyard with its clutter of equipment and tools and, later, the kitchen where the poet’s aunt is busy with the daily baking. In two short scenes, we come to glimpse a particular moment – in this case, a snapshot of labour undertaken in ‘each long afternoon’. We have never been in this place, and yet recognize something essential in it amid the gathered silence that inhabits the barnyard and kitchen of an Irish farmhouse, with scones rising before their baking and the stillness broken only by the steady ticking of two unseen clocks. At each turn in this poem, one senses an incremental revealing of life’s abundance, as if some particular dimension of the world – the poet’s and ours as well – wants to be noted and spoken. Heaney reveals the scene to us slowly, steadily, with only a handful of images, each phrase in each line urging us forward and inward as the poet leads us into the inner texture of this scene. As the poem reaches its final stanza, which begins ‘And here is love’, we dimly recall the blunt force and baffling image of the opening line, and only now see that it had already anticipated an unfolding, an opening, even a confession of sorts. The revelatory nature of poetry triggers what Robert Frost once described as a sense of ‘initial delight in the surprise of remembering something [we] didn’t know [we] knew’ (777). In fact, we were never there where the poet places us, and yet recognize the place as our own through the way the poet reveals particular details, embodied moments seen in a certain manner, scenes recreated with attention to some particular aspect. How does a poem like this ‘happen’ in the poet? By what means does it then, in its revealing, also come to happen in us as readers? Such questions cannot be answered in an abstract way. And, strangely, they seem to occur to us and in us as we discover something essential about our own life, our own world, as the poet reveals the poem. ‘Step by step’, as Frost went on to say in describing the poet’s process, ‘the wonder of unexpected supply keeps growing’, and we understand that he means this to describe the poet’s work as well as the reader’s. It is the ‘supply’ poems offer, their revelatory power, that keeps bringing us back to read them, deepening as they do our sense of meaning in our lives and the lives of others, thereby enlarging the ways we inhabit the world we share with the poet. The ‘wonder of unexpected supply’ is what a poem like Heaney’s ‘Sunlight’ offers, whether or not we have ever held in our hands a ‘helmeted pump in the yard’ or ‘a tinsmith’s scoop’. The presence of this poem, against the grain of the opening line with its mention of ‘sunlit absence’, brings us to look at the familiar world close to us with a similar care and respect: ‘here is a space / again’, Heaney writes, describing the scene as the scones made by the unnamed woman – whom we know to be his aunt, but it could equally be someone we know ourselves – wait while the yeast silently brings the dough to rise. As readers fortunate to find poems as good as this, we sense the inner presence in such moments, whatever the outer sense of absence, which seems to be revealed not so much to us as in us. This is the way we

Introduction  3 come again and again, in and through such poems, to an awareness that reveals something important and abiding within us, making us aware of a certain plenitude in the world which we come to sense through the attentive language a poet employs. Such a revealing suggests how it is that a poem brings us to – or into – meaning. But such a revealing of meaning in and through words remains a gain immanent to our human experience. How, if at all, is human language fraught with such significance related to ‘the Word’? To pose this question, at least in late modernity, raises a host of questions, which might variously be greeted as vehicles or obstacles to understanding, depending on one’s theological point of view. On the positive side, Christian theologians from antiquity to the later Middle Ages borrowed the philosophical categories of Neoplatonism to construe a continuum between the ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’, since they understood the logos, or ‘Word’, as a transcendent intelligence creating human language and meaning and imbuing words with the capacity to reach beyond themselves. Augustine (d. 430) thus describes his conversion to Christianity not in terms of an abrupt change but rather as a realization of the ‘weakness’ displayed in the Incarnation, by means of which God, the ‘Word’ as ‘eternal truth … built for himself in the inferior realm a humble dwelling place from our clay’ (verbum enim tuum, aeterna veritas … in inferioribus autem aedificavit sibi humilem domum de limo nostro; see Confessiones VII.xviii [25]; my translation). For Augustine and the long tradition of western theology that followed his lead, the sense of order conveyed by Neoplatonic metaphysics stood as a reliable structure for matters of communication between the human and divine realms. In this regard, the doctrine of the Incarnation with its descending pattern – summarized in the claim Verbum caro factum est (‘The Word was made flesh’, Jn. 1:14) – became the modus operandi for the ladder of ascending knowledge, beginning with the ‘lower’ realm of inferior things and leading up to the ‘higher’ realm of divine truth. Human language for Augustine was thus the ongoing instrumentality of this ascent, based on the reversal of this hierarchy in the ‘descent’ of the Word into human flesh so that this Word might offer itself in and through the ‘clay’ of human language. He concludes, in a characteristically elegant rhetorical argument, that this divine self-humiliation enables us, despite our weakness, to ascend from our lowliness, for ‘in our weariness we prostrate ourselves in [the enfleshed Word], which rises and lifts us up’ again to God (et lassi prosternerentur in eam, illa autem surgens levaret eos; Confessiones VII.xviii [25]). For Augustine, the incarnation of the Word is the divine means of affirming and ultimately overcoming our weakness, precisely by entering into it in order to take it up and thereby elevate it – and us. In this sense, the divine Word enters the realm of human words, making it possible for words to be raised up again: Word becomes flesh (or ‘enfleshed’ word) becomes word (or ‘inspirited’ word). Within the resilient tradition of Christian Neoplatonism, a shaping force in western theology until the dawn of modernity, few put the matter as

4  Mark S. Burrows boldly as John Scotus Eriugena when he claimed that ‘theology is in a certain sense poetry (theologia veluti quaedam poetria), because it teaches – as does the latter – by means of an imaginative fiction (fictis imaginationibus)’ (146). His use of the word ‘fiction’ here, uncontroversial in Neoplatonic discourse, is precisely what prompted some theologians in later modernity to bristle at the notion of placing poetry and theology on an equal plane, insisting as they did that a chasm separated the two; we shall return to this point in a moment. What we mean when we speak of poetic revelations here is not an attempt to reassert such an identity, but to consider more precisely exactly what Eriugena meant when he described poetry as a form of ‘fiction’. For the word ‘fiction’, from a Latin root meaning ‘to make’ – with its Greek counterpart the word poïesis – shaped later notions of ‘fiction’ as these came to be understood in modernity. This shift began already in the later Middle Ages when the old French word ficcion had come to mean an ‘invention’ or ‘fabrication’, a meaning that carried into modern usage to suggest something unreal, imagined or ‘made up’. When Eriugena introduced theology as poetry ‘in a certain sense’, what he was pointing to was the manner in which poetry, dealing with ‘imaginative fictions’, worked to disclose meaning not directly through reasoned argument but rather indirectly through the play of metaphor and image. That is, poetry sought to disclose meaning through embodied language; it was not a conveying of ‘fact’ but closer to what we would think of as the construction of story. It was, to recall Heaney’s description, a kind of ‘digging’, not as an archaeologist might search for buried objects but rather like a kind of ‘looking for finds that end up being plants’ (Preoccupations 41). Does theology, in its own way a ‘dig’ for treasure, have a purpose any different than this? Such a way of approaching poetry – and, for that matter, theology ‘as in a sense poetry’ – need not presume that it is, as a literary form, one and the same as truths of Christian revelation. But neither is it to retreat, in the other direction, to a blunt notion of poetry as a quaint or foolish undertaking that has to do with what is merely human. The parallel, at its best, suggests how poetry is a kind of ‘divination’, as Heaney went on to put it, which he explained ‘as revelation of the self to the self, as restoration of the culture to itself’ (Preoccupations 41). Through such revelations ‘the wonder of unexpected supply keeps growing’ in and through a poem’s way of ‘making sense’. In this sense, poetry and theology join in revealing something essential to us, about ourselves and our world. While it is doubtful that such an argument, even if stripped of its Neoplatonic framework, would find much resonance among literary critics in late modernity, the imprint of this circularity – namely, that the ‘Word becomes flesh becomes word’ – remains with us, at least among the poets explored in the essays collected here. Despite considerable differences of style and form, they seem to agree in accepting the conviction that meaning as shaped in and through language is porous, allowing us to speak through it – in the midst of its finitude and fluidity – toward an ultimate meaning

Introduction  5 which earlier theologians attributed to the logos or Word. This is already a more modest ambition than Augustine or Scotus wagered in their day, no longer rooted in the assumption that the Word speaks through our words. But even given this retreat, the legacy of such a claim – at least as a metaphor for how understanding functions – still remains with us, and poets are among those who assume such a continuum, if not formally then at least in their presumption that finite meaning is vulnerable to higher insight. Here, one might go so far as to widen Eriugena’s claim to suggest that poetry, ‘in a certain sense’, could be viewed as a form of knowing akin to theology. That is, even if poets would rarely claim to contribute to what we have come to call ‘revelation’ proper, many among those examined here presume some manner of connection. Heaney’s startling claim, in the final stanza, which moves the concreteness of the scenes described to a deeper level of meaning, ‘digs’ in this direction: ‘And here is love…’. One might go even further in saying that poetry’s capacity to point to and even establish such a continuum of meaning – from ‘Word’ to ‘flesh’ to ‘word’ – suggests a crucial dimension of its revelatory powers, and this is surely one of the chief reasons we return to poems that can transport us in such a way. Poet and essayist Jane Hirshfield points in this direction when she claims that ‘one of art’s most mysterious by-gifts is the increase of reach’ (273). In this ‘certain sense’ it is revelatory, disclosing to us through language what lies in and yet at the same time beyond ‘ordinary’ experience, and in so doing revealing to us something essential in us. Such revelatory power happens by means of the ‘imaginative fiction’ of language, moving us to encounter vestiges of the divine not in spite of but rather precisely through the plenitude that belongs to words. This power of poems, by which we experience them ‘as elements of continuity’ (Heaney, Preoccupations 41), gives us a sense of the ‘flesh’ as carrying a transcendent dimension, carrying us to that verge of meaning where we sense a larger whole in the midst of the fragments of our experience. If all this needs no justification among poets and their readers, the circularity of this logic – that is, of the Word becoming flesh becoming word – has not met with criticism by secular literary critics alone. A strong theological tradition in modernity came to view such a claim with caution if not distrust, ascribing to dogmatic convictions that exalted revelation as distinct from ‘human’ forms of knowing, including that conveyed in poetry. This opposition brought together otherwise unlikely allies: leading voices of the anti-modernist movement led by Pope Pius IX (d. 1914), which elevated theology as the ‘science’ of transcendent truth over merely ‘immanent’ forms of knowledge, found common cause in the theology of Karl Barth (d. 1968) and the Protestant movement influenced by his thought which came to be known as ‘Neoorthodoxy’. Such theologians sought to distinguish ‘revelation’ as a special category transcendent to human knowledge, literary or otherwise, insisting that the former had priority over the latter in terms of both its origin and its purpose.

6  Mark S. Burrows To speak of poetic ‘revelations’, as these essays do, moves in a quite different direction. These studies focus on poets, many but not all from the period of modernity, who turned from or simply ignored such theological or philosophical unease which limited the ‘reach’ of poetry. Their presumptions and practices agreed with Jeanette Winterson’s apt reminder that ‘the fiction, the poem, is not a version of the facts, it is an entirely different way of seeing’ (28). But such a claim, ambitious in its own way, does not yet clarify what way of seeing this is. If a poem is ‘revelatory’, what form of revelation does it offer? Is this simply to suggest that poems ‘dig’ up insight or meaning into human existence, and thus remain ‘immanent’ to our natural experience, or does it go further to engage the question of transcendence, at least as such theologians have understood ‘revelation’ to entail, in and through the ‘natural’? When we say that poems ‘reveal’ an essential kind of knowing, we are saying little more but also nothing less than that they enlarge our awareness, and carry us to understandings we might have sensed without being able to express. Thus, Wallace Stevens, dismissing every claim of transcendence outright, could claim that poetry has to do with ‘the imagination of life’, by which he means to suggest how ‘a poem is a particular of life thought of for so long that one’s thought has become an inseparable part of it or a particular of life so intensely felt that the feeling has entered into it’ (684). He goes on to illustrate this by describing what happens when we look at something like the ‘blue sky’ as if for the first time, such that we ‘not merely see it, but look at it and experience it and for the first time have a sense that we live in the center of a physical poetry, a geography that would be intolerable except for the non-geography that exists there’ (684). But what exactly does Stevens mean in speaking of the ‘non-geography that exists’ within the ‘geography’ of such poetry? For him, the work of poetry points to what he called ‘the imagination of life’, and by this he meant a way of seeing or being in the world in which ‘a particular of life is so intensely felt that the feeling has entered into it’, such that it comes to reveal what he calls the ‘world of [our] own thoughts and … feelings’ (684). When we make such a discovery ourselves, or ‘remember’ it when we encounter a poem, we come to know something distinct and important, not merely about the world we inhabit but rather, in and through this ‘physical poetry’, about our very selves. We find something ‘revealed’ in us, ‘something’ that might even reveal itself through us in our poetry if not in our very lives. Within the orbit of this circularity, the word becomes flesh becomes word. Augustine sees in this pattern a means by which our ‘languaged’ experience enters into the logic of the Incarnation, for ‘in our weariness we prostrate ourselves in [the word], which rises and lifts us up’. Such seeing, such attending or ‘musing’, in the poetic sense of this word, reveals something at once particular and shared, something very close to us and yet not confined to the peculiarities of our perception. It opens us to what Stevens quite deliberately restricted to ‘the world of [our] own

Introduction  7 thoughts and the world of [our] own feelings’, but just as surely – at least as the long tradition following Augustine would remind us – invites us into a larger communion with the thoughts and feelings, perceptions and ideas, experiences and expressions of others, and perhaps that of the divine. In this particular sense, the poem’s revelations edge close at least to the realm that theologians have reserved for revelation ‘proper’, not in the sense of firm intellectual knowledge, but in terms of a certain kind of knowing that has to do with ‘feelings and emotions’, as Heaney put it, and in this sense ‘the poem … must not submit to the intellect’s eagerness to foreclose’ but rather ‘must wait for a music to occur, an image to discover itself’ (Government 92). Poems offer a kind of revealing that ‘enlarges’ us, as Jane Hirshfield puts it, since they, like all good art, offer us what she describes as ‘an experiment whose hoped-for outcome is an expanded knowing’. In just this sense, good poems offer us an experience she describes as ‘an enlargement of being, the slowed and deepened breath that comes with the release of fixed ideas for the more complex real’ (Hirshfield 33). Such poems are revelatory in guiding us toward this ‘more complex real’, not by forcing an insight upon us but rather by helping release us from the ‘fixed ideas’ that diminish us. For this reason, as Hirshfield concludes, the art of poetry ‘lives in what it awakens in us’, and is revelatory not in some general sense but rather in the ways it lives in us. On this account poets in an earlier age were considered as ‘seers’, offering an inspired kind of vision that sees things in a deeper way than others. Once again, we find ourselves edging toward the ancient Neoplatonic continuum that Augustine offered as an inheritance to the West, though translated here from a metaphysical framework to the kind of knowing that emerges from the physical arena of our lives. Heaney speaks of this as the power vested in poets, from antiquity, ‘to open unexpected and unedited communications between our nature and the nature of the reality we inhabit’, and in this ‘revision of the Platonic schema’, as he calls it, ‘art is not an inferior reflection of some ordained heavenly sphere but a rehearsal of it in earthly terms: art does not trace the map of a better reality but improvises an inspired sketch of it’ (Government 94–95) Such poets might speak of these ‘elements of continuity’ (Heaney, Preoccupations 41) differently than Augustine had done, perhaps without recourse to Neoplatonist metaphysics, but the thrust of their assumptions points to a continuity of meaning between the finite and, if not the ‘eternal’, then surely what Hirshfield describes as the ‘more complex real’ (33) in our lives. On the strength of such a premise, we might think of poetic revelations as ‘in a sense theology’, even to the point of standing in a ‘certain’ relation to the formal theological category of revelation, as this has been understood within the arc of an ancient and enduring Christian tradition. Such wonderings lie at the heart of the essays collected in this volume, suggesting as they do how poets and theologians, in various ways and across a wide cultural spectrum, approached poetry as an enlarging form of

8  Mark S. Burrows knowing. The authors of these chapters – all contributors to the third ‘Power of the Word’ conference, this one held at the University of Gdańsk (Poland) in September, 2013 – include theologians and philosophers, poets and teachers of literature, among them British, continental European and North American scholars. Devoted to the theme ‘Poetry – Word Made Flesh: Flesh Made Word’, each chapter explores how poems could be understood as revelatory, and how poetry and theology in their distinct ways contribute to ‘an enlargement of being’. Despite their form as literary-critical or criticaltheological (or -philosophical) essays, they also evoke something of ‘the slowed and deepened breath’ that helps to release us from the ‘fixed ideas’ for what Hirshfield calls ‘the more complex real’ (33). Inevitably, this finds expression in myriad and not always complementary ways; such, after all, is the nature of intellectual inquiry, and surely also a measure of the complexity of this theme. Some of these essays take theology or philosophy as their primary entry into the discourse of poetics, while others begin with literary texts in order to suggest how these sources are, if not theology ‘in a sense’ at least, then surely spiritually alert and theologically engaged. Both, in other words, work in the fertile intersection of theology and literature, exploring the borderlands where the human and divine meet. In both cases, if in quite varied ways, these studies explore the pattern by which the word became – and becomes – flesh, and how this, in turn, becomes ‘word’ again. And if, as in Augustine’s case, this could be seen in terms of the Neoplatonic pattern of descent and ascent, modern poets continue to frame this movement through experience into language, sometimes even as in the case of Frost describing this as what he called ‘the wonder of unexpected supply’ (777). Is such an approach not finally something like a secular variant of an earlier theological tradition? Perhaps. This surmising seems at least close to the poets, theologians and philosophers whose work these essays take up, and animates in quite varied ways the writers whose essays comprise this volume. Yet if we might think of this as an ‘incarnational poetic’, this would reflect the humility of Eliot’s claim, in ‘The Dry Salvages’, when he spoke of the Incarnation as ‘the hint half-guessed, the gift half-understood’. It is our hope that these essays, in the ways they engage the revelatory power of the poetic, will contribute something important to our sense of this ‘hint’ and encourage in us our reception of this ‘gift’. *** Each of the three main sections of this volume together with the concluding essay by Professor David Brown were invited keynote addresses at the third ‘Power of the Word’ conference. The essays gathered in each of these three sections, joined by a common thematic interest, enter into explicit conversation with the lead essays. The essays collected in Part I, ‘Word made Word: poetry and the re-making of the world’, explore what it means that the poetic ‘word’ fashions the world in revelatory ways, suggesting a

Introduction  9 plenitude of meaning in the midst of often ambiguous occurrences. The lead essay by Sir Michael Edwards examines the question of ‘Poetry human and divine’, suggesting that speech is both what connects God and humanity, as recounted in the biblical drama of creation, and what separates us: ‘God’s creation of the world in speech is beyond our understanding, as is the relation between the book of life and our own man-made books’, he reminds us, going on to suggest that poetry exists ‘in part to reveal the sound of sense, the rhythm of meaning, the profundities of language that relate it to bodies full of mind and to a reality vibrating with logos, with intelligence’. The poetic word bears the power of the Word becoming flesh, an echoing of a past event (Incarnation) that leans toward a future consummation. In this sense, the Word calls poets and artists, according to Edwards, ‘to recreate the world as best [we] can, with a view to the infinitely more glorious Recreation to come’. How the Incarnation relates to the ‘making’ of language which we know as poetry is what occupies each of the four chapters included in Part I. In ‘“The Word spoke in our words that we might speak in his”: Augustine, the Psalms and the poetry of the incarnate Word’, Kevin Grove, CSC, takes up Edwards’s suggestion that we consider the ‘permeability of our world, though fallen, to another’, taking as his test case Augustine’s reading of the Psalms. He argues the Psalms ‘helped Augustine see not only that this world was permeable to another, but also that he was being led and shaped – he preferred “transfigured” – by that other. The “other”, of course, was Christ.’ As he goes on to suggest, the poetry of the Psalms, at least as Augustine understands it, ‘moves us to a speech of the heart that is beyond spoken words’, one that is a kind of transfiguration. Grove concludes by suggesting how, for Augustine, the reality of our being ‘in Christ’ points to how ‘both the broken utterance and the unutterable were not effaced but transfigured’. Krystyna Wierzbicka-Trwoga’s essay, ‘The Word of God woven into the poetic word: the idea of Logos in the poetry of George Herbert and Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski’, takes this theme up in relation to poems by Herbert and Lubomirski, arguing that both presumed a connection between the divine logos and human language – and, above all, its expression in poetry. How it is that poets utilize words to ‘convey’ the divine Word was a preoccupation both shared. In their poems, each suggests how our speech is meant to ‘awaken love’ in the reader’s heart, and thus lead them on their journey into the mystery of God – in, through and finally beyond language. Sonia Jaworska turns to the poet Richard Crashaw in ‘“Eternity shut in a span”: the Word being born and giving birth in the poetry of Richard Crashaw’, suggesting how Crashaw viewed the divine Word as having ‘created the abundant world, including the reality of language, while poets’ words try to present this Word in its own abundance, and in terms of the abundance of the world’. Her interest falls particularly on how Crashaw interprets the flesh as the locus where divine and human love meet, exploring

10  Mark S. Burrows this in terms of the erotic as the experience of ‘wooing and love-making’, parenthood and child-rearing and, finally, ‘God’s bountiful name’. In all such modes of human experience, we come to see how the human relationship with God is ‘intimate, tender, passionate, and full of mutual love, delight, sacrifice and care’. In the final chapter in this section, ‘Elizabeth Jennings and the mysticism of words’, Anna Walczuk probes Edwards’s notion that poetic language is part of human language, ‘with all the limitations and the potential of its rhetorical resources’, while also deriving its power from ‘intimations of the Word’ such that our speech ‘gives onto a world transcending ours’, as Edwards suggests. In the case of Jennings’s poetry, Walczuk explores how ‘poetry itself, by virtue of its use of words, [is] predisposed to participate in the mystical communion with the divine principle of being, encompassing both time and eternity’, and thus carries within itself what she describes as a ‘“transfigurative” power’ by which human speech comes to bear witness to – by participating in – the divine Word. This ‘common fountainhead of poetry and mysticism’ comprises for Jennings an intense experience of transcendence, in the language of poetry as in poetic practice itself. Here, too, we find a poet drawing on the teaching of the logos to establish what Walczuk sees as a ‘mystical’ link between the divine and the human, since the very nature of language participates in the divine reality which is transcendent and yet immanent in and through human words – and, in a heightened manner, in poetic language. In Part II, ‘Flesh made Word: poetry as the shaping of the self’, we find this interest carried in another direction to consider how the poetic word participates in shaping human identity – ‘in, with, and under’ the Word, to recall Luther’s way of describing the divine presence in the Eucharist. The lead essay in this section, by Richard Viladesau, explores the theme of ‘Revelation and inspiration among theologians and poets’. His interest is in suggesting the connections that relate (or unite) poetic and theological conceptions of revelation and inspiration, drawing on modern understandings of evolution to suggest how the theological understanding of the Incarnation ‘intersects significantly’, to his mind, ‘with poetry and poetic creativity’. Viladesau draws on the Hindu notion of the avatars of Vishnu to suggest what is distinctive in this doctrine, since Christian theology confines the incarnational power of the divine to the single instance of the Word becoming flesh in Jesus the Christ. And yet this power extends outward into the world, a point he illumines by calling upon the poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies. Here, he finds ‘the idea of a “natural” dynamism toward God, combined with the affirmation of the actual gift of divine grace, establishes the basis for an evolutionary and historical theology of revelation’. Finally, he turns to the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova to suggest how it is that ‘the Act of making’ can be understood as ‘the veiled Muse of creative art and poetry’ as is the case in her poem ‘The Muse’. In this sense, one might construe with Akhmatova, he suggests, a link between the theological

Introduction  11 notion of ‘inspiration’ and the force of this in the poet’s work. The chapters that follow in this section probe this possibility with reference to a range of poets, from Shakespeare and Rilke to Eliot, with a long side-glance at the Irish philosopher William Desmond, whose work takes up this question in terms of the phenomenology of ‘guessing’. In the first chapter in this section, ‘Word made flesh made word: on the poetic force of Macbeth’, Marta Gibińska considers at the outset Viladesau’s suggestion that ‘humanity has an “obediential” capacity to be raised above itself’, interpreting this to point to what she sees as ‘a [human] capacity which is essentially open to the mystery of God’ and thus related to ‘our poetic capacity’. Her broad focus on the theatre probes what it means in a dramatic performance that the ‘word’ of the playwright ‘becomes flesh’ on the stage – and, importantly, for the audience (or readers of a play, as the case might be). Drawing on Jean-Luc Marion’s distinction of ‘flesh’ as the ‘essence of self’ and thus the internal ‘sense’ of what it is to be human, she suggests how it is that a play takes ‘form’ in the performance, whether within a reader or among members of an audience. To explain this point, she rehearses the vivid scene leading up to Macbeth’s deadly act, and thus how ‘the actor must give the words much more than body’ by ‘mak[ing] the words become flesh’. She steers her discussion toward a final claim that the performance of a play like Macbeth suggests how ‘the flesh can take body, can appear in human words whose desire is to reach back to God’, an event that she describes as an epiphany. In ‘“Like a word still ripening in the silences”: Rainer Maria Rilke and the transformations of poetry’, Mark S. Burrows discusses how Rilke’s imaginative poïesis ‘makes the world’, as the poet put it, offering an instance of Viladesau’s notion of an ‘ontological openness [which] is closely related to our poetic capacity’. Burrows sets the framework for interpreting Rilke’s view of the poetic by drawing on Gaston Bachelard’s phenomenology of the dream, pointing to how images not only take shape within us, but come to ‘shape us’ in the act of the poet’s and reader’s imagining. For poetry, as Rilke experienced it, becomes the means of ‘sensing something of the “whole” of which we experience only broken parts, glimpsing at best fragments or “moments” from the larger patterns of our lives’. Poetry reflects the transformations that occur in us above all through the power of the images we carry – and poets are those who offer us such transformative images, returning us to Viladesau’s notion of an ‘obediential capacity’ that we carry within us. Bradford William Manderfield’s essay on the Irish philosopher William Desmond explores what he calls ‘The logos of the guess’. Taking as his point of departure Viladesau’s discussion of how the logos supports a view of the human experience of inspiration, Manderfield suggests – as a philosopher rooted in phenomenology – that the human act of guessing stands as an instance of this, an example of what Viladesau calls the ‘ascending model’ of the Incarnation. ‘The indeterminate nature of the Incarnation as a theological

12  Mark S. Burrows “object” of faith’, Manderfield suggests, ‘requires an indeterminate faculty like guessing’. To probe this claim, he draws on Desmond’s notions of ‘equivocity’, ‘univocity’ and ‘suffering’ as categories that clarify what constitutes the guess and how its function might have a bearing on theological argument and poetic practice. On the basis of Desmond’s approach to equivocal thinking, Manderfield suggests why the guess is the most fitting means of approaching a reality ‘as indeterminate as the Incarnation’, a form of what he calls ‘new-knowing’ – an instance of what the Apostle Paul, in the opening of his First Letter to the Corinthians, describes as God’s ‘foolishness’. Finally, in ‘Still-born words and still life worlds in the poetry of T. S. Eliot’, Małgorzata Grzegorzewska explores what she describes as the ‘woundedness’ of speech, its means of ‘carrying’ a memory of the Incarnation but in a manner that leaves us with the ‘struggle with words and silence’, as the poet Eliot put it. Her approach considers Eliot’s treatment of this theme from the early ‘Gerontion’ to the late Four Quartets. She, too, draws on Viladesau’s emphasis on the ‘ascending’ view of the Incarnation, by which theologians spoke of the ‘flesh’ being ‘made word’, setting the ‘glory’ of Resurrection and Ascension within the frame of the kenosis, or ‘emptying’, of the divine birth in human flesh. Exploring elaborations on this theme among theologians of late antiquity, Grzegorzewska traces how Eliot follows a similar course, refusing – already in his early work – to cast the birth of the Word in ‘a falsely sentimentalized pastoral mode’. This discussion moves from what she describes as ‘The word within a word’ in Eliot’s early writings to the subtle manner in which the poet comes to see the mystery of the Incarnation in his later writings as an instance when ‘the silence of the Cross finishes the mission of the Word made flesh’. In this sense, we come to ‘the Word without a word’, since at the crucifixion the divine Word enters another silence, one Grzegorzewska finds mirrored in the Quartets by Eliot’s suggestion that here words reach ‘the other side of speech: the silence and stillness beyond time’. Part III, ‘Word made flesh: the poem as body enclosed in language’, opens with Angela Leighton’s ‘Incarnations in the ear: on poetry and presence’. Here, she wonders, following the peculiar logic implied in the subtitle to this collection, whether ‘the relation of theology and poetry [might] be reversible, and thus circular’? Drawing on a wide range of playwrights, poets and theologians in her exploration of the ‘sounding’ of words in poetry, she focuses on the prominence of hearing among the empirical senses, wondering whether ‘the work of the ear’, though ‘the least provable of the senses’, might be ‘for that very reason the most faithful conveyor of presence’. She tests this case by turning to the poems of the Australian writer Les Murray, suggesting how it is that ‘[his] God is not out there, attending to poems like an imaginary external audience, an answer to a plea, but is in them, like a verbal instance of the thing itself – an incarnated presence’. She takes us into the intricacies of Murray’s imagined world, where, in our poetizing and in our listening to the sounds poems make, we find ourselves drawing nearer

Introduction  13 to what the poet once described as ‘a rare ear, our aery Yahweh’. Here, the poet does not presume the divine presence in and through language, but leans toward it through the sounding of words, convinced as he is that ‘[r]eligions are poems’ which ‘concert / our daylight and dreaming mind, our / emotions, instinct, breath and native gesture / into the only whole thinking: poetry’. This is the theme that the chapters in this section take up and explore with a view to poets as diverse as T. S. Eliot, David Constantine, R. S. Thomas and David Jones. In ‘T. S. Eliot on metaphysical poetry and the case of Prufrock’, Francesca Bugliani Knox traces the development in Eliot of his notion of poetry as ‘sensuous thought’, from his early essays in literary criticism to the later Clark Lectures of 1926. She then turns to a close reading of his ‘Prufrock’, suggesting through a layered reading of this early poem how Eliot sought already in his early writings to align himself with the tradition of metaphysical poetry, which he would later describe as ‘true philosophical poetry’. She suggests, against the grain of Pound’s dismissal of this work as ‘the quintessence of futility’, that it ‘signals Eliot’s sensitivity towards higher truth’. In the final section of her essay, she suggests what Eliot understood as ‘metaphysical poetry’ – or the ‘word made flesh’ – in his own work, which he understood as having the capacity to ‘elevat[e] sense for a moment to regions ordinarily attainable only by abstract thought’ and ‘on the other hand cloth[e] the abstract, for a moment, with all the painful delight of flesh’. Here, though, Eliot sought to distinguish mysticism and poetry, for the latter is shaped by a form of creativity that, ‘at its best, like that of Dante, can lead readers to the threshold of the mystery; but it cannot carry them over that threshold’. The argument, or rather the poem, points toward the Word in the ways it descends into ‘flesh’ and signals, at least, an ascent which we await in hope. Monika Szuba turns our attention to the contemporary Lancashire poet David Constantine in ‘“The poem’s muscle, blood and lymph”: David Constantine’s poetic bodies’. His poetry lingers in ‘liminality’, as Szuba suggests, mingling the realms of the corporeal and spiritual which we often keep quite separate; here, plants and animals, humans and angels freely mix, and such intermingling seems essential to his poetic style. In turning to his love poems, Szuba points to the influence Graves has had on his writing, particularly his notion that ‘poetry is rooted in love, and love in desire, and desire in hope of continued existence’. His poetry exemplifies an attribute prized by Leighton: namely, the manner in which poetic language ‘conjures presence’. His writing ‘inhabit[s] the spheres in-between’, ‘combining the material and immaterial’; his is poetry that we sense as ‘a shifting form, then, a living body, grounded in life’, coming to us as a ‘body’ of its own that transgresses boundaries, opening us through forms of language that interpenetrate the realms of body and spirit. In the chapter that follows, ‘Divine eloquence: R. S. Thomas and the matter of Logos’, Joanna Soćko takes us into what she describes, following Derrida, as ‘the strict interdependence between voice and presence’. Her interest

14  Mark S. Burrows falls on what Leighton refers to as the ‘stratum’ in poetic language that points to ‘something spiritual and inner’, exploring how this takes place in a poet – R. S. Thomas – who recognized this while guarding against making such a connection too facile or direct. Drawing carefully on Derrida’s insistent suggestion that ‘here we must listen’, Soćko points to what she calls ‘this strange entanglement of language and silence’ in Thomas’s poetry by which ‘it is possible to hear very specific sounds’. What she means with this claim is that ‘the silence of language – the absence of words – seems necessary in order to hear the sound of the world’, such absence not conjuring presence in some magical way but signalling to us the possibility of what lies beyond the reach of language – as well as the silence which precedes and follows our utterances. If we are to ‘hear’ the divine logos at all, then this will occur not directly but rather in ‘echoes resonating in the sounds of the world’. Thomas is the poet of just such a listening, as Soćko suggests, drawing on Derrida as an interpreter of this fragile form of attentiveness which, if properly cultivated as Thomas hopes to do, tends toward ‘the miracle of divine embodiment in the creative power of poetry’. Jean Ward’s ‘Incarnation and the feminine in David Jones’s In Parenthesis’, brings this section to a close, turning our attention back to Leighton’s privileging of ‘trusty hearing’, here returning to a phrase in Hopkins’s translation of Aquinas’s Eucharistic hymn. Here, Ward points to the importance of the ‘work of the ear’, reminding us that for poets like Murray and Jones – and, for that matter, Hopkins – the question of ‘presence’ in the Eucharist was an unquestioned truth of Catholic teaching and practice, each in their own way suggesting that (although not how) this reality bridges the gap between the human and divine, the material and spiritual. She draws on Augustine’s notion of an ‘inner hearing’, or ‘spiritual listening’, to suggest how Jones construed the poet’s work: namely, as a means of voicing the theological conviction that there is a ‘real though hidden presence’ in the world as a kind of reflection of the Eucharist, and bearing witness to this lies at the heart of Jones’s art and poetry. Ward’s close reading of In Parenthesis suggests how the poet filled it with allusions to erotic love, ‘however travestied or degraded’, as one means of voicing what she sees as an ‘undercurrent of the bridal mysticism derived from the Christian tradition of interpretation of the Song of Songs’, a poignant instance of Jones’s blending of the human and divine. In such ways, Jones gives us poetry in which the poem itself becomes a ‘body’ enclosed in language, and yet in his hands the body itself – and the poem as a witness to it – is nothing less than a ‘unique good’ without which there would be no sacrament. Here, the word becomes flesh, not solely in the Eucharist but also in the erotic nature of bodily love, which is the means by which the flesh becomes the bearer of the divine presence – not identical with it, but available to its summons. The final chapter in this collection, an essay by David Brown entitled ‘Poetry as vehicle of divine presence’, serves as an apt epilogue for the volume as a whole. Here, we find ourselves returning to the issues raised

Introduction  15 in Michael Edwards’s opening chapter concerning how a poem might be considered as ‘a body teeming (like ourselves) with emotions, ideas, words’, and thus offers ‘the hint of a different manner of body, of what the Bible calls a ‘“glorious body”’. But Brown’s musings push in another direction, wondering what it means that in the late-modern cultures of the West God has been largely pushed off the stage of public discourse. These musings, though, probing what he describes as ‘the collapse of theistic arguments’ as well as the collapse of dualism, on the one hand, and the way we have come to understand ‘social conditioning and communication through images’, together suggest for Brown a horizon open with opportunity: ‘far from this weakening faith and the poetry to which it gives rise, it can actually strengthen that faith by a new emphasis on experience, on the openness of metaphor and the richness of tradition’. The final section of Brown’s essay, and thus the last word of this volume, offers a harvest of the themes that shape this collection considered as a whole, turning us to reflect upon how divine presence comes to be voiced ‘through poetic metaphor’. Here, we find ourselves amidst a series of unexpected exchanges – between Wordsworth and Charles Darwin, Edwin Muir and Robert Browning, George Mackay Brown and W. H. Auden, William Blake and R. S. Thomas, and A. E. Housman and Rimbaud, together with hymn writers whose lyrics have shaped worship and devotion beyond the ranks of readers of poetry. In the sweep of this concluding discussion, Brown’s essay voices a summons to join the ongoing tradition of poets, theologians and philosophers whose witness – an instance of ‘the wonder of unexpected supply’ – set this volume in motion. And here, finally and perhaps inevitably, we find ourselves turning back with Michael Edwards and the authors of these chapters to the centrality of Incarnation in the Christian imagination, a truth which, though it ‘should not encourage in us the dangerous idea that our poems might be themselves, by analogy or in whatever terms, the Word made flesh, it certainly incites one to poetry’. For it is the reality of this central idea, the strength of this real presence, the sheer force of what Edwards aptly calls this ‘signal event’, that continues to ‘incit[e] poets in particular, and … all artists of words, to praise and recreate the world as best [we] can, with a view to the infinitely more glorious Recreation to come’.

Works cited Frost, Robert. ‘The Figure a Poem Makes’. Robert Frost: Collected Poems, Prose, and Plays. New York: The Library of America, 1995. Heaney, Seamus. The Government of the Tongue: Selected Prose 1978–1987. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1989. ——. North: Poems. London: Faber and Faber, 1975. ——. Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968–1978. London and Boston: Faber and Faber, 1980.

16  Mark S. Burrows Hirshfield, Jane. Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World. New York: Knopf, 2015. Scotus, Johannes Eriugena. Expositiones super ierarchiam caelestem S. Dionysii. Patrologia Latina. Vol. 122. Stevens, Wallace. The Necessary Angel. Reprinted in Wallace Stevens: Collected Poetry and Prose. New York: The Library of America, 1997. Wiman, Christian. ‘Take Love’. Poetry Ireland Review (A Seamus Heaney Special Issue. Ed. Vona Groarke) 113 (2014): 8–10. Winterson, Jeanette. Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery. New York: Vintage Books, 1995.

Part I

Word made Word Poetry and the re-making of the world

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1 Poetry human and divine Sir Michael Edwards

We ought to be surprised that in the opening of the Book of Genesis, God speaks the world into being. He does not make, build, paint, sing or dance it: he says it. He later gives to Moses tablets of stone ‘written with the finger of God’ (Ex. 31:18); the names of the faithful are ‘written in the book of life’ (Rev. 13:8). Those of us who are writers, and in particular poets or dramatists, can feel pleased that speaking and writing are involved in the creation of the universe and the salvation of humanity. At the same time, we all might tell ourselves that God’s creation of the world in speech is beyond our understanding, as is the relation between the book of life and our own man-made books. Prudence is the appropriate virtue. Nor do we know by what words God produced what we call light, the firmament and so on, since the author of Genesis naturally has recourse to human language, to Hebrew. The same is true of the second kind of divine speech act (should such vocabulary be appropriate), when God calls the light ‘day’ and the darkness ‘night’: his naming likewise escapes us. In a sense, being in the midst of God’s creation, we are surrounded by his words, yet for us they remain silent. We can sense that words and things, a divine language and the presences of the created universe, are at one, but we cannot hear, either, what seems to be the world’s speech in response. We can only listen by faith as ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament announces his handiwork’, as ‘Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night transmits knowledge’ (Ps. 19:2). Jesus as the Word of God at the Creation and as the Word made flesh in the Incarnation is equally incomprehensible; any thoughts we may have on the subject are likely to be inept. We can most probably conclude, however, that, since one Person of what we perhaps wrongly call the Trinity is ‘the Word’, speech, words, language or something resembling them are to be found at the core of divine as of human experience. And, as we know, the Word on earth, in acting, utters words continually, in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, just as he speaks from elsewhere in the Acts and in the Book of Revelation. Like the writers of the Bible but with direct authority, he speaks a human language which is nevertheless other, and audibly so (even when translated, as it always is) if we are given grace to

20  Sir Michael Edwards hear it. The Word on the Cross is also surrounded – suggestively, if one thinks about it – by words both human and divine, as the evangelists quote from the Psalms and from the prophets Isaiah and Zechariah: ‘They parted my garments among them’ (Mt. 27:35, citing Ps. 22:19); ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’ (Mk. 15:28, citing Is. 53:12); ‘A bone of him shall not be broken’ (Jn. 19:36, citing Ps. 34:20); ‘They shall look on him whom they pierced’ (Jn. 19:37, citing Zech. 12:10); and as Jesus himself repeats at the deepest level other divine-human words of the psalmists: ‘I thirst’ (Jn. 19:28, citing Ps. 42:2); ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ (Mt. 27:46, citing Ps. 22:1); ‘into thy hands I commend my spirit’ (Lk. 23:46, citing Ps. 31:5). In a Christian perspective, language – or more particularly speech – reaches into the recesses of the Godhead and opens onto an arcanum far removed from and yet closely connected with English, say, or Polish, or Latin, with their grammar, syntax and vocabulary. The Word creates the world (the resemblance in English of word and world is one of those gifts of chance weighty with suggestion) as the words of a writer bring into existence a world not imagined before. But the relation between divine and human words is problematic, and requires in a fallen world that we advance with caution. God and man are certainly linked as beings that speak. Speech may well be included in the fact that man is made in the image of God, especially if one considers how that making is presented: ‘And God said, Let us make man in our image’ (Gen. 1:26). Language presents itself as a mystery, a secret, an initiation into what transcends it. On the purely human level, after the Fall and specifically after Babel, the capacity of each of the thousands of human tongues to disclose a world of its own, akin to all the others yet offering a unique vision of reality, already shows the exploratory virtue of words. However indistinctly human words are related to the divine Word, Baudelaire must be right in declaring: ‘There is something holy in language, in the word, which forbids us from using it lightly’ (117–118).

I With that in mind, how may we at least begin to understand the bearing, on the poems we write or read, of the Word of God and the Word made flesh? The Word is clearly not made flesh in our poetry, and even the notion that, in our poetry, human words are made flesh seems to approach the question from the wrong angle. Even if what we call our inner life is deeply penetrated by the presence of Jesus, and we succeed in conveying something of that communion into a poem, maybe with the conviction that God was prompting and assisting us, we do not produce a page of scripture, and Jesus is present in the text with the same limitation as in any of our actions motivated by grace. Further, words are already flesh: their sounds emerge from our vocal apparatus and enter our ears (even when read); their rhythms (even monosyllables are rhythmic) move in our bodies. Thought does not

Poetry human and divine  21 wait to be embodied in poems: it is already bodied in our thinking and in the words we use to think it. The capacity peculiar to poetry is to make us aware of the flesh-ness or corporeality of language: by its concentration and its unconcern simply to convey a message, a poem invites us into the life of words, directs our attention to the sounds to be heard and the rhythms to be experienced. Poetry exists in part to reveal the sound of sense, the rhythm of meaning, the profundities of language that relate it to bodies full of mind and to a reality vibrating with logos, with intelligence. The poem constitutes above all, in this perspective, a special kind of body. As an outlandish form of speech which seems nevertheless to have existed from very early in the history of language, it can fascinate by its form and by the life of that form. In the strictness of its lines, even when ‘free’, it clearly wishes to exist as an entity, a unity; it makes sounds and breathes like an animal body, yet it remains invisible and untouchable. It has a body unlike any other – except those of all art works. All the arts appear in strange bodies. A painting may be at once ‘Flatford Mill’ and a rectangle of canvas; a quartet is passion, mathematics, wood and catgut existing both where the players are seated and nowhere; a dance is human bodies along with configurations in space which dissolve into air; even the solidity of a building is etherealized by aesthetic volumes and views. A poem, a body teeming (like ourselves) with emotions, ideas, words, is the hint of a different manner of body, of what the Bible calls a ‘glorious body’ (Phil. 3:21) or, in the course of a stretch of argument both rigorous and poetic in the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, a ‘spiritual body’ (15:44). I’ve written elsewhere of the centrality of this latter expression, an astonishing oxymoron, for understanding the biblical stress not on the ultimate disappearance of the universe but on the creation of ‘new heavens’ and a ‘new earth’ (2 Pet. 3:13, Rev. 21:1), and of humans not as bodiless spirits to be ushered elsewhere but as soul and body finally transformed and living, as it were, here (Edwards 5–6). A poem is emphatically not a spiritual body, but an intimation in its order and otherness of that carnal possibility. One so often senses, in writing or reading a poem, that one is treading on unaccustomed ground, that because of the potentiality of language and especially of language so organized, formed, sounded, cadenced, one is at the edge of what one knows; one crosses the threshold to something else. By its singular body, poetry names the world anew, it continues Adam’s naming of the animals but in a fallen world, where to rename reality is to recreate it in our perception with a view to the future, to the true Recreation of the world at the end of time. A poem draws the real into newness and song. A person, an event, an object, an emotion, an idea, approached anew and pervaded by the jubilant play of words, is transformed, and gives onto a world transcending ours. A Hampstead garden in which can be seen paths, moss, shadows and green vegetation becomes transfigured when Keats writes, in ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, of ‘verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways’, and when these glooms and ways are travelled fitfully by light ‘from heaven … with

22  Sir Michael Edwards the breezes blown’. The verdurous glooms are something other than green shadows: they renew our experience of the earth and suggest the ‘new earth’ itself. Lights which descend from heaven and which don’t simply come and go as the wind breathes in the foliage blocking the sun, but which are themselves blown by the wind, suggest a world hovering between the palpable and the impalpable and hesitating between the material sky and immaterial heaven. In our poetry the world appears otherwise. To imagine that a breeze can blow light is at once irrational nonsense and poetic truth. We speak idly of poetry as revelation, for only God can reveal what is beyond us, yet the very existence of poetry is revealing. By its cunning body, its altered syntax, its unexpected associations of words, its recreative metaphors and other figures, it changes whatever it touches, evokes the possibility of a deeper change, hints of otherness in the same, and does so always, whatever the convictions, religious or otherwise, of the poet. Poetry is our word for looking beyond what meets the eye and the intelligence. As Jesus, the Word of God, is God’s most intimate way of entering his creation and approaching us, our poetic words in response are our feeling for what transcends us. Hence the archaic and still extant tradition claiming that poetry is, of its nature, inspired, that it comes from the gods and shadows forth their domain. Poetry has no doubt always seemed mysterious, except at moments when it becomes a matter of technique governed by rules, or the unwitting expression of underlying social and cultural forces, and the poet can believe himself ‘inspired’ in the sense that he is not fully in control, that he finds himself, in the act of writing, having experiences and using language that seem to arrive partly from elsewhere. This is to say that the poet, working well, is both blind and clairvoyant. One learns, by reading as well as by writing poetry, the complexity of self-knowledge, and that oneself is other. Poetry is only revelation in that poets themselves reveal where they have been, what they have seen, and the foreignness of what has been given them to discover. As our body is bettered in the perfect breathing and moving of the poem, so our emotions, ideas, perceptions, all of our inner life as indistinguishable from our outer, are transformed in the otherwhere of the poem.

II One might also put it this way: we seem to realize without having to become conscious of the fact that our bodies and our minds, or souls, are intrinsically linked, for in Hebrew, hand indicates power, and face presence, while in Greek, bowels are the seat of the affections, and in many languages affections originate in the heart. Naturally incarnate, we are less a soul in a body, often conceived as a soul locked in the ‘prison’ of the body, than a body in a soul. According to Christian anthropology, we await the resurrection of the body (not of a soul freed from body), and meanwhile (and apparently forever) Jesus is incarnate in us, the church being his body and all Christians,

Poetry human and divine  23 according to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, ‘members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones’ (5:30), words which I find most puzzling. Incarnation is already with us, and does not await our poems. What poems offer is our mind-and-body appearing otherwise: the mind of the poem is not quite the poet’s, since he has written other than what he thought, and the poem’s body has a different nature from ours. In the unwontedness of what is said and of the way it is said, our mind and body are changed, for the better. In other words, poetry is not essentially a making, a poïesis. Something is indeed made in the sense that the poet aims, in writing and revising, for a precision, a completeness, a perfection without which the emotions and ideas of the poem, being out of focus, would not have been discovered and would not be there, while the poem’s body would remain flabby and awkward. The underlying act of the poet and the underlying work of the poem, however, occur at a deeper level. This does not imply Paul Valéry’s disdain of the finished poem in favour of the study of its genesis, on the grounds that how a poem now is teaches us far less about the workings of the human psyche than the fascinating complications of how it came to be written. It implies that what is brought into being is less a new object than a new experience. As the poet finds, in the process of writing, someone else in himself and something else in the world, and does so as the poem itself finds its proper form, its just language, its right sounds and rhythms, so the reader finds in himself an unsuspected capacity and in the world an unseen possibility. In the case of Christian poetry, the reading of the poem can be a spiritual experience, not because the poet was literally inspired, but simply because writing a poem resembles the other acts of a Christian and may be assisted by the same grace. One can benefit from a Christian poem as from any act of Christian charity, humility, forgiveness, without recourse to a theory of poetry shuffling the Word of God and our words and so encroaching on the unknowable. The uncommon body of the poem, while remaining in time, also draws us into a world out of time. I have nothing to add here to what T. S. Eliot saw clearly in the final section of ‘Dry Salvages’, except that one needs to read carefully those lines about Incarnation. Our curiosity, Eliot writes, searches past and future, whereas the present, lived fully and well, is where salvation occurs. To apprehend ‘The point of intersection of the timeless / With time’ is ‘an occupation for the saint’, who is required to know that another world beats through this one – that every instant is open to the eternal, every place to the infinite – to live God’s presence here and now, and to realize that presence ‘in a lifetime’s death in love’. Most of us, however, only sense ‘the impossible union / Of spheres of existence’ at certain moments ‘in and out of time’: The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight, The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply That it is not heard at all, but you are the music While the music lasts.

24  Sir Michael Edwards According to these well-known lines, ‘hints’ followed by our ‘guesses’ occur both in nature and in art, God providing them in the creation and encouraging us to discern them equally in the various arts that we have been led to develop. When Eliot completes his thought by writing, ‘The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation’ (a septenary; he had an aptitude for long lines), he is not suggesting that music or any other form of art somehow achieves Incarnation, but that the ‘impossible union’ of God and man in Jesus, the intersecting of the divine and human spheres of existence in a Galilean God, is what one glimpses from afar in all the moments of sudden vision vouchsafed – whether in a quartet or in a waterfall. The hint is not restricted to Christians, but is available to everyone. The uncanny body of a poem, other than ours and yet, like ours, thronging with words, may convey the hint with peculiar force.

III What then of biblical poetry, and of its relation to ours? If there exists an enigmatic connection between our human words and Jesus as the divine Word, there would seem to exist a far more intimate connection between Jesus as God’s Word and the Bible as God’s word in another way. We are stepping here, in our intellectual clogs, on eggshells, but it would appear that, as Jesus is perfectly divine and perfectly human, so biblical poetry – and prose – is equally both human and divine. In works written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, our words and the ‘words’ that come from God touch and merge. While holding with Paul that ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God’ (is ‘God-breathed’; see 2 Tim. 3:16), we can also believe, unless I am mistaken, that all parts of scripture are written in words chosen by their human authors. That the words are from God has a consequence of which Christians do not always seem aware: it is the words themselves that count. All paraphrase and all theological rationalization and speculation are dangerous in the extreme and ultimately unfaithful. And here we can say that words are made flesh, that the words of God enter human words. We can also apprehend a biblical poem as a truly spiritual body, not by any means the spiritual body to be created after death, but an infinitely closer hint of it than any human poem. That the words are also from humans – a perspective less explored, with the obvious exception of modern critics concerned to erase the presence of God from texts considered as the result of purely human invention, mostly erroneous – means that we may think seriously about each writer’s act of writing, his way with experience and his way with words: that, in full faithfulness, we can study biblical works with the same scrutiny we apply to literature outside the Bible. (Specialists have, of course, already done so, up to a point, from Robert Lowth [d. 1787] to Robert Alter [b. 1935].) In reflecting that most poets have the impression that they are not alone in writing, that another self or an unknown area of the self intervenes, often

Poetry human and divine  25 to give them what is most valuable in their work, we may surmise – and it is no more than a surmise – that for biblical writers the impression is far stronger, that whatever they think and feel, though arising from their life, is given to them, and that their carefully chosen words and phrasing arrive also from elsewhere. Indeed, should we imagine a psalmist, or the author of the Book of Job or of the Song of Songs, having second thoughts, being dissatisfied with this image, that adjective, crossing out, worrying when the lines won’t come, and finally being pleased with what he has written? I think we should; such hesitation and natural pleasure make fully real the human dimension of the divine words. When meditating on something as momentous and beyond our reach as the Word made flesh, it seems vital not to confuse biblical poetry and even the poetry that deeply spiritual Christians may write. The beauty and miracle of the former lie in the fact that it consists not only of our approach to God, but of God’s approach to us. In the same work, divine and human words are at one, a passage is open between God and ourselves, ourselves and God. Here is truly a ‘point of intersection of the timeless / With time’; here ‘the impossible union / Of spheres of existence is actual’.

IV I have suggested that a poem is a special kind of body, hinting of a body remade. And as the poem’s body is mysterious, a rough draft of something other, so it intimates that the world’s body is mysterious and that it too – and even more importantly – gives onto something beyond itself. The strange body of the poem corresponds to the strangeness of the world of matter, which is more than material. As all poetry is, in this sense, metaphysical, so the material universe is metaphysical, brimming with the words of God, alive with createdness, hinting of the absent presence of the Lord who created it and of its own future condition. The hints are themselves poetic, perhaps because God is the greatest of poets, and lies behind the very existence of poetry as of all the arts. Light, which enables us to see, nevertheless remains, in normal circumstances, itself invisible. As the very first of God’s creatures, it is most clearly at once real and other. Two moments in particular, full of poetry, underline this singular ambivalence. Having presented him as the Word through whom all things were made, the Evangelist John states that Jesus was himself the light, and that this light appears in darkness (1:4–5). A to and fro is effected between Jesus as the spiritual light shining in the darkness of the human condition, the light at the beginning of the world shining in the aboriginal darkness, and our own days, which, intervening in the succession of nights, speak both of Genesis and of Jesus. When God, after the Flood, announces a covenant with all living creatures, the sign he chooses is the rainbow, a perfectly natural occurrence which possesses the almost numinous power of revealing light, of making it suddenly and breathtakingly visible.

26  Sir Michael Edwards Or think of the wind, equally invisible, except in its effects, and sharing the same word, in Hebrew and in Greek, with breath and spirit, the sustainers respectively of our physical and of our religious lives. Think also of fire, which seems to lead a life of its own, both in and out of matter, and which is continually associated with God. God is represented in the Book of Deuteronomy as ‘a consuming fire’ (4:24), John the Baptist tells his hearers that Jesus will baptise them ‘with the Holy Ghost and with fire’ (Mt. 3:11), and the Apostle Paul evokes Jesus at his second coming as taking vengeance ‘in flaming fire’ (2 Thess. 1:8). We should be wrong to conclude that such language is merely metaphorical, a useful and perhaps necessary means of stating difficult matters and doing so memorably. Jesus is described as light because he illumines our path according to a widespread figure of speech, and the experience of being entered by the Holy Spirit or punished by God is said to involve fire simply because that is what such events feel like. We are surely in the presence of the poetry of the real. Light, wind, fire, natural phenomena touch on the unseen, open this world to a different sphere of existence which pervades our own, is always here, though unrealized. We live and move among the figures of another world. And as those phenomena and the words in which they have another life suggest that everything corporeal or material reaches beyond itself, so our words, in their relation to the Word and the words of God, constitute a passable frontier, a way through and towards. Take the burning bush where Moses meets with God. The bush is unique; its burning without being consumed is a preternatural sign of the presence of another world in this one, while God in conversing with a human appears as never again. But every bush is arresting, being a creation of God and burning metaphorically, like the whole of creation, with a relationship to God. As any bush emanates from the Word of God, a poem about a bush is our response – fallen Adam’s response – in human words to that divine word, and in a sense a continuation of it, our attempt at so renaming the bush, in the peculiar life of the poem, that in a way we recreate it, we open it, however inadequately, to its future. And there is one moment in each of the synoptic gospels where a body beyond body is made manifest, and where poetic resources are called upon in order to describe it. The Transfiguration is the actual sight, vouchsafed to three people only, of a glorified or spiritual body. Luke writes that Jesus’ face became ‘other’ and his clothing a ‘dazzling white’ (9:29), Matthew that his face ‘shone as the sun’ and that his clothing was ‘white as the light’ (17:2), and Mark that his clothing became ‘shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller of earth can white them’ (9:3). The evangelists have recourse to comparisons – ‘as the sun’, ‘as the light’, ‘as snow’ – in their attempt to grasp and to convey the unprecedented nature of what became visible. Their concentration on whiteness, which is the reunion of all the colours of a colourful world, suggests that a glorious body has all the values of the world’s body, while Mark’s insistence that no earthly fuller could achieve

Poetry human and divine  27 such whiteness makes one realize that even ordinary whiteness, already the immaculate fullness of unperceived colour, offers, here on earth, a quiet glimpse of what shall be. The intuition of another world somehow available in this can occur, evidently, outside of poetry; the tradition which sees the poet as having privileged access to the realm of the gods or of God, by virtue of being a poet, a vates, a prophet born with distinctive antennae, though highly attractive (especially to poets), is surely misguided. Such intuitions come to anyone living, as it were, poetically, being continually alert to the presence of something else in oneself, in others, in the world around one. It is true that they will not seem to most people to point to God, but to ‘the transcendent’, ‘the holy’, ‘the numinous’, ‘the divine’, to any appealing and large abstraction which avoids having to suppose the existence of a personal God with a will different from ours. Only grace can transform a glimpse of otherness into the sense of the presence of God, which should remind us that the most fervently Christian poetry can produce the same effect, stimulating but incomplete. Readers may feel, in listening to Herbert or Hopkins, that their words touch on the true Word and that God is with them as they read, but it is more likely that what they experience remains within the aesthetic – as so much critical writing on these and other Christian poets demonstrates. Which brings us back to what, for Christians, is the focus of all thinking about the permeability of our world, though fallen, to another: the Incarnation. For, though the Incarnation should not encourage in us the dangerous idea that our poems might be themselves, by analogy or in whatever terms, the Word made flesh, it certainly incites one to poetry. The creation already does so, inviting one to respond in new words to the words of God that one ‘hears’ in the world around; the Old Testament already contains, in the prophecy of Isaiah (65:17), that promise of ‘new heavens and a new earth’ on which poetry may found its vocation, both to search beyond the known and to celebrate the inexhaustible plenty of the known, of the here-and-now, of reality as given. But the Incarnation is the actual beginning of that newness. At the first beginning, ‘darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters’ (Gen. 1:2). At the Incarnation, the angel says to Mary: ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee’ (Lk. 1:35). The Word becoming flesh, as well as constituting the most amazing sign that God is with us, immanent as well as transcendent, commences the new Creation, as the Word begins to speak anew. As with God speaking the world into existence, we can be surprised that the ‘Word of God’ became flesh, according to the fourth Gospel, rather than, say, the ‘Son of God’, until we understand the pertinence of this new Word. The signal event incites poets in particular, and I suppose all artists of words, to praise and recreate the world as best they can, with a view to the infinitely more glorious Recreation to come.

28  Sir Michael Edwards

Works cited Baudelaire, Charles. Oeuvres complètes. Vol. 2. Ed. Claude Pichon. Paris: Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1976. Edwards, Michael. Towards a Christian Poetics. New York and London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1984. Eliot, T. S. Four Quartets. London: Faber and Faber, 1944. Keats, John. The Complete Poems. Ed. Miriam Allott. London: Longman, 1970.

2 ‘The Word spoke in our words that we might speak in his’ Augustine, the Psalms and the poetry of the incarnate Word Kevin Grove, CSC Through the Incarnation, Michael Edwards suggests, we consider the ‘permeability of our world, though fallen, to another’ (27). Yet the ongoing, post-resurrection and post-ascension effects of such permeability give rise to a most challenging set of questions. As Edwards reminds us, Christian anthropology understands Jesus to be somehow incarnate in us, his body still on earth, members of his flesh and bones. How might one experience this permeability? Practice it? Or, as theologians would say, ‘participate’ in it? Live it? While answers to these questions quickly and rightly involve sacramental and ecclesial theology, an oft overlooked place to begin an answer is with poetry, specifically the poetry of the Psalms. Christ himself, after all, chose poetry as his cry from the cross: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Ps. 21[22]:1). The poetry of the Psalms provides a pregnant opportunity for a conjunction of voices with redemptive consequences. This redemptive reading and speaking was uniquely developed in the Expositions of the Psalms by St Augustine of Hippo. The Psalms helped Augustine see not only that this world was permeable to another, but also that he was being led and shaped – he preferred ‘transfigured’ – by that other. The ‘other’, of course, was Christ. Augustine had a relationship with the Psalms that lasted from his conversion as a young man in Italy until his death. He recounts in his Confessions how it was that he cried when he heard the Psalms of David (9.4.8) and hardly a page of that text goes by without Augustine using the words of the psalmist to express his own knocking, searching and yearning that God might grant rest to his heart. Ordained a priest in 391, Augustine would spend the next three decades writing and preaching on each of the psalms for a combined work that was his longest – both in its length and given the time it took him to complete the work. Augustine also chose to have the Psalms before his eyes at the time of his death. On his deathbed in 430, Possidius recounts, Augustine requested that various psalms of lament should be pasted up around his bed (31.2). Though Possidius suggests that Augustine chose the psalms of lament as prayers of penance for his sins, it seems more likely that Augustine was simply imitating Christ, who took up the psalmist’s lament at the time of his own death.

30  Kevin Grove, CSC Augustine had found in reading the Psalms not only the poetry of praise and lament, labor and rest; he found Christ there in a unique way (van Bavel 84–94). Augustine would write of the Psalms in his Confessions not merely that they influenced him but that those poems ‘made him something’ (9.4.8). In short, Augustine found in the poetry of the Psalms a way of becoming Christ, of being transfigured by the head who sustains, shapes and draws along his body on earth in the ongoing mediation begun in the Incarnation (Gal. 3:20; 1 Tim. 2:5).

I It might at first seem odd to the modern scholar to read biblical poetry of the Old Testament in order to look for Christ, let alone to ‘become’ Christ. But as regards looking for Christ, Augustine is practicing what was standard for the church fathers. The fathers understood the Psalms as prophecies for and about Christ, an approach that allowed them to hold the goodness of both Testaments – two parts of a wall held together by the same Christological cornerstone – rather than reject the Old Testament as some had done. In reading the Psalms, Augustine acknowledges that he does not know very much about individual persons as historical figures in the Psalms. He simply does not have the information to evaluate the Sitz im Leben of the text. In fact, Augustine is quick to admit when he knows no historical information about a character such as Idithun, even though he will explore allegorically that the name ‘Idithun’ translates as ‘one who leaps’, and will relate that leaping figure to Christ (Ps. 38[39], 61[62] and 76[77]). In this mode of figurative exegesis, one does not read the Psalms for the revelation of historical figures. Rather, the exegete’s abiding concern is that Christ spoke the Psalms, choosing to take up the words of the psalmist as his own from the cross. In so doing, Christ spoke the first-person voice of the Psalms in his own time. On its face, this is unremarkable. Christ was doing something that would have been natural in Hebrew prayer. Christian communities continued this Hebrew practice and used the Psalms as the first person expression of their own praise or lament, with the added importance that the words were also Christ’s and point to Christ. Recent theological scholarship – historical, liturgical and spiritual – suggests praying the Psalms ‘in Christ’ and approaches spiritual formation in Christ by means of Psalms (Byassee 225; McConville 56–74). In short, Augustine as an exegete may be very far from biblical studies in their historical-critical mode, though he is not so far from practices of modern prayer or theological discourse regarding spiritual formation. When Augustine reads the poetry of the Psalms as the words of Christ, he suggests that Christ the head is transfiguring his body still on earth. At the heart of what Augustine calls the ‘wonderful exchange’ of Christ’s human death for humans’ eternal life is the word ‘transfigure’ (Expositions 30.2.3). Transfigure (transfigurare), as Michael Cameron reminds us, literally means

Augustine, Psalms and the incarnate Word  31 transferring or carrying over a figure from one domain to another (290). The word is akin to the Judeo-Christian religious practice of anamnesis in which events from the past are much more than texts to be examined with an objectivity that maintains distance between the reader and the textual account. These scriptural texts of emotional praises and laments, by the very act of their being performed – whether by reading, hearing or preaching – reframe and reconfigure first person narratives of the present, both ‘I’ and ‘we’.

II In his Expositions of the Psalms, Augustine develops a theological hermeneutic that centers on Christ for reading the Psalms. The evolution of this hermeneutic can be traced by following the maturation of a construct Augustine called the ‘whole Christ’, or totus Christus. After showing how he reaches his mature formulation of it, I will trace how Augustine explicitly yokes prayer with a process of becoming Christ. Those who pray the words of the Psalms speak in Christ, and he in them; two voices become one such that those who pray are transfigured into Christ. The Expositions of the Psalms provide the record of the conceptual development of this transfigurative hermeneutic. The Expositions are records of Augustine’s preaching. Though they form a sprawling and at times unwieldy whole, they also reveal the precise use of linguistic devices developed by a preacher trained, as he was, as a classical rhetorician. In contrast to his treatment of his other theological works, Augustine never revised or redacted the Expositions, a feature that is advantageous to scholars for two reasons. First, the Expositions show the development of a thinker over the course of decades. Though individual texts are notoriously difficult to date with precision, early formulations that did not work so well are left behind and later explorations treat problems that Augustine later encountered as a bishop. All of these things are preserved as most of the texts were transcribed – that is, they were written down by scribes, or notarii – while Augustine preached. Second, the texts preserve some of Augustine’s interactions with his congregants as he notes events in the stadium nearby, the repentant sinner in their midst who needs their care, and the fact that they are tired or react visibly to something challenging he has suggested. Though full of theological sophistication, he undertook his theological readings of the Psalms in ‘real time’, and one senses the presence of a live audience in his midst. Perhaps for such reasons, these sermons were immediately successful and went on to be quickly and widely copied and circulated for the next millennium (Weidemann 431–449). They made a profound impact on Christianity’s and western monasticism’s relationship to the Psalms. Augustine’s interaction with the Psalms forced him to consider the ongoing work of Christ, not only as the Word who took up human flesh, but also

32  Kevin Grove, CSC as the one who took up a human death and took a resurrected human body up to heaven. Those moments are captured in considering Augustine’s treatments of Psalms 21(22) and 30(31), where he considers both the paschal mystery and the ascension. He engaged each psalm by asking a single question of the text: who is speaking? In his earliest expositions, Augustine identifies a number of different voices within a single psalm, at times pointing out that the people redeemed say one part, the psalmist another, and yet another is spoken by either Christ or a prophet. He took great care in these early expositions not to attribute something to the wrong voice. For instance, it would be inappropriate for Christ to suggest he had been abandoned by God or address God as ‘you’, formulations which could have supported a Christology in which the divine nature of Christ appears to be babbling back and forth with his human nature. Or worse, as Michael Cameron suggests, such an approach might have been construed to interpret Christ’s humanity as having been taken up in a mere act of divine ventriloquism (185). Augustine’s great breakthrough in this regard came not in his consideration of the Word’s taking up human flesh, but in Christ’s taking up a human death.

III Psalm 21(22) represents a watershed moment in Augustine’s exegesis. This psalm provided Augustine with a model for how the human and divine in the incarnate Word might relate and interact. Augustine opens his explanation of the psalm’s opening verse by stating that ‘the words of this psalm are spoken in the person of the crucified one, for here at its beginning is the cry he uttered while he hung upon the cross’ (that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ 21.1.1). Augustine twice comments on this psalm. The first time, he questions how Christ could have said this, since his divinity did not need to be prayed to. Furthermore, it would be awkward, in Christological terms, to say that Christ the human prayed to Christ the divine as if the dying savior were crying out to himself. The problem, as Augustine sees it, is how one might properly understand Christ’s uttering such a cry of dereliction. ‘O God, my God, why have you forsaken me, and left me far from salvation?’ is clearly a word spoken by Jesus Christ (21.1.1.). Augustine clarifies who is speaking from the cross by plunging into the mystery of incarnational redemption. Christ is indeed the one speaking, but he speaks in ‘the character of our old self, whose mortality he bore and which was nailed to the cross with him’ (21.1.1). In other words, the crucified Christ spoke in the voice and the flesh of Adam (who in Augustine’s writings is a trope for all of humanity). He could speak in this voice, though not in the first instance in imitation of, on behalf of or even for the benefit of Adam, as someone other than himself. Rather, Christ speaks in the voice of Adam because he has ‘taken it up’ (suscipere) as his own (Cameron 154).

Augustine, Psalms and the incarnate Word  33 In this way, Christ’s death on the cross brought about a clarification concerning the Incarnation for Augustine. Christ had taken up not only human flesh in the Incarnation, but a human voice and even a human death. This redemptive exchange became clear to Augustine because Christ voiced the cry of dereliction so clearly from the cross: Christ redeemed Adam – and indeed all of humanity – by being fully human. Other groups challenging Augustine in northern Africa held other things about Christ. The Manichees had thought that someone other than Christ died upon the cross; divinity abhorred entanglement with the material order. Augustine’s synthesis opened up in a new way how one might understand Christ as a mediator of divinity and humanity. Because the Word took up flesh and voice, Christ on the cross could not have been more human; he entered human abandonment so that humans might express their own abandonment in him. He entered death so that humans might die in him. Augustine was acquiring theological clarity through considering the voice and function of this psalm of lament. Augustine’s insight into Christ the crucified mediator employed one of his rhetorical skills. Prosopopeia, or face-making, was a Greek term for an author’s impersonation of the voice of a character either well known or invented (Cameron 179–180). Known as fictiones personarum in the Latin rhetorical tradition of Cicero and Quintilian, impersonation was considered a very powerful rhetorical tool. This stylistic tool, recalling the roots of drama, makes present the voice of a person. One sees through the eyes and speaks through the voice of another, even for a brief time. Explaining the relationship between poetry and prosopopeia, Philip Sidney describes David’s writing of the Psalms as an act of prosopopeia (84.22–25): the one who prays the Psalms sees God coming in majesty, gates lifting high their heads, and laments as one in exile (Sidney 84.22–25). Augustine would apply this principle to explain how his congregants could speak in Christ and Christ in them. In Psalm 21(22) Christ speaks in Adam’s voice, employing prosopopeia not for the purpose of theatrics or declamation but for the purpose of redeeming human flesh from sin and death. In its mature formulation, Augustine’s Psalm 30(31), in presenting this aspect of Christ’s life, captures what the crucifixion adds to the incarnation: But in fact he who deigned to assume the form of a slave, and within that form to clothe us with himself, did not disdain to take us up into himself, did not disdain either to transfigure us into himself, and to speak in our words, so that we in our turn might speak in his. This is the wonderful exchange, the divine business deal, the transaction effected in this world by the heavenly dealer. He came to receive insults and give honors, he came to drain the cup of suffering and give salvation, he came to undergo death and give life. (30.2.3; emphasis added)

34  Kevin Grove, CSC The relation and interaction between the divine and human in the incarnation became clear for Augustine in consideration of the crucifixion. What Augustine lacked at this point in his progressive understanding was a clear conception of how it was that Christ might continue to speak in human flesh after the resurrection and ascension.

IV In tracing the story of Augustine’s consideration of Psalm 21(22), I have relied especially on Michael Cameron’s work, which marks the basic contours of Augustine’s developing account of Christ’s speaking the poetry of the Psalms. Augustine’s understanding of Christ’s speech, I suggest, was not complete with the watershed understanding that he gained from Psalm 21(22). As a preacher, he concerned himself with making the account of Christ’s mediation present to his congregants, seeking to give them a reason why, in the present time, they might rejoice, groan, weep and commemorate liturgically the actions of Christ. He needed an account for how ‘yearly remembrance makes present what took place in time past’ (21.2.1). He needed, in short, to suggest in his preaching how mediation was ongoing, even though Christ had risen from the dead and ascended into heaven. To examine this matter more thoroughly, we must consider Augustine’s treatment of the Christ after the ascension, which for him centered on Acts 9:4 and the story of Saul’s conversion. Augustine’s homilies that treat the ascension build on the language of ‘taking up’ which we have encountered thus far (Sermons 261–265F; Marrevee 23–58). Christ had taken up human flesh in the incarnation of the Word, but had also taken up other aspects of the human condition, including a human death and a human voice such that he could speak in the voice of Adam on the cross. And, after the resurrection, Christ ascends – literally taking up a human body – to heaven. One could imagine this being the end of Christ’s mediation, as Augustine is clear to say that humans do not yet glory in immortality, yet Christ does not set down again what he has taken up. Augustine reminds his congregants that if Christ ‘purchased’ their redemption in his death and resurrection, he is now gathering up that which he ‘bought’ after the ascension (Sermons 263.1). Christ ascended as an individual, but the nature of the ascension led Augustine to consider Christ’s being head of a body of which human beings are members (1 Cor. 12:12). Augustine here maintains that the members of the body remain connected to the head in grace, even though physically they might be on earth. From heaven, then, the head experiences and understands the sufferings and plight of the members. Augustine came to this understanding through his reading of Saul’s conversion account in the Acts of the Apostles, and here the heart of the scriptural text hinges on the same word Augustine had emphasized in reading Psalm 21(22): ‘me’. That is, Christ speaks the words of Psalm 21(22) from the cross, saying ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ The ‘me’ of the cry of dereliction is Christ,

Augustine, Psalms and the incarnate Word  35 according to Augustine, speaking here, however, in the voice of Adam. In Acts 9, Augustine must again determine the referent of ‘me’. His exegesis of Psalm 30(31) demonstrates how he worked this out. When Saul was rebuked by God on the road to Damascus, a voice from heaven asked him the question: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ (Acts 9:4). Saul asks the voice to identify itself and Jesus responds: ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting’ (9:5). Augustine affirms for his congregation at this point that Christ had already ascended into heaven (Expositions 30.3.3), and thus that Saul’s actions could not have directly harmed Christ’s resurrected and ascended flesh. Because Saul had been ‘raging against’ Christians on earth (30.2.3), Augustine asks why it might have been that Christ did not say, why are you persecuting ‘my saints’, or ‘my servants’, but rather ‘why are you persecuting me?’ (30.2.3). His conclusion is that when the voice of Christ spoke to Saul, it had been saying the equivalent of ‘“Why attack my limbs?” The Head was crying out on behalf of the members, and the Head was transfiguring the members into himself’ (30.2.3). This voice from heaven indicated that head and body were one. Further, Augustine explains that the relationship between head and body is continually established and renewed by means of the head, such that the head continues to transfigure the members into himself, even after ascending to heaven. This is Augustine’s complete configuration of head and members imagery. In speaking through the members, the head ‘transfigures’ the members into himself. As David Meconi explains, this really is part of a theology of deification (195–242). Christ’s mediation after the ascension is an ongoing action of transfiguration of his own ‘body’ still on earth. Augustine makes this point very vividly. Paul’s conversion is like the tongue of a body speaking in the name of the foot. When one’s foot is trampled in a crowd, the tongue cries out ‘You are treading on me!’ and not ‘You are treading on my foot’ (Expositions 30.2.3). The tongue was not crushed; the foot does not speak. Nonetheless, the unity of tongue and foot within the body allows the tongue to say ‘me’ for both (30.2.3). Augustine thus does not need to say of Psalm 30 ‘Christ is speaking here in the prophet’, for he admits that he goes further and simply says, ‘Christ is speaking’ (30.2.4). Christ speaks because on the cross Christ ‘transfigured the body’s cry and made it his own’ (30.2.11). The ascension, however, extends that speaking relationship beyond Christ’s immediate bodily presence on earth. Head and members meant that voices once separate within a Psalm – in this text, the prophet, the people redeemed and the people in fear – could all be transfigured into the one voice from the one body of Christ. At this point, then, Augustine’s preaching moves beyond rhetorical convention. One might suggest that his mode of address is simple synecdoche, wherein the whole is considered in light of a part or vice versa (Cameron 45–61; Soskice 57–58). But here Christ is both whole and part; both the head and the body are the same Christ, such that the relation between Christ the head and his members suggests the ongoing transfiguration of his own body.

36  Kevin Grove, CSC The significance of Augustine’s parsing Paul’s conversion cannot be understated for his understanding of Christ’s ongoing work of transfiguring his body. The ascended Christ, though removed from the world in his flesh, is not removed from the members of his Pauline body. Instead, when Christ ascended into heaven, the head in one way – already and not yet – became the way and therein opened the possibility for all the members to do the same. In a very late sermon, in fact, Augustine presents this as a unique mode of knowing Christ in the Scriptures (Sermons 341; van Bavel 85). It is just as important as both of the more well-known modes: the Word from the beginning and the Word incarnate (van Bavel 85). The third way of studying Christ means considering Christ ascended and still aware of the plight of those on earth as head of the body (Sermons 341.9; van Bavel 85). Mediation does not cease after the resurrection and ascension, but the locus of its effects is redefined. The grace of the head is mediated to the body. Head and body together form the whole Christ, the totus Christus. For Augustine, this richness of the union of head and body emerged from his prior writings about the mediatory role that Christ played in both the incarnation and the crucifixion. The redemptive acts of Christ on earth – like transfiguring humanity’s cry by taking up Psalm 21(22) from the cross – did not cease after he ascended to heaven. Rather, Augustine transfers these mediatory relations to the interaction between head and body. Both head and members will maintain unique voices on account of the actual difference of Christ being in heaven while humans are on earth. Nevertheless, in the mystery or sacramentum of their union, as intimate as bridegroom and bride, Augustine will work to parse the way in which these voices interact, particularly how it is that Christ speaks in his body and how members of the body learn to speak in Christ.

V The totus Christus was a uniquely Augustinian innovation for Latin Christianity. At the very root of this understanding, which gives an insight into a whole Christological program, is Christ’s speaking in the Psalms. The development of the concept roughly follows Augustine’s deepening understanding of Christ in the late 390s and early 400s. In passages where this teaching first emerges in Augustine’s writings, the totus Christus is rather flatly exegetical: a number of voices can be preserved within a simple text in which Augustine is reading Christ. By his later usages of it, however, the totus Christus becomes the place of transformation for both him and the congregants and congregations with whom he prayed and explored psalms. Augustine’s two expositions of Psalm 30(31), on which he commented both in the 390s and then around 411, provide an example of the contrasts in his development. At the beginning of his first exposition of Psalm 30(31), Augustine lists the speakers that one will find in the course of the psalm: ‘The Mediator himself speaks first; then the people redeemed by his blood gives expression

Augustine, Psalms and the incarnate Word  37 to its thankfulness; and finally this same people speaks for a long time in its distress.… The voice of the prophet breaks in twice, once near the end and again in the final verse’ (Expositions 30.1.1). At this point in his exegetical development, he notices the work of the mediator in the psalm, but the diversity of voices is not yet within the ‘whole Christ’. The psalm exposition from the 390s predates Augustine’s first uses of Acts 9:4, providing an early consideration of the ‘head and members’ imagery. Augustine identifies the role of each voice depending on the content of its speech. At this early point, however, this method simply allows Augustine not to predicate something wrongly of the savior. For instance, verse 6 of Augustine’s text reads: ‘Into your hands I commend my spirit. You have redeemed me, Lord God of truth’ (30.1.6). Augustine attributes the first phrase to Christ the Mediator speaking to the Father. But Augustine breaks his attribution halfway through the verse to say that the people redeemed by Christ pray the second part of the verse as well as the head. The additional voice mid-line does not remove the words from the mouth of the head and put them on the lips of the people. Rather, the people, joyful in the glory of the head, say along with the head, ‘You have redeemed me, Lord God of Truth’. The people and the head do not speak with the same voice, but they do speak the same words independently. By the time that Augustine revisits Psalm 30(31) in a set of preached expositions over a decade later, the totus Christus is a fully formed concept. Augustine introduces verse 6 in this exposition by reminding his hearers that the Lord said the same words from the cross (Lk. 23:46; Jn. 19:30; Expositions 30.2.11). But Augustine explains that Christ had good reason for ‘making the words of the psalm his own’ (30.2.11), in that he wanted ‘to teach you that in the psalm he is speaking. Look for him in it’ (30.2.11). This identification of Christ as speaker in the psalm is different from the first exposition because Christ is the only speaker. Gone is the need to differentiate between the mediator, the people redeemed and the psalmist. Rather, Augustine presents Christ as fulfilling a prophecy in himself while at the same time transfiguring the cry of the body: Bear in mind how he wanted you to look for him in another psalm, the one ‘for his taking up in the morning’, where he said, ‘They dug holes in my hands and my feet, they numbered all my bones. These same people looked on and watched me. They shared out my garments among them, and cast lots for my tunic’ (Ps. 21:17–19). He wanted to make sure you would understand that this whole prophecy was fulfilled in himself, so he made the opening verse of that same psalm his own cry: O God, my god, why have you forsaken me? Yet all the same he transfigured the body’s cry as he made it his own, for the Father never did forsake his only Son. You have redeemed me, Lord God of truth, carrying through what you promised, unfailing in your pledge, O God of truth. (30.2.11)

38  Kevin Grove, CSC In this sermon, Christ speaks, ‘You have redeemed me, Lord God of truth’, but only because Christ had ‘transfigured the body’s cry and made it his own’. This consideration of transfiguration reads a backward- and forwardlooking sense of time into redemption. Christ had taken up Adam’s flesh and Adam’s voice on the cross. Yet once Augustine had configured the totus Christus, Christ transfigures not only the cry of Adam from the fall in Eden but also the cry of every person after him. In the voice of the body taken up by Christ, the cry is every person’s after Adam, including especially those hearing Augustine’s sermon. They prayed Psalm 30(31); they spoke the words of Christ; their words were transfigured into his. Transfiguration, or the sense of an ongoing mediation, lies at the center of Augustine’s mature understanding of the totus Christus. Christ did not speak the Psalms for his own good, but rather for all those who might pray them in him. Building on its own momentum, an exegetical mechanism that enabled the conjunction of voices also opened the possibility of the conjunction of heaven and earth. Those who prayed the psalms within the totus Christus could not resist this transfiguration by assuming that a particular part of Christ’s speech did not apply to them. In his exegesis of Psalm 118(119):153–156, Augustine takes up the perspective of the members of the body, suggesting that ‘No one who has a place in Christ’s body should think the next verse has no bearing upon him or her’ (118.30.1). The verse that read, ‘Behold my humiliation and deliver me, because I have forgotten your law’, would seemingly not relate to everyone who would hear it (118.30.1). Augustine’s immediate explanation to those in his midst is that it is not the individual who needs to be ready to speak it; rather, the ‘entire body of Christ finds itself in a position to say this, for it is very used to being humiliated’ (118.30.1). The result is that the voice of the body, whether it be Christ the head speaking or the collective of the members, is the primary speaker. The individual member of the body might not be in a position to pray a psalm of lament, or enthronement, or any other word of Christ. But Augustine’s explanation of the totus Christus operates from a sense of wholeness that does not deny individual experience but expands it. An individual member’s place in Christ enables him or her to see matters not otherwise in their purview. Augustine, in the voice of the speaker of Psalm 118(119), says: ‘I could not have seen it myself if I had not seen it through the eyes of Christ, if indeed, I had not been in him; for these words are the words of Christ’s body, of which we are members’ (118.30.4). The object of vision, in this instance, is the way of God’s justice. Whether or not this object is seen at all depends on looking at it with the eyes of Christ. These eyes are not to be taken and adapted at will by an individual who wishes to put them on as one might spectacles. Rather, by being a member of the body, one learns to speak, see, smell, taste and understand in ways that are characteristic of that body. One sees neighbors in need, one learns to speak the Word that leads beyond words, and one is transfigured by prayer into Christ.

Augustine, Psalms and the incarnate Word  39

VI Psalms that one prays to be transfigured into Christ have direct consequences for social relations. One does not become Christ alone, but does so together with the other members who are being drawn along by their head. A startling example of Augustine’s working through this for his congregation concerns money and the poor. Augustine preaches on Psalm 38(39):7, ‘Although each human being walks as an image, nonetheless his perturbation is vain. He heaps up treasure, but does not know for whom he will be gathering it’ (Expositions 38.1), arranging his rhetorical exposition around a single question he wishes to put to the hearts of his congregants: For whom are you keeping your wealth? (38.10). He focuses his audience’s attention here only on the question at hand. He is not talking about the just acquisition of wealth, nor is he speaking of the hardships of those who have wealth. He confesses that his congregants will think him a simpleton (insipientem) for carrying on about one single question. Thus he says to his congregants, ‘I see what you intend to say (did you not think it would have occurred to me)? You will say, “I am keeping [my money] for my children”’ (38.11). Rhetorically speaking, his argument suggests that what looks like family loyalty is really an excuse for injustice (38.11). Augustine calls upon the psalmist – ‘Idithun’ the figurative ‘leaper’ unto God – as one who knows about this very thing, one who has left behind the old days to leap into the new. Augustine at first seems to be setting up a simple parallel between the exterior riches one might have and store and the interior riches which one gains in Christ. Just as exteriorly one might be entrusted with a great sum of money, interiorly Christ intends to give the great riches of himself. The issue, then, becomes one of storage in the first instance: the decision to store one’s money at home might be unwise because of dishonest stewards; it might be better to go to a banker or financier. But Augustine here reminds his hearers of Jesus’ words, ‘Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven’ (Mt. 6:20), concluding that the only safe place to put one’s riches is ‘in Christ’. Here Augustine deliberately tries to provoke anxiety about worldly riches. As he says, people often return to their homes to find their things stolen, such that many rightfully worry about the safekeeping of their exterior riches. Thus, as he goes on to explain, it would be common enough for people to pray to Christ in order that their earthly things might not be stolen, taking interior recourse in order to produce exterior security. But rather than encouraging trust in Christ in such a manner, Augustine simply suggests that they believe in Christ and as a result put their money where Christ advised them to put it. How does one put money into heaven? ‘Put it into the hands of the poor; give it to the needy’ (38.12). Augustine justifies himself by referring to another saying of Jesus: ‘When you did it for even the least of those who are mine, you did it for me’ (Mt. 25:40; see Expositions 38.12). With just a few short lines, Augustine provokes great anxiety about earthly wealth, but then uses interior wealth not to provide solace but to

40  Kevin Grove, CSC overhaul completely the exterior: storing up treasure in heaven means trusting in Christ as the secure hold of one’s riches and giving one’s riches to the poor as a way of giving to Christ. Interior riches necessitate largesse with one’s exterior riches. Augustine’s hearers must have reacted visibly or audibly to his preaching about their wealth and their homes because he comments, ‘Ah, some covetous people felt a clutch at their hearts when I said that’ (38.12). But if the psalmist – the model for the congregation – is leaping to Christ as his end, he cannot be held as captive to any temporal good (38.12). Augustine does not say that the psalmist ceases to exist in the world, merely that he is not held as its captive. In this way, the psalmist (and thus the congregation) is able to leap as St Paul ran: ‘forgetting what lies behind and straining to what lies ahead, I bend my whole effort to follow after the prize of God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 3:4; Expositions 38.14). The end of the congregation’s efforts in praying the poetry of the psalm is Christ and the heart’s rest in Christ, but their working toward that rest means caring for ‘the pauper lying at the gate’ (38.22). This is a pattern case for Augustine. Once he has established the wholeness of Christ, then living within Christ means not only becoming aware of but physically caring for his body on earth. In an analysis of the poor in the Expositions, Richard Finn convincingly argues that Augustine deliberately ‘foreshorten[s]’ the distance between rich and poor; both stand together before God (131, 140). I am suggesting that the way in which Augustine accomplishes this foreshortening is in the whole Christ. Growing into Christ meant that Augustine’s congregants encountered the other members of Christ’s body: the naked, hungry and homeless Christ in their midst.

VII Michael Edwards points out that God and humans are similar in that they are beings who speak: ‘But the relation between divine and human words is problematic, and requires, in a fallen world, that we advance with caution’ (20). Augustine faces this difficulty, as we have seen, by suggesting how Christ brought about the closest contact between divine and human words. He made them – for a time – the same. Further, he gave a special place to the poetry of the Psalms. Augustine’s insight was to trace the consequences of that mutual speaking for himself and his congregation. The ongoing exercise of praise – like the recitation of a familiar psalm – was one way of growing aware of the one whom they were becoming. Ultimately, the poetry of the Psalms, as Augustine understands it, moves us to a speech of the heart that is beyond spoken words. Thus he ends his sermon on Psalm 37(38) with one of his perennial themes: rest. Words are to be spoken, and speech must never cease, but only so that the human heart might find at last its own rest in the Word:

Augustine, Psalms and the incarnate Word  41 We shall praise God, no longer sighing for him but united with him for whom we have sighed even to the end, albeit joyful in our hope. For we shall be in that city where God is our good, God is our light, God is our bread, God is our life. Whatever is good for us, whatever we miss as we trudge along our pilgrim way, we shall find in him. In him will be that quiet that we remember now, though the memory cannot but cause us pain; for we remember the Sabbath, and about its memory so much has been said, and we must still say so many things, and never cease to speak of it, though with our heart, not our lips; because our lips fall silent only that we may cry the more from the heart. (Expositions 37.28) For Augustine, the Word incarnate forever changed human speech. The Word took up human words at their furthest distance from the divine: in abandonment. A great ‘exchange’ takes place which points to the fullness of hope from the pit of darkness. Human speech in abandonment need not be uttered alone; it will forever be possible to speak it in Christ. By such a mutual speaking, Christ renews again hope for the completion he has begun in every human voice and life. It is here that Augustine moves forward the question of the relation of human and divine speech that Michael Edwards sets forth. Augustine found that in Christ both the broken utterance and the unutterable were not effaced but transfigured. For the Word spoke in our words so that we might speak in his.

Works cited Augustine. Confessions. Trans. Maria Boulding. Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1996. ——. Expositions of the Psalms. 6 vols. Trans. Maria Boulding. Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2000. ——. Sermons 230–272B. Trans. Edmund Hill. Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1993. Babcock, William. The Christ of the Exchange: A Study in the Christology of Augustine’s Enarrationes in Psalmos. Dissertation, Yale University. Ann Arbor: ProQuest/UMI, 1971. (Publication No. 7216166). Byassee, Jason. Praise Seeking Understanding: Reading the Psalms with Augustine. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2007. Cameron, Michael. Christ Meets Me Everywhere: Augustine’s Early Figurative Exegesis. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Finn, Richard. ‘Portraying the Poor: Descriptions of Poverty in Christian Texts from the Late Roman Empire’. Poverty in the Roman World. Ed. Margaret Atkins and Robin Osborne. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. 130–144. McConville, J. Gordon. ‘Spiritual Formation in the Psalms’. The Bible and Spirituality: Exploratory Essays in the Reading Scripture Spiritually. Ed. Andrew T. Lincoln, J. Gordon McConville and Lloyd Pietersen. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2013. 56–74.

42  Kevin Grove, CSC Marrevee, William H. The Ascension of Christ in the Works of St. Augustine. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1967. Meconi, David. The One Christ: St. Augustine’s Theology of Deification. Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2013. Possidius. The Life of Saint Augustine. Trans. Matthew O’Connell. Villanova: Augustinian Press, 1998. Sidney, Philip. An Apology for Poetry (Or the Defense of Poesy). Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002. Soskice, Janet. Metaphor and Religious Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987. van Bavel, Tarsicius. ‘The “Christus Totus” Idea: A Forgotten Aspect of Augustine’s Spirituality’. Christology. Ed. Thomas Finan and Vincent Twomey. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1998. 84–94. Weidemann, Clemens. ‘Augustine’s Works in Circulation’. A Companion to Augustine. Ed. Mark Vessey. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. 431–449.

3 The Word of God woven into the poetic word The idea of Logos in the poetry of George Herbert and Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski Krystyna Wierzbicka-Trwoga A theory of divinely inspired poetry called ‘sacred poetry’ emerged in the seventeenth century, intended to open the reader to an experience of transcendence in the act of reading (Wierzbicka-Trwoga 297–307). The rationale for this theory came from the theological idea of Logos, the divine Word understood to be operating on various levels in language generally, and specifically in poetry. Michael Edwards insists that we can experience a Christian poem without having recourse to a theory of poetry ‘shuffling the Word of God and our words’, but it was otherwise with the poets of the seventeenth century: their chief concern was for the conditions of Christian poetry in a fallen world and, following Augustine’s argument in De doctrina Christiana, they believed that language as a human institution ‘is susceptible to manipulation by devils’ (Pahlka 17). Thus they sought a theory that could bridge the rift between the human and the divine, and convince Christian poets that their work was worthy of God. The idea of the Logos, with its ancient Platonist traditions, constituted to their minds an appropriate grounding for Christian poetry. Such an approach can be discerned in the poetry of George Herbert (1593–1633) and Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski (1641–1702), the latter a Polish nobleman and esteemed politician who became the Grand Marshal of the Crown. Lubomirski never read Herbert’s poems and knew nothing of his work, but joined his predecessor in facing the same challenge: namely, that of discerning how fallible human words might give voice to the divine Word that was ‘in the beginning’ and ‘became flesh’ in Christ. As such, they wondered how humans might voice that Word-made-flesh again in the words of poetry. Lubomirski put this problem as follows in one of the Latin psalms included in his last work, the treatise De remediis animi humani (1701): 1. To the Lord my voice, the words of my mouth to my God. 2. How can the hoarseness of a worm speak before the sweet-sounding, or darkness show up before the sun? 3. How can mud be compared to gold? How can a turtle be equated with the flying eagle, and more, how can man stand before his Maker?1

44  Krystyna Wierzbicka-Trwoga The voice of God is sweet and can be compared with the light of the sun, whereas the voice of man is hoarse and comes from a sinful worm – or from the darkness of mud. Lubomirski had earlier reflected on the divine Logos in his bilingual Teomuza (Theomuse), a catechism written in Polish and Latin epigrams and published in 1683. In four of the seventy-four epigrams, the poet speaks of the Word of God, Verbum, and of its conception in time. One of these epigrams clearly differentiates the three divine persons of the Trinity, stressing at the same time the difference between the Word of God and human words: XI. On the difference and eternity of the Word of God against human words Our words are nothing and die with the wind, But the Word of the Eternal Mind is ever alive. The Holy Spirit is the power of the Mind and the Word, Through Him the Divine Word [Latin]/Speech [Polish version] was conceived in flesh.2 Lubomirski does not use the Greek word logos, but rather identifies God the Father with the synonym of logos, the Stoic reason, ‘Mens aeterna’, a term he used in other of his writings to describe God, drawing on this idea in the Latin sequence Adverbia moralia: ‘Deus Est animus immortalis, / mens sancta et aeterna’ (Poezje zebrane, Adverbium III, 6–7). He refers to the Son in Theomuse as ‘Verbum’ and to the Holy Spirit as ‘the power of the Mind and of the Word’. Thus Lubomirski expresses the subtle theological doctrine of the Trinity correctly and in accordance with the Church Fathers in the ways they had earlier developed the Christian idea of Logos (Huber cols 1119–1128). The doctrine of the Trinity is closely connected with the Logos-idea, which was derived from the prologue to the Gospel of John where the ‘Word’ is presented as ‘in the beginning’ with God, and the one through whom ‘all things … came into being’. Thus the Logos-idea joins the Word of God the Father, who created the world by his Word in Genesis, with Christ-the-Word born in flesh, but also with the Word of the Holy Spirit, who inspired the authors of the Bible. Of importance to Lubomirski, given his philosophical and theological approach, is the difference he sees between the Word of God and human words: our words are nothing, he contends, and die with the wind. The Polish poet fully understands the impact of this difference on poetry. How can poetry use the words of a fallen language to convey the holy Word? When it attempts to do so, Lubomirski is intent on suggesting how it is that this comes about. George Herbert confronted the same question in his poetry, and gave an answer that anticipates Lubomirski’s solution (The Temple was published in 1633, some ten years before Lubomirski was born). In his ‘Jordan (2)’,

George Herbert and Stanisław Lubomirski  45 Herbert describes the problem of finding adequate words to express ‘heav’nly joys’: When first my lines of heav’nly joys made mention, Such was their lustre, they did so excel, That I sought out quaint words, and trim invention: My thoughts began to burnish, sprout, and swell, Curling with metaphors a plain intention, Decking the sense, as if it were to sell. Thousands of notions in my brain did run, Off’ring their service, if I were not sped: I often blotted what I had begun; This was not quick enough, and that was dead. Nothing could seem too rich to clothe the sun, Much less those joys which trample on his head. (99, ll. 1–12) This search for words was a dead end, as Herbert quickly realized, and yet he goes on to speak of the mysterious whisper that told him in the finishing lines of this poem only to ‘copy out the sweetness of love’ and ‘save expense’. But how is one to do this? As Herbert asked Christ in Thanksgiving: ‘But how then shall I imitate thee, and / Copy thy fair, though bloody hand?’ (32, ll. 15–16). How can man imitate the Word-made-flesh? Both poets seek a solution to this quandary in a similar manner. The first and indispensable step involved in this pursuit is the call to purify the words of poetry. Herbert indicates this in one of the last poems on poetry in The Temple, ‘The Forerunners’: Farewell sweet phrases, lovely metaphors. But will ye leave me thus? when ye before Of stews and brothels only knew the doors, Then did I wash you with my tears, and more Brought you to Church well drest and clad: My God must have my best, ev’n all I had. (172, ll. 13–18; emphasis added) Our words are to be washed in tears before we ‘bring’ them to church, according to Herbert. The idea of purification thus determines the beginning of Herbert’s sequence, where the long opening poem The Church-porch with the subtitle Perirrhanterium (the instrument for sprinkling holy water) creates an indispensable introduction to The Church: as the governing architectonic metaphor of the sequence shows, we enter a church only through the ‘church-porch’, where we undergo purification. The reader is ‘sprinkled’,

46  Krystyna Wierzbicka-Trwoga as Herbert says in the following Superliminare, a poem that stands between The Church-porch and the subsequent poems in The Church. Here he explicitly states what his verses will offer to a pure-hearted reader: Thou, whom the former precepts have Sprinkled and taught, how to behave Thy self in church; approach, and taste The churches mysticall repast. (22, ll. 1–4) Purification is necessary because in the church, as in Herbert’s volume The Church, we are to receive a ‘mystical repast’: the poems will become the body of Christ, the Word. This will be done in a kind of ‘cooperation’ between the poetic word and the Word of God, the Logos. Critics have already noticed the importance of the Logos-idea in Herbert’s poetry, as is clear, for example, from Rosalie Colie’s analysis of The Temple and from Heather Asals’s suggestion that Herbert’s poetry be understood as ‘Eucharistic’ (3–17). Herbert’s notion of the Word’s transformation into poetry has also been explored in other studies (e.g. Hughes; Pahlka 199–202; Sherwood 50; Wall 198–224). Here I would like to focus on the methods of what I call ‘weaving God’s Word into the poetic word’, because this is precisely what Herbert does: he carefully weaves the Word of God into his poetry in order to sanctify that poetry on various levels, as I shall show in a moment. Lubomirski uses a similar idea of purification in his Polish sequence Poezje Postu Świętego (Poems of Holy Lent), a sequence probably written in the 1680s. It consists of a Foreword, an epigrammatical section, the poem ‘Rytmy o Krzyżu świętym’ (‘Rhythms on the Holy Cross’) and a concluding sonnet, ‘Sonet na całą Mękę Pańską’ (‘On the Whole Passion of Our Lord’). The epigrammatical section is a sequence within the sequence, just as Herbert’s The Church was a sequence within a greater one. There exists a shorter and a longer version of the epigrammatical section (the first includes thirty-three epigrams, the second fifty-four), but one cannot say that the shorter version is incomplete; instead there are two versions, of which the larger is an extension of the shorter (the editorial problems connected with Lubomirski’s religious poetry are discussed in Karpiński). In the Foreword, the Polish poet calls his pen ‘unchaste’ and turns to Christ for help: You, Lord, who on the Cross have shown This love that I am bold here to extol, Forgive my worthless words, give my mouth vein, And let contrition mend these simple songs.3 He will be able to speak only by finding himself supported by Christ. This support the poet finds in the words of the Bible which he uses as a starting

George Herbert and Stanisław Lubomirski  47 point for each epigram. In his epigrams Lubomirski reflects on the Word of God, trying to understand the history of Christ’s passion, weaving God’s Word into his poetry – in this case, through the use of biblical citations. Our unworthy human words have to be purged and purified by being washed in the holy Word of God. We cannot know whether it was Lubomirski who added the quotations; the original manuscript was lost and all we have are later unauthorized copies (Lubomirski did not publish this sequence). But even if he was not the one to add the biblical references, the Word as found in the Bible stands as an implicated ‘pre-text’ to each of the epigrams. In every case, the poet asks why the events of Christ’s life happened as they are described in the Gospel, and offers his own explanation in the form of a conceit. Lubomirski establishes repentance and purification as the main theme of the first two groups of epigrams in his sequence: the first group concerns Mary Magdalene washing Christ’s feet (she washes His feet, and, in so doing, her own soul, in four epigrams of the shorter version of the sequence and five of the longer). It is followed by an analogical group exploring the theme of Christ washing His disciples’ feet (here, there are two epigrams in the shorter version, five in the longer). Lubomirski thus stresses the need for purity (in six epigrams of the thirty-three, or ten of fifty-four). Why? Clearly the sequence is conceived as an approach to holiness. While Herbert made his poetry a Eucharistic experience for the reader, Lubomirski presents the reader with the complete image of the Word-made-flesh. In his sequence, Lubomirski deliberately draws attention to parts of Christ’s body. He begins at Christ’s feet in the initial group, then mentions His hands washing the disciples’ feet (epigrams 7 [6] and 11) and later reflects on Christ’s breast where the beloved disciple lay (14 [9]), His body covered with bloody sweat (18 [11] and 19 [12]) and His face struck by the soldiers (31 [19]). Finally, he mentions the head crowned with thorns (34 [22]). The poet later mentions Christ’s hands again, but this time not as lowered to wash the feet of the disciples but rather as held up when nailed to the cross (38 [25]). The direction conveyed in this presentation of Christ’s body ascends from below to above, with Lubomirski focusing on Christ’s head in the moment of His death: 48 (30) Man could not raise his head to heaven, pressed By sin, till Christ redeemed him by His death Upon the cross. Christ raised that head To heaven and prayed God for us while He lived. Now dying, when He lifts the rule of sin and death, He bows His head at last, while sinners raise theirs high 49 How comes it that Christ dying bends His head Downward, to the earth looking, His last speech

48  Krystyna Wierzbicka-Trwoga Delivered? To guess is easy: bound with nails, He could not bind His body, yet He bound His spirit to us.4 The longer version of the sequence is more explicit (in epigram 49) in voicing the purpose of these Lenten reflections: that is, union with Christ, now fully embodied in the sequence. There is, however, one more part of Christ’s body not yet mentioned: the next pair of epigrams, of which the first appears in both versions of the sequence and also indicates its goal, reflecting on Christ’s heart pierced by the spear: 50 (31) Christ is dead, yet love lives ever in His heart; No spear can harm nor point pierce that love through. I’ll not grow dry in hope – from that heart water flows; Who sets sail on this water comes to heaven. 51 I know now why Thy heart is open, Jesu, whose lips are closed in death. No more can’st Thou incline us with Thy words, Thence new persuasions in Thy heart Thou formest. Whom wilt Thou not persuade, whom move not, Who speak’st not only now with lips, but with Thy heart.5 Here, love flows from Christ’s heart like the water described in the Gospel of John (19:30), and suggests the best way to reach heaven. Epigram 51, added in the longer version, develops an image that constitutes the climax of the epigrammatic section: Christ’s open heart speaking to humans. In this part of the sequence, in which the words of poetry reflect on the Word as found in the Bible, Lubomirski creates an image of Christ the Word, enabling us to hear Christ speaking not only with the words of His mouth, but also by means of the powerful speech of His heart. To make Christ present and speaking, in such a manner, is another way of weaving God’s Word into the human language of poetry. Epigram 51 offers a good example of Lubomirski’s approach to the Word of God in the Bible. He tries to understand the events of Christ’s life using baroque conceits in order to explore the transcendent reality hidden behind these events. The poet justifies this striving to understand God’s Word by calling upon St Augustine, who in his treatise on the Gospel of John wrote that all Christ’s actions are both deeds and words: they are deeds because they were done, and they are words because they are ‘signs’ (In Ioan. Evang. tract. 44, 1; see Domański 82). Consequently we can find an earthly cause and meaning for every event of Christ’s life, in human words, and at the same time see in them a sign of the transcendent truth, which points to the Word of God.

George Herbert and Stanisław Lubomirski  49 Herbert often uses the technique of quotation in his poems. Chana Bloch devotes an entire monograph to this question, which I can only briefly treat here. Herbert seldom quotes the Word of the Bible as explicitly as he does in the title of his poem ‘Col. 3:3. Our life is hid with Christ in God’. Instead he paraphrases biblical passages or alludes to them. A good example can be found in the poem ‘The Sacrifice’, the only poem in The Church where the poet makes Christ the speaker: Therefore my soul melts, and my heart’s dear treasure Drops blood (the only beads) my words to measure: O let this cup pass, if it be thy pleasure. (24, ll. 21–23) The last line is a paraphrase of Christ’s prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. The same poem serves as an example of the second method of weaving God’s Word into the poet’s own words: like Lubomirski, Herbert enables the reader to hear Christ-the-Word speaking. Lubomirski, however, does this by drawing on the image of Christ’s flesh, whereas Herbert concentrates on Christ’s words. In ‘The Sacrifice’ it is Christ Himself who speaks, but in many poems Herbert allows God to ‘complete’ his verses, so that the reader can actually see and hear God’s Word. A vivid example of this is found in his ‘A True Hymn’:    Whereas if th’heart be moved,   Although the verse be somewhat scant,    God doth supply the want. As when th’heart says (sighing to be approved) O, could I love! and stops: God writeth, Loved. (165, ll. 11–20) In ‘Denial’, God in the end ‘mends’ the poet’s ‘rhyme’, as in ‘The Collar’, where the rhythm and rhyme return to the poem with the voice of God: But as I rav’d and grew more fierce and wild    At every word, Me thoughts I heard one calling, Child:   And I reply’d, My Lord. (150, ll. 33–36) God’s Word, as Herbert intends it, has not only become a part of poetry, but it also completes the poem and gives a special kind of beauty to human words, one that reflects the Neoplatonic approach to beauty as derived from number and measure (Pahlka 173–208). One finds in Herbert a third way in which the poet weaves God’s Word into his poetry, one illustrated by the example of Herbert’s poem ‘The Altar’, a shape-poem made up of scriptural allusions. In its central

50  Krystyna Wierzbicka-Trwoga part, the ‘stipes’ of an altar, Herbert alludes to a text from the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians: A H E A R T alone Is such a stone, As nothing but Thy pow’r doth cut. Wherefore each part Of my hard heart Meets in this frame, To praise thy name. (23, ll. 5–12) This usage is neither a quotation nor a paraphrase, but a meaningful development of the apostle’s image. As Paul writes: ‘ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart’ (2 Cor. 3:3, KJV); the apostle’s words convey the idea of the Holy Spirit’s entering the human heart. In Herbert’s poem the Spirit does not only write in the heart, but more, it creates a new frame – in the shape of an altar made of human words – of the speaker’s heart. Thus the shape-poem alerts the reader to the reality of the Spirit, who is ‘Menti Verboque voluntas’, the power of the Mind and the Word, as Lubomirski put it. The heart prepared to receive the Word of the Spirit is a central motif in Herbert’s The Church. In another poem, ‘Whitsunday’, he portrays the Dove of the Spirit descending to ‘hatch’ his own – and, by extension, the reader’s – heart: Listen sweet Dove unto my song,   And spread thy golden wings in me;   Hatching my tender heart so long, Till it get wing, and fly away with thee. (57, ll. 1–4) To prepare the human heart to respond to the Word of God is the actual goal of ‘sacred poetry’, according to Herbert here. This is a conviction also found in Lubomirski’s work: his sequence ends with a sonnet ‘On the Whole Passion of Our Lord’, which presents the speech of the poet’s heart. In this sonnet, the heart renders explicit thanksgiving for the Passion of Christ. In a poem that stands as a masterpiece of the genre, Lubomirski compresses into four verses of a single stanza the entire story of the Passion, using keywords to signal almost every image that he had earlier reflected upon in more than thirty epigrams: Night, thought, fear, sweat, and blood and sleep denied, Betrayal, ropes, ill jury and unkind

George Herbert and Stanisław Lubomirski  51 Face stricken, scorned, back given to the smiters, Post, thorns, cross, nails, gall and laid open side.6 All that Lubomirski has said in the epigrams he finds now compressed, as though imprinted in his heart. The poem is a fitting conclusion to the whole sequence, since it proves that the powerful speech of Christ’s heart has persuaded the poet-persona (and presumably the reader), and hence he was able to find an answer in his own heart in a most beautiful form. That is, the poet was able to write this sonnet because he had heard the message of the Word in his heart. Herbert ends his cycle with a short sequence on the Last Things: ‘Death, Dooms-day and Judgement’. Omitting Hell, he arrives in ‘Heaven’ to meet, in the last poem of The Church, ‘Love (3)’, and here we meet an embodied Love who invites us to ‘taste [his] meat’. It is of course Christ who greets the one who has arrived in Heaven, a meeting that Herbert describes as Love’s ‘banquet’ in the Eucharist. Readers, invited from the beginning to a ‘mysticall repast’, having finished reading The Church, have also ‘eaten’ the Word, along with the poet-persona who has guided them through The Church: in the last line of this poem, the poet confesses, ‘I did sit and eat’, which describes by metaphor the act of reading, now completed. This special design intended for the reader can also be seen in the construction of The Temple as a whole. Herbert directs readers, who have entered the church on earth through the church-porch, have seen the altar and the church-monuments, looked through the church’s windows and walked on the church floor—that is, as guided by Herbert’s poems, which include a small sequence on these topics, comprising ‘Church-monuments’, ‘Churchmusic’, ‘Church-lock and key’, ‘The Church-floor’ and ‘The Windows’ – on their way through The Church, to rise at length, along with the poet-persona of The Church, up to heaven. As the governing metaphor of the sequence shows, when readers enter The Church, the words raise a temple in their souls – literally ‘raise’, because one thereby dwells no longer simply in the earthly church, but rather is lifted into the realities of the ‘heavenly’ church, as the closing sequence implies. The awakening of love in our hearts is the final goal of these poetic sequences. Both Herbert and Lubomirski begin by stressing the need for purification, and both end with the praise of love or the heart as the best way to attain union with God. The source of this idea points to the mystical tradition, well developed by the seventeenth century, which speaks of a threefold manner of ‘journeying’ into God: the ways of purgation, illumination and union through love. According to both poets, the connection between the human word and the divine Word, the Logos, can be best understood as a mystical agency, one which underscores a cooperation capable of sanctifying and elevating our human and fallible words. In their distinctive ways, these poets join in pointing to the Word as the word written by the Spirit on the human heart, Christ-the-Word and the Word of God

52  Krystyna Wierzbicka-Trwoga in the Bible, and thus as carefully woven into poetry in order to influence the reader. This influence, ultimately, is intended to lead readers on a journey, as, with the poets, they find themselves invited to undergo the same purgation as human words must do, and thus be themselves illuminated by them and through them ultimately brought to the love of God.

Notes 1 Ad Dominum vox mea, et verba oris mei ad Deum meum. 2. Quomodo eloqui potest raucedo vermis coram modulante? aut tenebrae exhiberi coram sole? 3. Vel lutum admoveri auro? aut testudini aquilae volatus? sed multo minus homo coram Creatore suo (Lubomirski Repertorum Opuscula Latina, Caput XIII, Psalmus I). 2 The Polish version of the eleventh epigram, Słowa Bożego od ludzkiego różność i wieczność, reads as follows: ‘Nasze słowo jest to nic i z wiatrem ginące, / Lecz Wiecznego Umysłu jest wiecznie żyjące. / Duch zaś Święty jest mocą umysłu i słowa, / Przez Tego się poczęła w ciele Boska mowa’. And the Latin version, Verbi Dei ab humano differentia et perennitas: ‘Est hominis verbum nihili nihil umbraque venti, / Mentis at Aeternae vivens, de numine quorum / Spiritus hic, compare Menti Verboque voluntas, / Clausit in humano Divinum corpore Verbum’ (Lubomirski, Poezje zebrane 108–109). 3 ‘Ty, Panie, coś na krzyżu raczył dokazować / Tej miłości, którą ja śmiem tu opisować, / Przebacz słowom niegodnym, dodaj ustom weny, / Abyć z skruchą te proste zaleciły treny’ (Lubomirski, Poezje zebrane 265, ll. 23–26). I wish to express my sincere gratitude to Professor Jean Ward for the English translations of Lubomirski’s Polish poems. 4 48 [30]: ‘Et inclinato capite tradidit spiritum / NACHYLIWSZY GŁOWĘ DUCHA WYPUŚCIŁ / Nie mógł głowy do nieba podnieść przyciśniony / Grzechem człowiek, ażby był śmiercią odkupiony / Zbawiciela na krzyżu. A Chrystus ją wznosił / Ku niebu, gdy za nami, żyjąc, Ojca prosił. / Teraz, że już umiera i grzech z śmiercią znosi, / Dopiero głowę zwiesza, gdy grzesznik podnosi.’ 49: ‘NA TOŻ / Czemu Chrystus umiera nachyliwszy głowę / Na dół, ku ziemi patrząc i ostatnią mowę / Zawarł? Lecz łatwo zgadnąć: przybity goździami, / Nie mogąc ciała łączyć, ducha złączył z nami’ (Lubomirski, Poezje zebrane 278). 5 50 [31]: ‘Lancea latus eius aperuit et continuo exivit sanguis et aqua / BOK MU WŁÓCZNIĄ PRZEBITO I SZŁA Z NIEGO KREW I WODA / Chrystus umarł, a w sercu miłość przecię żyje; / Tej włócznia nie zaszkodzi ani grot przebije. / Nie oschnę w mej nadziejej – z serca woda płynie; / Kto się puści tą wodą, do nieba zapłynie.’ 51: ‘NA TOŻ / Już się teraz domyślam, czem serce otwarte / Jezu masz, gdyś już umarł, gdy usta zawarte. / Nie mogąc nam zbawienia perswadować słowy, / Nowe w sercu formujesz miłości namowy. / Kogóż już nie pociągniesz, kogo nie namówisz, / Kiedy nie tylko usty, lecz i sercem mówisz’ (Lubomirski, Poezje zebrane 278). 6 ‘Noc, myśl, strach, pot, krew i sen zwyciężony, / Zdrada, powrozy, zły sąd i niemiły / Twarzy policzek, i rózgi, co biły, / Słup, cierń, krzyż, gwóźdź, żółć i bok otworzony’ (Lubomirski, Poezje zebrane 282, ll. 5–8).

Works cited Asals, Heather A. R. Equivocal Predication: George Herbert’s Way to God. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981. Bloch, Chana. Spelling the Word: George Herbert and the Bible. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

George Herbert and Stanisław Lubomirski  53 Colie, Rosalie L. ‘Logos in “The Temple”: George Herbert and the Shape of Content’. Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 26 (1963): 327–342. Domański, Juliusz. Tekst jako uobecnienie. Szkic z dziejów myśli o piśmie i książce. Kęty: ANTYK, 2002. Herbert, George. The Complete English Works. Ed. Ann Pasternak Slater. New York: Everyman’s Library, 1995. Huber, Carlo. ‘Logos’. Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche. Ed. Josef Höfer and Karl Rahner. Vol. 6. Freiburg: Herder, 1961. Hughes, Richard E. ‘George Herbert and the Incarnation’. Essential Articles for the Study of George Herbert’s Poetry. Ed. John R. Roberts. Hamden, CT: Archon, 1979. 52–62. Karpiński, Adam. Tekst staropolski. Studia i szkice o literaturze dawnej w rękopisach. Warszawa: Instytut Badań Literackich PAN, 2003. 131–153. Lubomirski, Stanisław Herakliusz. Poezje zebrane. Ed. Adam Karpiński (Adverbia Moralia ed. Mieczysław Mejor). 2 vols. Warszawa: Semper, 1995–1996. ——. Repertorum Opuscula Latina, Sacra et Moralia. Varsaviae: Typis S.R.M. in Collegio Scholarum Piarum, 1701. Pahlka, William H. Saint Augustine’s Meter and George Herbert’s Will. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1987. Sherwood, Terry G. Herbert’s Prayerful Art. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989. Wall, John N. Transformations of the Word: Spenser, Herbert, Vaughan. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1988. Wierzbicka-Trwoga, Krystyna. ‘Poesis sacra: A Comparative Study of Three Poetic Sequences of the European Baroque (Angelus Silesius Cherubinischer Wandersmann, George Herbert The Temple, Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski Poezje Postu Świętego)’. La cultura del barroco español e iberoamericano y su contexto europeo. Ed. Kazimierz Sabik and Karolina Kumor. Varsovia: Uniwersytet Warszawski, 2010. 297–307.

4 ‘Eternity shut in a span’ The Word being born and giving birth in the poetry of Richard Crashaw Sonia Jaworska

For Richard Crashaw, a seventeenth-century metaphysical poet and convert to the Catholic faith, corporeality was the key to understanding the magnitude and the immensity of the gift that humankind receives from God. Christ’s humble birth in human flesh, and subsequent fleshly death, is reason according to Crashaw for our joy and praise. In his poetry, Crashaw wants the reader to scrutinize what it really means for God to be ‘born of a woman’ (Gal. 4:4), and yet remain at the same time one who is everlasting, omniscient, all-powerful – one in whom we experience ‘eternity shut in a span’, as he puts it in his poem ‘In the Holy Nativity’ (41). Christ entered both a physical, spatial reality, becoming the Word Incarnate, and also a reality shaped of words, when He ‘shut’ or limited himself in this way. How we are to understand this, within the horizon of Michael Edwards’s claim that ‘being in the midst of God’s creation, we are surrounded by his words, yet for us they remain silent’ (19), is the purpose of this chapter. In agreement with Edwards’s claim, one might say that this is true for all created ‘things’, but what of Christ – who, as the creed puts it, is ‘begotten, not made’? Does this also hold for the one ‘word’ that, as the theological tradition has suggested, attempts at all times to be heard, to be seen and to be truly ‘ours’? How is it that this enfleshed ‘Word’ is the one word that both speaks aloud and is spoken, shouted even, in the name that is known by nations around the world where the Gospel has been spread? With this theological claim, Christians have suggested that God uses all communication channels available to bear witness to this ‘event’ in a public manner – through speech, written signs and the body itself, thereby hoping to make Christ known to all persons. The creation itself, which according to Christian tradition came into existence through this divine ‘self-uttering’, and Christ as the very Word of God, have the effect of exalting the act of speaking, as Edwards points out. Such a twofold witness testifies to the essential capacity and even grandeur of words. This suggests one reason why Crashaw and the metaphysical poets of his time treat writing not as an idle activity but rather as a powerful means to pay tribute to the Word. In short, this divine Word created the abundant world, including the reality of language, while poets’ words try to present this Word in its own abundance,

The Word in the poetry of Richard Crashaw  55 and in terms of the abundance of the world. Crashaw’s fascination with language dynamics arises from this central conviction. What is distinctive about Crashaw’s poetics, when viewed alongside his contemporaries, is his profound fascination with the flesh, and this chapter explores this emphasis as well as pointing to the influences that may have come to bear on the poet in this regard. This interest may have been influenced, if not activated, by the poet’s contact with the continental Baroque during his stay in Paris and Rome between 1644 and 1649 (Healy, Richard Crashaw 74–75). The visual arts in this cultural tradition, typically flamboyant, reveled in chubby-cheeked, fleshy representations of cherubim and female saints, which might well have inspired the poet’s own use of sensual images (Harris 113–134, 254–311). In a manner congruent with such images, Crashaw shows great interest in exploring the Incarnation of Jesus as having involved both a moment of conception and the duration of living in a virgin’s womb until birth, being fed and nourished in utero by what Mary ate and drank. The idea of the almighty God having entered into a fully human experience of weakness and dependence, in this manner, is of central importance for Crashaw, explaining why he gives so much attention to this theme in his poems. Thus, Jesus’ experience as a human opens a dimension within God’s experience, as it were, enabling God to ‘know’ created life in and through the particular nature of this human life. In this sense, poetry seems well suited to Crashaw’s purpose, since words are the domain of human experience which depends in an equal measure both on intelligence and on the body, and poetic words reveal this dependence by means of a density of ‘speaking pictures’. Crashaw draws the reader’s attention to the fact that a fetus, in relation to its mother, and the newborn baby, in relation to its parents, mirror the relation of all humans to God. In short, humans try to love in an unselfish and ‘godly’ manner, because in the Incarnation God establishes this as the ground of our life: as we read in the First Letter of John, ‘We love, because [God] first loved us’ (1 Jn. 4:19). That is, God limits himself in the Incarnation – ‘eternity shut in a span’ – by ‘taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness’ (Phil. 2:7), and in this extreme example of self-emptying, Christ enters the ‘span’ of human flesh, beginning with conception and birth itself. And, as Crashaw reminds us, this ‘event’ brings to light Christ’s peculiar double-role as both the divine Son ‘begotten’ of the heavenly Father and a human son born of an earthly mother. In this manner, the Word inhabits the full weakness of our human condition, coming to know by direct experience tears, blood, hunger, cold and suffering; because of this, God comes to know what is required in nourishing, nurturing, loving and protecting human beings in all the manifold dimensions of our lives. Christ, ‘though in the form of God’ (Phil. 2:6), ‘humbled himself’ in the most extreme ways knowable: in birth, and ultimately in death, ‘even death on a cross’ (Phil. 2:8). First, then, let us explore how Crashaw explores in his poems the theme of the conception, birth and nurture of the incarnate Word.

56  Sonia Jaworska

The erotic: wooing and love-making In Chapter 1, Michael Edwards argues that poetry is not identical with revelation, since only God can reveal what lies beyond us. However, poetry and the poet remind us of deep truths hidden in human words, truths that we tend to forget or have difficulties fully understanding, which is to say that poetry is in a sense revelatory. As much as grace is needed to keep us as humans from returning to our limited, sinful ways, so the constant intellectual or emotional stimuli we experience can serve as everyday spiritual awakenings to the Word in our midst. Crashaw provides such reminders in his poetry, achieving this through his use of wit and sensual imagery. In this sense, his poems do not create a world that seems ‘other’ or ‘foreign’ for us as readers; rather, he speaks of the divine ‘among us’ through his use of images familiar to us in our experience, linking them skillfully with ‘things beyond’ or outside human experience. In this way, he hopes to show how these two are in fact related, if not often nearly identical. His poems accomplish this, and gain much of their energy and ‘reach’, through his use of cunning metaphors, including images of wooing and love-making. These fall, I would suggest, into three distinct categories: first, they appear in the context of God’s ‘seducing’ a human soul, and Christ’s pursuing His beloved, the Church; second, we find them in the poet’s use of images of the fertility of the earth and Paradise itself, abundant with fruit and vegetables; and, third, Crashaw turns to the language of love to present human experience in its extremities of pain and death. One finds many examples of God seducing the soul in Crashaw’s works. One of these stands out with particular force: namely, the first poem in Crashaw’s Carmen Deo Nostro collection, dedicated to the Countess of Denbigh. The poet prefaces this volume with an epigram: ‘’Tis love alone can heart unlock; / who knows the Word, he needs not knock’ (28). The reader notices that the password here is Jesus Himself: our knowledge of him opens the heart, yielding before the power of the incarnate Word. The lyrical I, identified with Crashaw, wonders why she – Lady Denbigh – ‘choose[s] so long in labour of yourself to ly’ (9–11).The idea for this particular conceit may well come from John Donne’s Holy Sonnet No. 14 (‘Batter my heart, three person’d God’) where the subject of the poem ‘like an usurpt towne, to’another due, / Labour[s] to’admit’ God (6). Crashaw, playing on the words ‘labour’ and ‘ly’, shows how the struggle to accept Christ can be equated with the effort to give birth to a child, which in turn is a shocking transformation of a love image found in the Song of Songs. In this respect Crashaw alludes to a long tradition of ‘spiritualizing’ the sexual, since the Song of Songs is essentially the latter (sexual) and had been read since the early centuries as an allegory of divine/human love. In the case of this reference in the poems by both Donne and Crashaw, the result of a successful labor is a new life, though as the word ‘labor’ suggests, this will

The Word in the poetry of Richard Crashaw  57 be experienced as an ordeal, for as we could infer from the already quoted phrase, ‘choose[s] so long in labour of yourself to ly’, the speaker wonders why the woman does not take action but remains inactive and thus rejects truth in favor of a lie. ‘Almighty Love’ must come to help us fight the indecision of our soul: ‘Come once the conquering way; not to confute / but kill this rebel word “irresolute”’ (Crashaw 39–40). As this parallel implies, the source of all words, the Word, must ‘fight’ words: Jesus is both a lover and a warrior who proves worthy of His beloved. Another line can also be read in the key of love-making, since it is not certain whether the calling ‘unfold at length, unfold fair flower’ (43) is an address made toward ‘Almighty Love’ or the soul. If it is an encouragement to God, it stands as an invitation for him to bestow blessings on a chosen soul; to deflower it, metaphorically speaking; to conquer it, making it his own. For a flower to come to maturity, rain is necessary, which is why the poet agitates: ‘use the season of Love’s shower!’ (44) We immediately associate the ‘shower’ with rain, which may in turn stand for the tears of the repentant and thus signify spiritual growth, but at the same time is clearly fraught with sexual overtones. The reference to this image may well be a description, familiar to Crashaw, from the writings of Teresa of Avila, in whose autobiographical account we encounter God as a good gardener (100). Here the saint claims, first, that the soul must tend to its spiritual life and strive for holiness, but there comes a time when ‘it is He who now takes upon Himself the gardener’s work, and who would have the soul take its ease’. When ‘the creator of water’ comes, he pours the water without stint; and what the poor soul, with the labour, perhaps, of twenty years in fatiguing the understanding, could not bring about, that the heavenly Gardener accomplishes in an instant, causing the fruit both to grow and ripen; so that the soul, such being the will of our Lord, may derive its sustenance from its garden. (100) Crashaw suggests another, contrasting way of reading this metaphor. In the poem ‘To the Name Above Every Name’ which immediately follows ‘To the Countess of Denbigh’ in the Carmen Deo Nostro collection, Crashaw mentions ‘thirsty land / gasp[ing] to [God’s] golden showers’ (127), a reference to the Greek myth of Danae. As the story goes, Danae was impregnated by Zeus who came to her in the form of golden rain. We are thus encouraged to read ‘Love’s shower’ in overtly sexual terms. Crashaw’s readers should take a double perspective if they hope to come to a full image of God’s action. Admittedly, the Holy One pours down a life-giving rain that guarantees the growth of the soul’s flower. Yet this metaphor is imperfect because the relation between a gardener and even the most beautiful flower can never match the intensity of the relation between lovers.

58  Sonia Jaworska Teresa of Avila occupies a special place in the poetry of Richard Crashaw, particularly because of his interest in how she expresses the ecstasies of human love toward God. The poet echoes this tradition, giving us many vivid, dynamic and sensual images to present her communion with Jesus. In ‘A Hymn to the Name and Honour of the Admirable Saint Teresa’, Crashaw speaks first of martyrs who have ‘lusty breath’ (7) for God, fearless in the face of death, ready to die ad maiorem Dei gloriam. In this poem young Teresa also desires, lustily, to follow in the footsteps of saints, just as the poet desires to follow in her footsteps: Love touched her heart, and lo it beats High, and burns with such brave heats; such thirst to die, as dares drink up a thousand cold deaths in one cup. Good reason; for she breathes all fire; Her white breast heaves with strong desire Of what she may, with fruitless wishes, Seek for amongst her mother’s kisses. (35–42) She seeks the love that a mother cannot give her, knowing that the love she needs is ‘not to be had at home’ (43). Teresa’s feelings are overwhelming in their strength, more passionate and uncontrollable than the love of a daughter for her mother. She does not look for a parent, but rather for the heavenly lover whom she finds in Jesus. In fact, Jesus is repeatedly called Teresa’s ‘spouse’, and not once her father. As in ‘The Flaming Heart’, Crashaw uses the image of the dart (‘He is the dart’) that pierces Teresa, an image she herself had used and one that also achieved a striking visibility in Bernini’s statue ‘The Ecstasy of St Teresa’, executed in the last years of Crashaw’s life (1647–1652). Here, love puts an end to her unholy life while at the same time giving her new life, uniting her completely with Jesus. O, how oft shalt thou complain Of a sweet and subtle pain Of intolerable joys Of a death in which who dies Loves his death, and dies again, and would forever so be slain. And lives, and dies; and knows not why; To live, but that he thus may never leave to die. (97–104) The pleasure of this ‘death’, together with the ‘delicious wound’ and ‘intolerable joys’ it brings, awaken in the reader a direct sense of sexual intercourse,

The Word in the poetry of Richard Crashaw  59 especially when the object that inflicts the wounds – the dart – clearly bears a phallic shape. Again, Bernini’s portrayal of Teresa’s face and body posture come to mind. For Teresa, at a sensual level, the Word truly enters her, taking the form of flesh in this ecstatic encounter – or feeling as if this is so. What is more, at the end of the hymn Crashaw evokes this image again, this time speaking of the results of this holy love-making: Jesus (the ‘sovereign Spouse’) ‘made fruitful’ Teresa’s soul. In other words, He bestows on Teresa love and inspiration so that she gives ‘virgin births’ to all those who, by reading her holy works, might turn to God and in this way become her spiritual sons and daughters. Here, impregnation leads to new birth, in this case in the experience of those whom she draws after her. The soul becomes an active agent when it is united with God. In doing so, it is able to explore God’s reality, coming into an intimate contact with Heaven. Crashaw often writes about the soul that ‘swells’ with either sorrow or love, an image that is similar to that of a pregnant woman’s swelling belly when she is with child. In ‘The Flaming Heart’, as well as in several other poems, Crashaw encourages the soul to ‘swell’ with ‘the strong wine of Love’. If Jesus be that ‘wine of Love’, then this wine stands for blood, too, in this case, through the transubstantiation experienced in the Eucharist. Thus, we are right in thinking that by drinking and swelling, the soul is all at once fed with the body of Christ, intoxicated – ecstasy being its visible proof – and impregnated with love that bears spiritual fruit. What is more, in the poem ‘Prayer’ the soul – chosen as a newly-wed bride – is not simply a recipient of love. In her reunion with Jesus, the soul is said to ‘taste at once ten thousand paradises’ (183), at once both violent and fierce in exploring the realm of Heaven. As a matter of fact, the soul plunders it: She shall have power to rifle and deflower The rich and roseal spring of those rare sweets, Which with a swelling bosom there she meets: Boundless and infinite – – Bottomless treasures Of pure inebriating pleasures. (117–123) This depiction suggests that the soul which accepts Christ as a lover immediately finds in him the source of all pleasures. His is the garden of delight where fruit is ripe, sweet and swelling, too. Everything that comes from God is life-giving and full because God is fertile. One final and quite extraordinary example of a carnal metaphor occurs in Crashaw’s poetry, this time in ‘Sancta Maria Dolorum’, a poem that focuses first and foremost on the sorrow of the Virgin Mary, lamenting over the crucifixion of her Son:

60  Sonia Jaworska Her eyes bleed tears, His wounds weep blood. O costly intercourse Of deaths, and worse – Divided loves. (20–23) In the context of this poem, ‘intercourse’ means primarily ‘dialogue’ or ‘exchange’, but in terms of ‘divided loves’, we are also encouraged to read the text in the ‘code’ Crashaw uses for his poetry generally: namely, the code of love. It appears that the love language cannot be abandoned or disregarded just because circumstances are changed to those of pain and misery, and the two subjects of love happen to be mother and son. God on the Cross is still a loving God, and it is especially there and at that time that He loves most fully. That is, Jesus cares for Mary as a son cares for his mother, caring for her body and soul as God also does. His words must reflect this love, and in fact are in a sense saturated with love. As in the examples cited above, Crashaw’s poetry uses many images that are closely related to human activities and to physicality as such. It is not rare in his works to read of labor, strife and sexual experience, which in turn evokes smells: the feeling of tears, the odor of sweat, blood, semen and mother’s milk. Crashaw ‘talks in human ways’ to ‘show the divine’, relying on carnal language that he presses into spiritual service. However, such metaphors in themselves cannot suffice to make the reader believe and feel how closely spirit and flesh are related. Metaphors, even carnal ones, are still only an abstract notion – ‘words, words, words’, we might repeat after Hamlet. They belong to the domain of the untouchable, the immaterial. However, this does not mean that one cannot physically feel them. A poem is in fact ‘a special kind of body’, as Michael Edwards puts it: ‘Poetry exists in part to reveal the sound of sense, the rhythm of meaning, the profundities of language that relate it to bodies full of mind and to a reality vibrating with logos, with intelligence’ (21). A poem is corporeality itself. It comes out of the body, having its own rhythm that flows just as blood circulates, and its own tempo that is similar to that of the beating heart. A word of itself lacks dynamics, while verse is a living structure, a body, though – as Professor Edwards rightly points out – at the same time one that is ‘spiritual’. With this in mind, readers might conclude that Crashaw, whom some critics blame for excesses of sensual imagery, actually reveals this spiritual dimension to the reader in terms of the physical, and thus offers a poetry that is closer to what is real than we might have thought at the beginning of our reading adventure. Thus far, we have focused attention on the prevalence of erotic imagery in Crashaw’s poetry. Let us now turn to another aspect of his lyric, one less acknowledged among his critics: namely, his use of parental imagery.

Parenthood and child-rearing The reader of Crashaw’s sacred poems is constantly reminded of the paradoxical ‘double role’ found in Jesus’ life. The doctrine of the Incarnation

The Word in the poetry of Richard Crashaw  61 enabled the poet to mix the experience of a child with that of a parent, all at once. In ‘To the Name of Jesus’, the Baby Christ is called a ‘womb of Day’ (Crashaw 158). It is no accident that Crashaw chose this strongly carnal metaphor. To read it properly one must bear in mind how safe, quiet and rich the womb as a place is. It gives the fetus time to develop fully, providing an environment for healthy growth. Jesus is such a ‘place’: in him and thanks to him, light comes into the world. The ‘day’ that is incubating in his ‘womb’ is a symbol of joy, illumination and new life. Jesus, being a ‘sweet Babe’, is also presented as a shelter-giver, one who is not so much taken care of, as he cares for others – and for us. As Crashaw exclaims: ‘O Little All!’ He continues to glorify this child’s embrace in which ‘the world lies warm and likes its place’ (36–37). God is protection for the soul. The spirit of a man stands in the role of God’s child. That is why the lyric subject in ‘To the Name Above Every Name’ implores the soul to let him ‘see what of thy parent Heaven yet speaks in thee’. But a soul that escapes God’s love proves a hungry and unhappy child: ‘O thou art poor of noble powers, I see, and full of nothing else but empty me’ (Crashaw, 19–21). To get rid of the unbearable emptiness one must be filled with God’s food. In other words, the soul needs to be nourished by God to become ful-filled. This is where Crashaw’s hymns in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament come into focus. In ‘The Hymn of Saint Thomas’ the poet evokes the image of Christ as a mother pelican, popularized in the medieval period by Thomas Aquinas and featured frequently in Baroque art. As William Saunders puts it, The pelican symbolizes Jesus our Redeemer who gave His life for our redemption and the atonement He made through His passion and death. We were dead to sin and have found new life through the Blood of Christ. Moreover, Jesus continues to feed us with His body and blood in the holy Eucharist. (2) Crashaw’s poem follows these lines when the lyric subject calls Christ ‘rich, royal food’, ‘bountiful bread’ and the ‘bread of loves’ (39–43). In another poem, ‘Lauda Sion Salvatorem’, the poet refers to Christ as ‘living and lifegiving bread’, and speaks of the Eucharist as nothing less than bread and wine ‘transumed / and taught to turn divine’ (29–30). Such a reference is in accord with the thought of Jean-Luc Marion, who claims that God reveals God’s self to humankind as gift. In this sense, Holy Communion comes to be understood as God’s self-representation, the attempt of the phenomenon to become known, recognizable. The Eucharist is what Marion calls a ‘saturated phenomenon’, one that is ‘of such overwhelming givenness or overflowing fulfillment that the intentional acts aimed at these phenomena are overrun, flooded – or saturated’ (Caputo 164). The ‘meat’ and ‘drink’ of Christ are said to be in excess – the title of one of Marion’s central works where he explores this theme at length – such that all who are ready to feed

62  Sonia Jaworska on the Incarnate Word cannot but be satisfied, and yet still thirst. This is the paradox of the Eucharist: the one who receives the gift is over-satisfied, fully nourished and yet is left in greater desire. In this sense, the Eucharist is iconic; it is ‘the brilliance of the visible’, as Marion puts it (7), bread and wine leading us further into the real presence of the Word. Although the Word is ‘visibly absent’, it is ‘recognised in the breaking of the bread’ (154). As Marion suggests, the true gift has no limits and knows no ‘economy of exchange’, which means that recipients of the gift are not debtors – being indebted to the giver is simply at odds with the notion of giving (Markowski 4). However, though God will not make humans repay this gift, they are not to forget that the food ‘lowly mouths of men’ receive is ‘the full and final Sacrifice’– ‘the manna’, ‘the ransom’ and ‘the paschal lamb’, as Crashaw puts it (62). The spiritual meat, Christ’s own self-offering of his body and blood, is truly ‘needful’; who does not taste it dies, as we might say, of a kind of spiritual starvation. When we step back and try to see God’s action in a linear way, it could be said that there Jesus has taken a long and complicated path – from the Word of God to the Word Incarnate to the Word finally transubstantiated in and through the Eucharistic bread and wine. Christ is at all times the mixture of both the divine and human, though in the form of the Eucharist no one needs to take Jesus at his word any longer: that is, in this communion, all metaphors and parables fade away because what Christ figuratively said becomes real and solid as the presence of the Word beyond words, and this already from the moment he gave up his life on the Cross. If God speaks the world into being and Christ is the Word of God, does not Christ mean the ‘world’ for his Father? And, further, if Jesus is the Word at Creation, and the whole universe came forth from that Word, does he – that is, Christ – mean everything for humanity as well? This is not meant as metaphor, for it simply looks real. When Jesus announced that He is ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (Jn. 14:6), these were not just fancy words. He meant no less than what was said. The ‘way’ should be read, apart from its obvious figurative sense, as ‘the road’ which the prophet Isaiah mentions as well: ‘And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it’ (35:8). This is why, when Jesus speaks in human language in the gospels, the reader must bear in mind that these words reflect reality in an almost literal way. Or, returning for a moment to Marion, just as the Word of God became flesh, so, too, each of Jesus’ words as ‘flesh’ has the power to be as true and real as their ‘giver’. They are both divine and human, both material and immaterial and thus always between these two worlds, a formulation that on one level is simply shocking. Biblical poetry, in this sense, is indeed ‘the poetry of the real’ (Edwards 26). Having referred to Christ as a ‘womb of day’, shelter-giver, food-provider and self-sacrificing pelican, Crashaw goes further in suggesting what kind

The Word in the poetry of Richard Crashaw  63 of parent God is. As in many Old Testament images in which God appears as one who nurses and cares for others (cf. Isa. 49:15; Isa. 66:12–13; Hos. 11:1–4; Ex. 19:4), the poet presents God as mother, contrary to the popular use of masculine imagery to describe God. Surely when it comes to lovemaking, Jesus is the one who woos and ‘enwombs’, but once the soul is on a good path, God shows the gentleness, patience and affection of a mother. Jesus, ‘the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood’, as an early creedal definition put it, suggests what is true of every human being, and thus repeats the words of Adam: ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’ (Gen. 2:23). Judging from the number of references and the widespread attention to this subject matter in his poems, Crashaw appears to elevate female over male New Testament figures and saints. His favorites include the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and Teresa of Avila, women variously associated with innocence, devotion, fertility and passion. They represent varied images of ‘model’ believers, and their importance for Crashaw lies in the fact that they possess qualities dear to Christ, just as their femininity and, in some cases, maternity is reflected in the nature of Christ himself. Mary is represented by the color white, which suggests milk and her fair complexion:   Two sister-seas of virgin-milk, with many a rarely temper’d kiss That breathes at once maid and mother, Warms in the one, cools in the other. (88–91) She is both holy and fertile, innocent and passionate; she is a curious mixture of love and integrity, a female version of the Savior, and the embodiment of mortal perfection. In Edwards’ lead essay in this volume we find reference to another use of white in relation to Jesus – that is, one that describes the appearance of Christ’s clothing during the Transfiguration. Each of the synoptic gospels notes this feature, which serves to underscore the brightness of Jesus’ face and the whiteness of His robe as ‘out of this world’. Edwards analyses this scene and comes to the conclusion that such whiteness constitutes the ‘immaculate fullness of unperceived colour’, hinting at things spiritual and unknown, hidden from the human eye (27). Here, the visible stands for the invisible, for the one cannot be separated from the other: though the face that shines with such extraordinary brightness is part of a ‘body beyond body’, it still belongs to a human who was in a quite ordinary manner fed on a woman’s milk until he came of age. Once we understand this and take into account the close relationship between words and flesh, it is just a small step to see how the thirsty soul is, metaphorically and literally, fed on the drink of the Eucharist. The ‘white metaphor’ proves the reality right: the indissolubility of the material and the immaterial appears unquestionable.

64  Sonia Jaworska Mary Magdalene, another of Crashaw’s favorites, is associated with the color silver, and with a quiet, obedient devotion. In ‘The Weeper’ (Crashaw 92–99), the element that represents her best is water, the liquid of tears (‘silver-footed rills’). She wants to purify her soul through weeping, just as Jesus wants to purify the world through His blood. Mary Magdalene’s tears are, in a sense, her sacrifice. They become a heavenly drink that ‘a brisk cherub sometimes sips’. Jesus sacrifices his blood, which in the Eucharistic wine is ‘transubstantiated’ into Christ’s presence in what the Eucharistic prayer describes as ‘heavenly drink’. In this case, we are in the presence of a most curious double crossover: blood to wine to blood again. In turn, Crashaw identifies Teresa of Avila, last but not least, with the element of fire, and the liquid associated with her is blood. Fire symbolizes Teresa’s zeal and valor. The blood in her ‘burning cheeks’ and ‘flaming heart’ is hot and boiling. She is filled with passion and desire, which lead her to the experience of ecstasy. She is the one wounded by Christ’s dart, experiencing both joy and the pain of love. Jesus is similar to all three women in a way, or perhaps we should say that all three saints are similar to him. Christ – as with the three aforementioned female figures – produces life-giving substances out of his very his body: Lo, how the streams of life, from that full nest, Of loves, Thy Lord’s too liberal breast, Flow in an amorous flood Of water wedding blood. (7–10) Christ on the cross oozes blood and water from his wounds, and does it, moreover, in a manner resembling breast-feeding. From Christ’s breasts flow ‘the streams of life’, just as from the breasts of a woman flows milk that feeds her child. If we remember that Christ’s blood possesses nourishing value, the image of Christ as mother is complete.

God’s bountiful name Crashaw puts a special emphasis on the importance of the name of the Holy One, as is the case in the wider Catholic tradition. The poet notices that the Word in the form of the name is as much a parent as when descending to earth in the flesh. Moreover, the act of revealing the name may be considered one of the clearest manifestations of God’s divine and motherly love. The Holy One is addressed in the Old Testament by many names: as Yahweh-Tsidkenu (‘The Lord is our Righteousness’), as YahwehMaccaddeshem (‘The Lord thy sanctifier’), as Yahweh-Shalom (‘The Lord Our Peace’), as Yahweh-Rapha (‘The Lord Who Heals’), as El-Elion (‘The Most High God’), along with many others. All these names suggest

The Word in the poetry of Richard Crashaw  65 God’s various attributes, each one of which God always and at any given time possesses (Jackson 45–65). The fact that God is also called YahwehYireh (‘The Lord will provide’) and El- Shaddai (‘the God of Two Breasts’) suggests that the Word is giver, provider and mother. In Hebrew culture, a name (‘shem’) is a symbol of individuality, determining the authority and respect that belong to its owner. To give it away, to make it known to others, can bring about serious consequences: on the one hand, the name may be exalted, praised and uttered with love and reverence, which adds to the glory of the bearer; on the other hand, it can also be cursed, which stains the bearer’s honor. God takes this risk, letting his creation call (unto) him by these names, even though it means that he becomes vulnerable to misuse, slander and blasphemy. The act of revealing the name involves yet another inconvenience, if not a threat, to God: it gives his subjects an opportunity to summon him each time they need help (Jackson 1–40). But is this not what God desires? How else can we account for the idea of God’s sending to earth his Son, whose name is Jesus (‘Rescue’)? The Word in a literal sense becomes flesh, and begins to take direct action in the world. In other words, God gives ‘help’ to God’s people. Another curiosity about the potency of a name in Hebrew culture is that the name given to a child expresses the expectations fathers have regarding their progeny’s future. The word that named a person in Old Testament times and in the time of Christ had to have meaning and significance, a rule that in the contemporary western world is no longer strictly followed. In the Old Testament, however, it was of utmost importance, and nobody other than the male head of a family had the right to bestow a name upon a newborn child. This tradition is also respected by God in all his doings (32). First, Jesus, whom God calls ‘Son’, is given the name that defines his role on the earth: as the savior who comes to help humankind, delivering us from sin and death. Second, Jesus himself re-names those he loves so that together they can fulfill his divine designs. Simon son of Jonah is one of the most prominent examples we find in the gospels: to him God, exercising His parental powers, says: ‘I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it’ (Mt. 16:17–18). The name of God is a threefold gift: it gives freedom, shelter and identity. One must nevertheless realize God’s power in order to cherish these gifts. This idea is best conveyed in Crashaw’s hymn ‘To the Name Above Every Name, the Name of Jesus’. The lyrical subject ‘sing(s) the Name which none can say / But touched with interior ray’ (1–2). That name is ‘our good, our bliss’ (30). Next, the poet calls souls ‘the heirs elect of Love’, comparing them to birds (‘holy doves’) and bidding them to ‘build warm nest’ in the ‘wealthy breast of this unbounded name’ (37). The ‘nest’ is most clearly home, a place of safe seclusion and growth. But such seclusion is by no means claustrophobic. The name of God – that is, the divine who hides himself within the Word – is ‘unbounded’, remaining free, limitless, unconfined,

66  Sonia Jaworska unrestricted, unconstrained – as unconstrained as the ways in which that word can be understood and still remain true for God. In all this, the soul of a man remains a curious phenomenon: it is restless, ever searching for true happiness, delighting in novelty, desiring freedom over all else. For the soul, ‘One little world or two / (Alas!) will never do’ because it must ‘seek for more’, as Crashaw notes (37). God meets this demand and gives His ‘Flowery Name’ to be explored, discovered and enjoyed like a new, exotic land: Sweet Name, in Thy each syllable A thousand Blessed Arabias dwell; A thousand hills of frankincense; Mountains of myrrh, and bed of spices, And ten thousand Paradises. The soul that taste Thee takes from thence. How many unknown worlds there are Of comforts, which Thou hast in keeping. (178–185) The name of Jesus, thus, contains all. The soul is looking for unrestrained freedom, and the only place it can find it is in this name. Jesus addresses every soul, the weak and frightened to whom he gives shelter as needed, as well as the bold and adventurous to whom He opens up the richness of his Word and world. The metaphor of the soul as a bird, and the name of Jesus as a nest and thus also as a spacious and sheltering world, completes the overall perception of God as a parental figure, and seems to represent the first and the last stage of God’s raising His ‘young’: that is, God provides asylum to the weakened soul, and once it is strengthened by the ‘taste’ of him, when the soul is fed, nourished and becomes in a manner a ‘grown up’, God allows it to explore his world and enjoy its delights. Interestingly, the equating of ‘word’ with ‘world’ is also quite telling, reminding the reader that the act of creation occurs in the Genesis account precisely through words. God is the first Word, thanks to which worlds could be created. Also, the Word – the name – both presents God and introduces him to the world. To know this name is to know the power of God. Through this name, humans are able to discover the world, and discovering the world of nature is at the same time the means of discovering God’s might. It should not escape the reader’s attention that by evoking the name of God in so many of his poems, Crashaw seems to have brought the material and the immaterial to an equal rank. Actually, by exalting Jesus’ name the poet seems to claim that revelation comes rather through words than in the flesh or, perhaps, hints at the possibility of words’ being an indispensable threshold to the revelation of the Word in and through the flesh. Michael Edwards makes this point as well, when he argues that ‘Poetry names the

The Word in the poetry of Richard Crashaw  67 world anew’ (21), accomplishing this through word-play, rhymes and other stylistic and rhetoric tools by means of which we experience a new kind of world. In other words, the Word creates the world, and the Word encompasses worlds.

Concluding reflections Among the metaphysical poets of the seventeenth century, Crashaw occupies a unique place for the way in which he ‘names the world anew’, particularly in terms of the erotic fusion in his writings of the physical and metaphysical, the human and divine, the sexual and the spiritual. He accomplishes this by attending with a fierce devotion to the human experience of wooing, love-making, conception and birth, seeing in them a pattern of our relation with the divine, and he strengthens our awareness of this by drawing on biblical figures as well as particular saints who embody this convergence. In his poetry we meet the God who enwombs the soul with love, ‘seducing’ us with delight, and overcoming us in ecstasy. But pain is also a dimension of this relationship, as is often the case in erotic love; thus, our tears come to fertilize the heart and the wooing, and the strife we also experience in the gift of this love-making and love-receiving points to what the poet understands as impregnating qualities – that is, the joy and the struggle together make of us a new person, being the occasions that bring about the conversion of the sinner. When it comes to birth-giving, the poet puts a stress on how the Word comes into the world, as well as how the baby Jesus makes possible the soul’s re-birth through faith in him. Only then does God take on the role and responsibility of a parent, nourishing us by becoming bread and wine and the very fruit on which the soul depends for life. Only then does the soul experience, in the hands of such nurturing, the bestowal of freedom and space. This is the time in which believers come to maturity, enabled to explore the abundance of God’s presence in this world. Thanks to the name that is revealed to the creation, God makes himself known to us and, through the Word that takes the form of flesh, makes himself physically real and remains so evermore in the Eucharist. Particularly by means of the erotic metaphors he chooses, Crashaw presents our relationship to God as one shaped by a ‘code of love’, in which we encounter Christ in the passion of love – an allusion, not lost on Crashaw, to Christ’s death as the supreme act of divine love. The soul through this love comes to enjoy, in an ecstatic manner, the land of paradise as it enters our experience, as we come into delightful and pleasurable contact already in this life with Heaven itself. Thus the emphasis Crashaw places on love-making in his poetry seeks to give readers a means of experiencing the ‘ordinary’ dimensions of love – wooing and love-making, conception and birth, child-rearing and parenting – as a vehicle for an ‘extraordinary’ experience of the divine. Here, the full range of erotic experience, including the piercing, wounding,

68  Sonia Jaworska swelling and pain mixed with pleasure, is an avenue of encountering divine love. By relying on such images, Crashaw means to convince us that the human relationship with God – and our relationship with him – is intimate, tender, passionate, and full of mutual love, delight, sacrifice and care. In all such dimensions of our life, we find ‘eternity shut in a span’ – not simply in the reality of Christ, but in our own experience as well.

Works cited Caputo, John. Rev. of The Erotic Phenomenon by Jean-Luc Marion. Trans. Stephen E. Lewis. Ethics 118.1 (2007): 164–168. Crashaw, Richard. The Religious Poems of Richard Crashaw. Ed. R. A. Eric Shepherd. London: Manresa Press, 1914. Donne, John. The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne. Ed. Charles M. Coffin. New York: Modern Library, 2011. Harris, Ann Sutherland. Seventeenth Century Art and Architecture. London: Laurence King, 2015. Healy, F. Thomas. ‘Crashaw and the Sense of History’. New Perspectives on the Life and Art of Richard Crashaw. Ed. John R. Roberts. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1990. Healy, F. Thomas. Richard Crashaw. Leiden: Brill, 1986. Jackson, Paul John. JA JESTEM: Dziedzictwo pełni imienia Boga. Ustroń: Konoina, 2009. Marion, Jean-Luc. God without Being. Trans. Thomas A. Carlson. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991. Markowski, Michał Paweł. Pomyśleć niemożliwe. Marion, Derrida i filozofia daru. Miesięcznik Znak. January 2001. Web. 11 May 2013. http:// miesiecznik.znak.com.pl. St Teresa of Avila. The Book of Her Life. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2008. Saunders, Rev. William. ‘The Symbolism of the Pelican’. Arlington Catholic Herald, 20 November 2003.

5 Elizabeth Jennings and the mysticism of words Anna Walczuk

In the lead essay to this section, Michael Edwards points to the link between the eternal Word of God and human words in the making of poems, reminding us of the metaphysical character of the poetic art by which words acquire religious status as mysteria verborum. He also offers a new validation of poetry based upon its unique capacity to span the realm of the human and the divine through the subtle force of spiritual insight, thereby opening the whole space of the created world to human experience. Edwards’s reading of the first chapters of the Book of Genesis focuses on the intimate relation between the divine Logos as the worded principle which brings the cosmos into existence, and words which allow human entry into the divinely made reality – in a manner similar to the later Christian claim that God became man in the Incarnation. In exploring the biblical creation story, Edwards adopts a de-familiarizing perspective in order to underscore the claim that verbum has been made caro: ‘The word became flesh and dwelt among us’ in the world (Jn. 1:14). The Genesis creation story with its emphasis on language as creative medium, he reminds us, has shaped Judaic and European cultures over the centuries in a particular manner: ‘God speaks the world into being’, Edwards argues, going on to say that ‘he does not make, build, paint, sing or dance it: he says it’. In pointing to the striking similarity in English between the words ‘word’ and ‘world’, he detects a resemblance ‘weighty with suggestion’ because ‘speech, words, language or something resembling them are to be found at the core of divine as of human experience. … The Word creates the world’ (20). The mystical bond between God’s Word and human words, especially those that belong to the domain of poetry, as Edwards conceives it, holds true for all poetic activity, regardless of whether poems spring from the fountainhead of the poet’s faith or his/her disbelief. He points to T. S. Eliot as an outstanding exponent of this curious truth, which eludes the explanatory terms of discursive language but reveals itself in and through poetic vision. In shaping his argument, Edwards cites the poet’s allusion in ‘The Dry Salvages’ to ‘[t]he point of intersection of the timeless / With time’, a theme Eliot had earlier voiced in the first Chorus of The Rock: ‘Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word. / … Where is the Life we have lost

70  Anna Walczuk in living?’ (Collected Poems 151). Poetic words, on the one hand, are part of human language, with all the limitations and the potential of its rhetorical resources, while, on the other, their power derives from ‘intimations of the Word’, for poetry as Edwards understands it ‘gives onto a world transcending ours’ (21). The awareness of such a ‘two-layered’ reality in poetic discourse is a distinctive feature of Elizabeth Jennings’s poetry as well. Her sequence ‘Parts of Speech’ (1992)1 presents not only a poetic rendition of linguistic facts opened to the perception of a sensitive philologist, but also a philosophical meditation upon the metaphysical potential of words to reach out towards transcendence. The verb, for instance, embodies ‘The first cry of awareness’ and so, accordingly, the poet claims: ‘“I go”, “I forget”, “I exist” / By language only and always’ (625).2 Another poem bearing the title ‘On the Tongue’ (1992) points both to the nature of words and to the sacrament of the Eucharist as the communion in which one receives bread – both are received ‘on the tongue’, as it were, and as we shall see, this can be read as a poetic paraphrase of the biblical ‘Let there be light’ in the Book of Genesis (1:3). In terms of the word ‘on the tongue’ as experienced in the idiom of poetry, Jennings asserts that ‘It is by language we live’, and then continues: Listening, whispering, relishing a word,   A rhyme, we discover the end And purpose of art, the impulse which has heard   A message it can lend   And send us on with delight And a soaring spirit which touches the furthest stars. (635) Unsurprisingly, therefore, the poem claims to echo a voice deriving from the Word: ‘A voice said “Let there be song …”’, where ‘song’ in Jennings’s poetic idiom usually suggests the metaphysical concept of the music of the spheres which binds the world of matter and emotion with its glorious spiritual body. The oxymoronic nature of the phrase ‘spiritual body’, emphasized by Michael Edwards – ‘an astonishing oxymoron’ – can be taken as a justification for regarding the words of Jennings’s own poetry through the prism of the visionary or even mystical; the poet continually crosses the frontier between the commonly known world and the new ‘other’, recreated from but also founded upon the body that precedes transfiguration. In any discussion of Elizabeth Jennings’s poetry one must consider two kinds of belief which are crucial both for her perception of poetry in general and for her own poetic practice. One is her Christian – or, to be more precise, Roman Catholic – faith, the other her unshaken trust in the power of poetic words.3 Jennings’s religious convictions should by no means be marginalized or ignored, for she insists that in her poetic creed, art and religion always belong together. This can be seen in autobiographical echoes

Jennings and the mysticism of words  71 in Jennings’s own writing as well as in her direct pronouncements given in interviews (Stürzl 11). As important as her religious convictions, however, is Jennings’s confidence in the unique capacity of poetry to enact the mystical bridge between the human and the divine and thus embody in words at least some glimpse of the otherwise ineffable mystery of God and his creation. It ought to be emphasized, following Michael Edwards’s lead, that the mystery of God’s creation and poetic re-creation involves not only that which is visibly given, such as the perceptible beauty of nature, but also that which is to come as the ‘new Jerusalem’, for ‘a poem draws the real into newness and song’ and ‘hints of otherness in the same’ (22). From the perspective followed here for discussing Jennings’s views on poetry, one might well view poetry itself by virtue of its use of words as predisposed to participate in the mystical communion with the divine principle of being, encompassing both time and eternity. This is why, in Jennings’s writing, the close link between the poet’s religious life and her poetic practice can be traced not only with regard to the surface level, on which her poems abound in Christian themes, but also in relation to a deeper level concerning the privileged status of poetic words: while poems have what one might think of as a concrete and limited linguistic body, they also bear a subtle and mysterious affinity to the limitless divine Word. In terms of the latter, the function of poetic language is seen to be more comprehensive and profound than a mere presentation of religious subjects, suggesting how it is that Jennings perceives the art of poetry in the light of mystical experience. She clarifies this in the Foreword to her book Every Changing Shape, where she suggests that ‘[i]n this book, I am concerned with three things – the making of poems, the nature of mystical experience, and the relationship between the two’ (9). It is noteworthy that Jennings’s choice of authors treated in this volume confirms Michael Edwards’s claim that poets, regardless of their religious convictions, express something of the singular power of poetic language4 with its capacity to create ‘the impossible union / Of spheres of existence’ (Eliot, Four Quartets 44). With due weight and value attached to each word, one might speak here of the ‘transfigurative’ power of poetry, where the implied notion of transfiguration should be interpreted in terms of the Christian understanding of this term, presupposing as it does the overlapping of two distinct ‘bodies’, material and spiritual, as in the event that took place on Mount Tabor (Mt. 17:1–9, Mk. 9:2–8, Lk. 9:28–36). Each of the synoptic gospels portrays the Transfiguration, in the experience of Christ’s disciples, as being a privileged eye-witness account of a supernatural event, and thus as the epitome of a mystical experience. That is, this event offered a fleeting moment of intense vision that vouchsafed a glimpse of the fullness of reality, spanning the gap between physics and metaphysics, and hence offering a foretaste of the absolute harmony which, for Christians, is achieved through a complete communion with God – that is to say, in union with the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Although

72  Anna Walczuk Jennings herself never uses the term ‘transfigurative’ with regard to poems, preferring to speak of them as ‘revelatory’, her poetic creed is nonetheless based on such a vision of poetry, deriving its operative force from the doctrine of the Transfiguration. And although Jennings was too humble a person to claim a mystical slant for her own poems, she was undoubtedly conscious of the mystical potential of poetic words to effect what Eliot called ‘the impossible union’.5 In what follows I explore Elizabeth Jennings’s poetry from the vantage point she herself posits, above all in Every Changing Shape: namely, that of a close affinity between poetry and mysticism. Such an approach presupposes a close scrutiny of Jennings’s view of poetic language, which she sees as springing from the Word of the transcendent Logos. In consequence, words in the poet’s handling become singular instruments for attaining truth and for recreating the beauty of the world which, in Jennings’s eyes, is inextricably linked to the divine order. In her poetry, accordingly, ethics and aesthetics – echoing the famous Keatsian ‘beauty is truth, truth beauty’ (‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’) – are governed by the understandings of Christian theology that inspire the thematic currents and undercurrents running through her poems. The other objective involved in studying Jennings’s poetry as an expression of mysticism is to analyse her views regarding poetic imagination as opening the gates to all-embracing reality. Jennings has a high esteem for poetic imagination, which she regards through the religious prism of the Incarnation, since both for her are expressions of the ‘Word made flesh’. Indeed, the religious doctrine of the Incarnation is the foundation for Jennings’s imaginative writing, for ‘she thought and wrote in the intersection of the divine and the human … the material and the spiritual, the mundane and the mysterious’ (Sloan 394). Consequently, in the contemplation of the Christian mystery of God – the ‘first mover’ and the absolute spiritual being which yet became man, born of a human being, corporeal and immersed in limited matter – Jennings finds the only convincing validation of the human faculty of imagination. Falling back upon her vast reading of mystical literature and in accordance with a centuries-old theological tradition, Jennings makes a strong claim in Every Changing Shape that the Incarnation as the central fact of Christianity lies at the heart of western mysticism: ‘the centre of Western Christian mysticism has always been the Incarnation, Christ both as man and God’ (43). Christ as the embodiment and innermost image of the divine rehabilitates the imagination, which she conceived as human beings’ unique faculty to encounter through the use of images the God who otherwise remains the ungraspable, ultimate reality and the act of pure being. Hence, by relating the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation to the poetic imagination, Jennings not only dignifies the imagination as such, but also endows poetry with a visionary quality.6 And this, to her mind, brought the poetic into the province of mysticism.7 Jennings addresses the link between poetry and mysticism in much of her prose writings, though this theme receives the greatest elaboration in

Jennings and the mysticism of words  73 Every Changing Shape, for it is here that the poet elucidates most fully her understanding of the relationship between the making of poems and the nature of mystical experience. She points to the common fountainhead of poetry and mysticism as comprising an intense experience of transcendence that needs to be shared, a sense of joyous rapture, an attitude of humility8 and an urge of love. Besides, she underscores that both poetry and mysticism operate on the principle of concentration, and both demonstrate the affirmative quality of a special insight which gives rise both to the making of a poem and to the mystic’s experience. Not only does Jennings see many analogies between poetry and mysticism, but she also strongly asserts their complementariness. The mystical experience is for her a form of illumination, though she admits that the light involved in it dazzles. That is why, when referring to mystical writings, Jennings opposes the common criticism that censures such texts for their lack of clarity. As she firmly states, ‘the greatest mystical verse … leads the poet into an area which is dark with “excessive light”; it is, after all, light which dazzles and blinds, not obscurity’ (Every Changing Shape 17). She goes on to suggest why it is that the superior knowledge obtained through mystical insight relies on poetry as an expressive medium in order to make it at least partly communicable: ‘The power of poetry is that by simply naming it can illuminate’ (22), and in consequence she insists on what she terms ‘the revelatory power of poetry’ (30). In this way Jennings endorses the view, variously expressed by many poets regardless of their Weltanschauung and religious convictions or lack thereof, that poetry thrives on words and word-made images, on the one hand, while, on the other, it transcends them by re-making the image of the world and aspiring after the Word beyond all words. If poetry is perceived in Aristotelian terms as a ‘making’, or poïesis, then it makes by transcending, and its making is synonymous with a kind of transfiguring. Jennings’s beliefs about the link between poetry and mysticism here correspond with Michael Edwards’s view of poetry which, abandoning a strictly Aristotelian formula, evidently stems from the metaphysical perspective adopted for poetic words: ‘Poetry is our word for looking beyond what meets the eye and the intelligence’ (22). This definition is significantly expanded by implying surface and depth levels of a poem, as when Edwards suggests that ‘[t]he underlying act of the poet and the underlying work of the poem, however, occur at a deeper level’ (23). In the same vein, evoking the figure of St John of the Cross, who was both mystic and poet at once, Jennings defends the phenomenon which literary critics call poetic ambiguity, concurrently reaffirming the meaningfulness of poetry: ‘St. John of the Cross was not prepared to say that mystical experience was totally inexpressible, but rather that poetry might provide glimpses or echoes of it’ (Every Changing Shape 143). Unsurprisingly, mystics often appear in Jennings’s poems, as in the poems entitled ‘Teresa of Avila’ (1958), ‘John of the Cross’ and ‘Catherine of Siena’ (both 1961). Their experiences, as she conveys them, charged with

74  Anna Walczuk ontological paradoxes and sensuous contradictions, remain a source of unceasing fascination in her personal life, and present a challenge to her craft as a poet. Transcribing them into the rhetoric of her poetry represents an attempt to capture the absolutely logical but apparently inconsistent nature of mystical experience. In a beautiful prose poem, ‘John of the Cross’, Jennings evokes the image of transcendent light which in biblical descriptions frequently appears as an attribute of God, and attempts its rendition in the words of poetry: Not light limited by tapers, drawn to its strength by the darkness around it, not puffed out by the wind or increased by careful breath. (97) She identifies the light St John of the Cross experienced with a flame, though Jennings makes it clear that it is not the inward flame of passion, urgent, wanting appeasement, close to the senses and sighing through them: but a pure light pouring through windows, flooding the glass but leaving the glass unaltered. (97) The flame that John of the Cross senses as a burning light becomes for Elizabeth Jennings the nearest embodiment of the fire of divine Logos, blending imperceptibly into a metaphysical light that illuminates the seeking mind. Such light emerges out of darkness and inhabits the invisible space where neither light nor darkness belongs to the mystic, who is only a passive recipient, a ‘receiver, requirer’ (97), but who is simultaneously endowed with a spiritual agility that opens his eyes wide to the world. In ‘John of the Cross’, Jennings envisages all the sensuous and intellectual faculties as kept in abeyance, with their ordinary functions deactivated in order to make room for an extra-sensory and supra-rational perception: And the senses, too, disarmed, discouraged, withdrawn by choice from pleasure. Finger not touching, crushing cool leaves. Lips closed against mouth or assuagement. Ears unentered by voices. Hands held out but empty. (97) ‘Teresa of Avila’, a parallel poem also dedicated to mystical experience, may be read as a poetic overture to the more extended prose elaboration in Every Changing Shape. In this exploration, written three years later, she refers to St Teresa’s spiritual autobiography, positing the opinion that the mystic in Teresa ‘leans on the imagination with complete confidence when she transcribes her own direct contact with God’ (Every Changing Shape 57). She goes on to stress that ‘the whole of Teresa’s Life [Teresa’s spiritual

Jennings and the mysticism of words  75 autobiography] is a kind of half-aware tribute to the potency of imagination’ (61). The poem draws upon St Teresa’s concept of ‘the four waters’ that nourish the spiritual life of prayer in order to picture the context and the very moment of ecstasy, representing the most direct and intimate union with God in love. In the supreme moment of mystical experience, all encumbrances fall away and all divisions cease; here, not fire, as in ‘John of the Cross’, but water intermingles with light and becomes one, arresting the fleeting moment of the present and transforming it into boundless eternity: Moments spread not into hours but stood still. No dove brought the tokens of peace. She was the peace that her prayer had promised. And the silences suffered no shadows. (86) This poem bears a resemblance to a much later poem, ‘Girl at Prayer’ (2001), where the eponymous girl enters so perfectly into the metaphysical space that she becomes, like the mystics, one with transcendent being: … she need not search for words Or make many movements either, All she need do is copy the sun’s behaviour Or the moon’s silent entry at night. (813) ‘Teresa of Avila’ testifies to both Jennings’s confidence in imagination and her fascination with the unwavering certainty of the mystics concerning the validity of language as a vehicle to bring humankind closer to God, sustaining the finite and limited human being in the dialogic relation with the infinite and omnipotent God. Jennings thus views poetry as a merging of the verbal level with the imaginative, while the sensuous blends with the intellectual. Hence the ineffable God, who might be intensely experienced but remains inexpressible, assumes the body of language, becoming what Jennings perceives as ‘Truth Incarnate’. Poetry and mysticism are both quests for true reality, and they carry out this quest by means of the imagination and with the help of words. Speaking about the unbelieving poet Wallace Stevens, Jennings confirms the parallels between poetry and mysticism: ‘he pursued truth through imagination with as much rigour and passion as mystics seek God or philosophers meaning’ (Every Changing Shape 201). It should be emphasized that Jennings’s unshaken trust in the innate worth of words runs against the grain of the mainstream of modernism and postmodernism, both of which fail on the whole to appreciate the metaphysical potential of language, either by underscoring its inadequacy to render the complexity of experience and its deceptive character, or by stressing its mere playfulness in what ultimately turns out to be merely a verbal game. Jennings, in contrast, treats words as an indispensable instrument,

76  Anna Walczuk or a kind of a ladder, which takes one to what she poetically renders as ‘beyond beyond’,9 where, as Michael Edwards perceptively phrased it, ‘our words and the “words” that come from God touch and merge’ (24). For Jennings, the mystic and the poet alike are visionaries who climb the ladder of words to gain a fuller view. Both have the same (quasi-)religious reverence for the Word and the experience of leaving the strictly human network of words, mental categories and paradigms of logical thinking so as to enter into the superior realm where thought and senses need not name anything, for they can touch and taste the Absolute. Jennings’s poetic practice is backed up by her intensely religious personal life, suggesting why she sees in poetry the sacramental ‘Real Presence’ which, as in the case of the Eucharist, brings the divine to the human domain – and thereby exalts the imagination. Thus in her poem ‘A Reproach’ (1989), Jennings declares: I need, in fact, a God whom I can feel Or else remember each poem is the Real Presence since God creates imagination Which never works by any act of will. (602) Jennings’s poems frequently allude to the metaphysical impulse which brings poetry into being and lies at the origin of poetic imagination. ‘Sundowning’ (1985), for example, puts forward a view of writing poetry that suggests it is like coming to a holy ground, resembling the place where Moses came to stand during his encounter with God in the burning bush (Ex. 3:2–7). The poem becomes a verbal transcription of a momentary vision in which the page, a metonymic representation of poetry, takes fire from the setting sun, while the observing poet humbly assists at this symbolic metamorphosis: No sound of bird or foot. I hold my breath And watch my page take fire. It fascinates And claims my watching … (517) In such poems as this, Jennings postulates a poetic semantics where the words of poetry combine a denotative surface with metaphysical depth. Within the framing of such a semantics, the parallels between poets and mystics are not merely incidental. These analogies are at times only implied, but they are frequently overtly spelled out, as, for example, in ‘Seers and Makers’ (1996) and ‘Hermits and Poets’ (1996). In these poems, Jennings articulates her credo concerning the innermost connection of all forms of artistic expression – poetry, visual arts and music alike – with the eternal Word of the Logos. ‘Hermits and Poets’ suggests that ‘a few lines hold a hint of Heaven’ (733), while ‘Seers and Makers’ postulates a spiritual bond

Jennings and the mysticism of words  77 between artistic creativity and prayer: ‘Self disappears when man becomes his prayer, / Likewise man and his art, / And both aim at perfection …’ (732). Similarly, the poet’s act of faith coincides with the artist’s creative act of imagination, as in the poem significantly entitled ‘Act of the Imagination’ (1996) where Jennings confesses that her heart ‘“leap[s]” to God’ under the influence of ‘Herbert’s sonnet “Prayer” […], or that great / Giotto painting’, and then solemnly adds: ‘I want to meet / Him [God] in my own poems, God as metaphor / And rising up’ (734). Here, the poet makes it clear that she perceives imagination embodied in words through the prism of the tangible bread as sacramental vehicle for the Real Presence. If one were to retrieve Jennings’s definition of poetry from her entire poetic oeuvre, one comes to see how it is that poetry concerns the touching of metaphysical reality with the fingers of imagination, or how it comes to be understood as a transcribing of the Word of the Divine which shines through the world into a multitude of human words. ‘Words for the Magi’ (1977) is a poem that symbolically confirms the metaphysical perspective imposed upon words, providing a mystical bond between the human and the divine – and, in this sense, offering an interesting parallel to Eliot’s ‘Journey of the Magi’. The title of the poem, however, is mildly provocative, upsetting the expected semantic and thematic paradigm of the well-known situation described in the gospels (Mt. 2:1–12), which foregrounds the gifts of the magi rather than words for them. Unlike those recorded in the gospel account, however, Jennings’s magi do not present the newborn child with precious gifts, but instead bring their ‘worded’ correlatives, such that verbal signs come to be endowed with the substantiality of things. In the course of this gift-giving, the words reveal their profound and hidden levels of signification. The encounter of the magi with the child, who is God incarnate, becomes a dialogue of humanity with transcendence in which the words given return as words made more complete with another layer of meaning. Like modernist psychological prose which avails itself of the stream of consciousness to render both the intricacies and confusions of mental states, mystical poetry – or poetry with a mystical component, which intentionally or unconsciously communicates the experience of transcendence – also makes use of a number of its own special rhetorical strategies and devices. Many of them can be found among what Elizabeth Jennings enumerates as the characteristics of the prose poem.10 Her prose poems about the Spanish mystics John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila are framed within a grand oxymoronic trope which figures conspicuously in a great number of Jennings’s poems. The poetic origin of this trope can be traced back to the biblical accounts of God’s light which dazzles and blinds, but simultaneously illumines and hence offers an enlightened perception.11 An oxymoron combines otherwise irreconcilable opposites, and thus naturally becomes the cornerstone of poetic imagery which aspires to render the paradoxes inscribed in metaphysical yearnings and physical confinements. Other strategies that

78  Anna Walczuk stay close to mystical experience, which the poet frequently incorporates in her poetic discourse, exploit the literary potential of ellipsis and silence as the poet builds these into the body of a poem. Silence in particular contributes to the mystical value which Jennings attaches to the words of poetry. In ‘Lazarus’ (1961), for example, she pictures Christ’s friend risen from the dead as one who ‘[r]efused to answer our questions’ (104), and subsequently adds with a subtly implied oxymoron, that it was only ‘the smell of death that truly / Declared his rising to us’ (104). The silence of Lazarus is confronted with the movement of tormented and inquisitive minds desirous of answers: namely, those that are ‘hungry for finished faith’ (104). But Lazarus stays unmoved in the sphere of silence, and this short poem which is filled with deep meaning ends with an exquisite oxymoron which equates death with birth. He would not enter our world at once with words That we might be tempted to twist or argue with: Cold like a white root pressed in the bowels of earth He looked, but also vulnerable – like birth. (104) Silence is undoubtedly more than a technical component in the structure of the poem, effectuated by such strategies as explicit pause, indicated by relevant punctuation marks such as dashes or ellipses. Implicit pauses, introduced by the repetition of words, not only serve the usual function of emphasis, but also force the reader to plunge into the mystery of the word repeated and the profundities of thought and imagination it opens. Only when the word is imaginatively explored in silence can it take one to other dimensions of the poem. It is only the milieu of silence which one finds in poems, like the whole world which it depicts, that ‘gives onto something beyond itself’, as Michael Edwards puts it (25). Additionally, however, silence represents an important trait of the inner make-up of the poet. For Jennings, it is primarily the experiential space in the poet’s mind that is transferred to the body of the poem in the act of its making, which in her own poetic work always suggests an act of faith married to acts of the imagination. Not surprisingly, Jennings is convinced that the same mental disposition is required of both the poet and the mystic, because each must be devoted to the silencing of the self and to a corresponding awareness of dwelling lovingly upon the contemplated object in the intellectual poise of complete surrender, in order to allow oneself to be possessed by the ‘thing’ contemplated. Jennings speaks of the poet’s private inward silence, which becomes a path leading to communion with God, in a highly personal poem, ‘Making a Silence’ (1972): So many silences […] But the greatest one of them all

Jennings and the mysticism of words  79 Is a gift entirely unasked for, When God is felt deeply within you With his infinite gracious peace. (288) Although Jennings views silence as beneficial, she also knows that it can bring with it an acute pain arising from the tension between the expectancy of words and the incommunicability of experience. In her poem ‘Whitsun Sacrament’ (1975), the Christian passing through the rites of Confirmation struggles between doubt and belief, concluding at the end: ‘When we most need a tongue we only find / Christ at his silentest’ (320). Silence, for Jennings, remains an indispensable condition for the gift of tongues because, in her simultaneous experience as poet and believer, words which are pregnant with meaning always flow out of the realm of contemplative wordlessness. In ‘“Hours” and Words’ (1998) she writes: Let there be silence that is full Of blossoming hints. When it is dark Men’s minds can link and their words fill A saving boat that is God’s ark. (777) The ‘blossoming hints’ that reside in silence, which naturally fits within the space of words, bring to mind a similar phrase evoked by Michael Edwards from Eliot’s ‘The Dry Salvages’ about ‘[t]he hint half guessed, the gift half understood, [which] is / Incarnation’ (Four Quartets 44). Jennings’s appreciation of silence, it must be said, does not prevent her from stressing in her poetry the genuine value and effective power of words. In a tone of laudatory prayer, justified by the title of the poem, ‘“Hours” and Words’,12 she exclaims: O language is a precious thing And ministers deep needs. It will Soothe the mind and softly sing And echo forth when we are still. (777) What the poet hears resounding in a great deal of mystical literature is the conviction that words are adequate to cross the borders and pull down demarcation lines separating the familiar domain of the physical world from a new and transfigured realm inhering in the realm of transcendence. This cannot be otherwise since in Jennings’s poetic vision all human words flow from the same fountainhead of the Word. In the importance attached to human words, the poet follows in the steps of one of the most significant figures in the history of Christianity, St Augustine, a master rhetorician and

80  Anna Walczuk mystic at heart who believed that language, with all its semantic and rhetorical resources, can assist humankind in approaching divine illumination. This is why, contrary to many modernist or postmodernist trends that cast doubt on the cognitive value of language or reduce its potential to the mechanics of a pure game, Jennings fully endorses Augustine’s trust in words, as when she states: ‘there is no moment in his [Augustine’s] writing, even at its most elevating, when he repudiates language as an instrument of truth and as a way of knowledge’ (Every Changing Shape 31). Such certainty about the intrinsic value of language, for Jennings, comes to be translated into the idiom of her own poetry. In a poem unpublished before Mason’s collection, “Naming the Stars’ (c.1963–1966), the poet writes: They are still there, waiting. We want to visit them But first we must name them Plough, Bear, Mars, Moon. Naming them possesses us of them, Makes them our worlds […] Close to us they come, a kind of protection, A warmth, a kindness, an image of brilliance. Also their distance is often a warm one, Oh hands, hands, pluck them down, down. (844) The repetition in the last line is a conspicuous feature of Jennings’s poetry, and in many of her poems functions as a corollary of silence. Beside its other functions, one can interpret repetition as the poet’s way of pausing at each particular word so as to get its feel and taste. In her ‘Preface’ to the new edition of Jennings’s collected poems, Emma Mason speaks of the ‘sense of words falling through a reflective silence [which] defines much of Jennings’ poetry’ (xli). That is, Jennings treats words in her poetry similarly to the world depicted in her poems, for in her view both the medium of poetic representation and the objects represented participate in the sacramental mystery of God’s presence in the materiality of the world. Therefore, plunging into a word through repetition allows the poet to touch its metaphysical dimension and absorb its full worth, which connects the human with the divine. Jennings’s poetry is permeated with that awareness which Michael Edwards describes as ‘liv[ing] and mov[ing] among the figures of another world’ (26). In such a milieu, the material body of the world as well as the semantic bodies of words reach out beyond themselves, pointing to something different than their own limited physicality or corporeality. Likewise, they bespeak the strange and new beauty of the world which combines the physical and metaphysical spheres. Transcendence emanates from the world

Jennings and the mysticism of words  81 of nature, and in Jennings’s poetic representations often embodies specific sacramental shapes as visible signs of divine presence. In the poem ‘A Full Moon’ (1998), for instance, Jennings reflects: Tonight the full moon is the Host held up   For everybody’s eyes To see and understand the high and deep   Salvation in the skies. (760) Though she is in love with words, Jennings consistently repudiates abstraction. The title of one of her poems, ‘Not Abstract’ (1975), is symptomatic of her predilection for the tangible and sensuous. In this poem, the poetic persona that can be identified with Jennings herself, immersed in a landscape with a river and willows at dusk, recognizes an ever present urge to fall on her knees in acknowledging ‘logics which pray / Even for ghosts of a creed’ (334). Throughout both her poetry and her discursive and critical prose, Jennings unwaveringly defends the sensuous that sustains the imagination. The words of her poetry, like the world which they render, have their ‘bodies’ that can be gauged and penetrated by the senses. More importantly, Jennings’s own ars poetica roots those bodies in transcendence through their intimate bond with the tangible, visible and audible body of the divine Logos. The poetic faculty of the imagination, far from leading away from reality, assists on the way to its very core, composed as it is of both the human and the divine. Jennings’s belief in the metaphysical foundation of poetic art, therefore, accounts for her rejection of those aesthetic trends and opinions which see the imagination as an escape from reality or an instrument for creating illusions. She finds support for her rehabilitation of the sensuous and for her own belief in the validity of the imagination as an important means to communicate transcendence in the writings of her favourite mystics, especially Teresa of Avila, whom she praises for relying on images as products of the imagination. Jennings sees in this connection what it means to describe ‘the most difficult thing any writer can attempt – namely contact with God in the mystical experience’ (Every Changing Shape 50). Though the poet remains aware of the dangers, traps and shortcomings of the imagination, she holds fast to its elevated status and sees the image itself as a form of incarnate truth. This is what grounds the parallel between the Incarnation and the imagination that Jennings presumes and exhibits through her writings: she not only views the Incarnation in theological terms as the necessary path to man’s redemption, and in consequence as the cause for the glorification of the material world, but also suggests how it is that it becomes the singular means to redeem the imaginative faculty. Such an argument presumes that the imagination, like the Incarnation, gives a recognizable body to the transcendent ineffable, the truth of which

82  Anna Walczuk cannot be fully comprehended or expressed in terms of the abstractions of intellectual argument. Jennings’s poetry makes a strong claim that words nourished by the imagination have a unique capacity to cross the threshold between this world and the other, and so have a potential to offer glimpses of what remains entirely within the province of the divine. Likewise, in Jennings’s poetic vision all works of art, regardless of the medium of expression, can become peculiar carriers of transcendent realities. ‘Greek Statues’ (1961), for instance, perfectly illustrates the merger of the physical with the metaphysical within a body that can be touched by means of the senses. The poetic rendition of such a union, comparable to what lies at the heart of the Incarnation, has become a distinctive characteristic in many of Jennings’s poems. ‘Greek Statues’ records how the poet feels while contemplating the crumbling monuments of ancient Greek statuary, and in a short poetic form encapsulates a yearning for mystical experience as a longing to cross the frontier and advance through these ruins towards a vision of their glorified bodies: Odd how one wants to touch not simply stare, To run one’s fingers over the flanks and arms, Not to possess, rather to be possessed. (108) Aesthetic experience, comprising an imaginative dimension, urges the viewer to touch the admired object so as to get the feel of its body immersed in the space of the spirit. For this reason, Jennings’s poem ventures a modest claim that by analogy to the relevant religious experience within Christianity, Greek statues might be regarded as ‘other’ Incarnations: Incarnations are elsewhere and more human, Something concerning us; but these are other. It is as if something infinite, remote Permitted intrusion. It is as if these blind eyes Exposed a landscape precious with grapes and olives: And our probing hands move not to grasp but praise. (108) When one regards the entire world including the sphere of human activity from such a metaphysical perspective, as Jennings does in her poetry, all art – including poetic words in their capacity to recreate images – functions in the semblance of a sacrament, bringing down the transcendent ineffable to the level of ordinary human perception and cognition. This is why the poem ‘Visit to an Artist’ (1961), dedicated to the poet and painter David Jones, recalls the words of the artist himself:

Jennings and the mysticism of words  83 Of art as gesture and as sacrament, A mountain under the calm form of paint Much like the Presence under wine and bread – Art with its largesse and its own restraint. (101) Jennings binds art with sacrament, where the latter is much more than a mere sign or symbol, because first and foremost it embodies the reality it represents. It is worth noting that the idea of conferring a sacramental value on art, and particularly upon poetry, appears again and again throughout her creative work and life. In the poem ‘Questions to Other Artists’ (1977), for example, a poem that addresses the problem of artistic creativity from the vantage point of the alternating periods of dryness and fertility, Jennings speaks of the sense of gratitude a poet feels ‘when words are offered / Like a Host upon the tongue’ (397). Jennings looks upon herself as a humble servant in the realm of words, but alongside the humility that marks her personality as a poet, her poetry points suggestively to the elevated priestly role she gives the artist, who in her understanding has a unique power to make the Word flesh. In Jennings’s view, the special status of poetry rests upon the fact that it is capable of bestowing upon ordinary speech the sacramental value of the Word of God, which is to say of incarnating that divine Word in human words. Furthermore, the poem as she understands it, made up of the sensuous substantiality of quasi-corporeal images that can be touched with the senses, also bespeaks the Word made Flesh. The notion of a mysticism of words as understood and exemplified in the work of Elizabeth Jennings underscores the poet’s belief in the power of poetry to make us as readers admire the exquisite beauty of the world as rendered through words. This conviction, furthermore, takes us beyond words to the sacramental space where the homely is transfigured, assuming a body bearing a numinous sense of otherness. In Jennings’s poems, stemming from the mystical source of words, the familiar is continually recreated to reveal its new dimensions, ones that transcend the easily recognizable and the ordinary. The poet presumes a mystical streak which can be detected in a poem’s exceptional capacity to touch and express the elusive and otherwise inexpressible vision of the ‘new creation’. What is clear is that Elizabeth Jennings’s poetry is saturated with religious thinking. But I have also suggested how her writings are inspired by the firm belief that poems mysteriously participate in the mystery of the Incarnation, since poetry draws from the eternal Word and is operative in transfiguring words into flesh. It has this capacity because the words of poetry, descending from the absolute Logos, coalesce with the imagination, and thus materialize the presence of the Divine within the human realm. The word, thus understood, is analogous to the world, for in both God’s

84  Anna Walczuk presence shines through the human and the natural order. Hence, in Jennings’s perception, the divine and human are unified components of the same poetic ‘body’. Finally, then, Elizabeth Jennings’s poetry stands within the frame of poetry that is ‘human and divine’, which, following Michael Edwards’s claim, suggests that ‘God is the greatest of poets, and lies behind the very existence of poetry’ (25). The propensity to mysticism that we have observed in many of Jennings’s poems is epitomized in ‘A Metaphysical Point about Poetry’ (1998), where she voices her poetic imperative:   … I wish to say that God Is present in all poetry that’s made With form and purpose. (775)

Notes 1 In all subsequent references, the date after the poem’s title refers to the relevant volume in which the poem first appeared. 2 All page numbers for quotations from Elizabeth Jennings’s poems come from The Collected Poems, the newly revised and most comprehensive edition of Jennings’s poetry, edited by Emma Mason and published in 2012. 3 The most extensive and informative study of religious aspects of Jennings’s poetry is Jean Ward’s Christian Poetry in the Post-Christian Day. 4 See Jennings, Every Changing Shape, particularly Ch. 11, ‘The Secular Angels: A Study of Rilke’, and Ch. 17, ‘Vision without Belief: A Note on the Poetry of Wallace Stevens’. 5 Jennings’s humility was well recognized during her lifetime as her distinctive personality trait, and it is a conspicuous characteristic of her attitude to poetry. Stürzl highlights this in his article ‘“Here is a Humility at One with Craft”: The Thematic Content of the Poetry of Elizabeth Jennings’, taking the quotation in the title from Jennings’s poem on Rembrandt and applying it to her own personal life and poetry. 6 Vision as a property of all great poetry becomes the leading theme of Jennings’s critical writing on poets whom she admires; some of it was published in the book significantly entitled Seven Men of Vision, where she most directly imparts her view that poetic writing, either in verse or in prose, transmits a vision. 7 In her definition of mysticism Elizabeth Jennings follows Dom Cuthbert Butler’s wording from Western Mysticism, which sees mysticism as ‘the experimental perception of God’s Presence and Being’, and especially ‘“union with God” – a union, that is, not merely psychological, in conforming the will to God’s Will, but, it may be said, ontological of the soul with God, spirit with Spirit. … the experience is a momentary foretaste of the bliss of heaven’ (in Jennings, Every Changing Shape 13). 8 Jennings highlights humility as a crucial disposition of the mature poet in many works of her discursive prose. It becomes most conspicuous in Let’s Have Some Poetry!, which may be considered a handbook for aspiring poets and a guidebook for readers of poetry. 9 The phrase comes from the poem ‘For Paul Klee’ (1996): ‘A brush can be a wand / Which can be potent even over sun / And, like a prayer, can reach beyond

Jennings and the mysticism of words  85 beyond’. Here it refers to the art of a painter, but in Jennings’s philosophy of art it holds true for any art, above all the verbal art of poetry. 10 Elizabeth Jennings often refers to the so-called prose poem in her critical and appreciative writing. In her most extensive treatment of this matter in Seven Men of Vision, in the chapter entitled ‘St-John Perse. The Worldly Seer’, she discusses what distinguishes a prose poem from both vers libre and prose (see 110ff.). 11 The most spectacular example of this is Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. For Saul, going blind led to discovering the truth of Jesus Christ whose followers he had persecuted, and brought about his personal conversion, which resulted in his becoming a ‘new’ man with a new name, Paul. 12 The title contains an overt reference to the ‘Book of Hours’, an abbreviated form of the Divine Office first recited in monastic communities and then carried over to devotional practice by lay people.

Works cited Eliot, Thomas Stearns. Collected Poems: 1909–1962. London: Faber and Faber, 2002. ——. Four Quartets. New York, London: Harvest; Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988 [1943]. Jennings, Elizabeth. A Sense of the World: Poems. London: Andre Deutsch, 1958. ——. Let’s Have Some Poetry! London: Museum Press, 1960. ——. Every Changing Shape. London: Andre Deutsch, 1961. ——. Song for a Birth or a Death and other Poems. London: Andre Deutsch, 1961. ——. Relationships. London: Macmillan, 1972. ——. Growing Points: New Poems. Manchester: Carcanet, 1975. ——. Seven Men of Vision. London: Vision Press, 1976. ——. Consequently I Rejoice. Manchester: Carcanet, 1977. ——. Extending the Territory. Manchester: Carcanet, 1985. ——. Tributes. Manchester: Carcanet, 1989. ——. Times and Seasons. Manchester: Carcanet, 1992. ——. In the Meantime. Manchester: Carcanet, 1996. ——. Praises. Manchester: Carcanet, 1998. ——. Timely Issues. Manchester: Carcanet, 2001. ——. Elizabeth Jennings: The Collected Poems. Ed. Emma Mason. Manchester: Carcanet, 2012. Sloan, Barry. ‘Poetry and Faith: The Example of Elizabeth Jennings’. Christianity and Literature, 55.3 (2006): 393–414. Stürzl, Erwin. ‘“Here is a Humility at One with Craft”: The Thematic Content of the Poetry of Elizabeth Jennings’. On Poets & Poetry: Fifth series. Salzburg Studies in English Literature 27:5. Ed. James Hogg. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universität Salzburg, 1983. 63–96. ——. Interview with Elizabeth Jennings (February 1982). Acumen 1 (1985): 8–16. Ward, Jean. Christian Poetry in the Post-Christian Day: Geoffrey Hill, R. S. Thomas, Elizabeth Jennings. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2009.

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Part II

Flesh made Word Poetry as the shaping of the self

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6 Revelation and inspiration among theologians and poets Richard Viladesau

The classical Christian doctrine of Incarnation, understood as the enfleshment of God’s revelation, lies at the heart of this chapter, suggesting, as I argue, one way to examine the connections between poetic and theological conceptions of revelation and inspiration. Contemporary evolutionary science, I suggest, deepens such an inquiry, illumining our understanding of the human capacity to receive, to formulate, and ultimately to be such a revelation. On this basis, a contemporary theology of revelation, shaped by an approach to the Incarnation, intersects significantly with poetry and poetic creativity. The great poetic prologue to the Gospel of John announces the theme of the entire work: the Logos or Word of God, which is the true Light, became flesh and dwelt with humanity, as a human: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all humanity. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a man’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Jn. 1:1–14; my translation) The Gospel of John, of course, represents only one of the Christological approaches of the New Testament, and – as the Arian controversies later

90  Richard Viladesau showed – is itself susceptible to very different interpretations. It was only in the course of intellectual and political struggles lasting several centuries that an ‘orthodox’ view of Incarnation was formulated. It was eventually given classic formulation in the declarations of the Council of Chalcedon: ‘the Word’ – understood as the eternal Logos and pre-existent Son of the Father, ‘became’ – which is to say, did not merely ‘take on’ or ‘appear in’ but was ‘hypostatically’ or personally united with – ‘flesh’. According to this teaching, ‘flesh’ was understood not merely as referring to a human body, but rather to an entire concrete human nature, body and soul: that is, flesh, intellect, will and psyche. From this starting point most of Christianity, East and West, developed a theology of the ‘descent’ of the divine Word into the world to be enfleshed in Jesus Christ. This ‘descending’ approach emphasized the divinity of Christ as the divine Word and Son, frequently to the point of affirming Jesus’ human ‘nature’ in the abstract while virtually ignoring his concrete humanity. According to the classical theology of the Incarnation, the human nature is ‘enhypostatized’ in the divine, so that the unique ‘person’ of Christ is the Person of the divine Word. In contrast with the theology of ‘Word made flesh’ there is an alternative ‘ascending’ understanding of the Incarnation: ‘flesh made Word’. This perspective is present already in some early New Testament passages, particularly in the letters of the Apostle Paul. The man Jesus becomes or is made the Son of God, the final Word of Revelation, by the power of the Spirit of God in him. The process culminates in his dying and being raised to the life of God’s kingdom, being given ‘the Name that is above every other name’ (Phil. 2:9). This Spirit-centered theology, which inspired ‘adoptionist’ Christologies in the early church, was recovered in the twentieth century in attempts to do justice to the totality of the New Testament witness and to emphasize the full humanity of Jesus. In this perspective, the Incarnation is a progressive event. A human life is not given all at once, at birth; it is a process, completed only in death and immediacy to God. Hence, the enfleshment of the Word of God is tied to the history of Jesus’ life and death in faithfulness to the Father; his divinization is a function of his humanization. The Incarnation is completed only in the resurrection. For the Word to become flesh, the flesh must become Word. At their extremes – for example, Docetism or Eutychianism on the one hand, Adoptionism or Socinianism on the other – these two theological approaches historically have come into conflict. But in the light of contemporary Christian theology, they may be seen instead as two complementary perspectives. The ‘ascending’ approach, it is true, has historically been frequently neglected in popular piety, even when there has been emphasis on the humanity of Jesus (as in the Franciscan movement). But theologically it is implicit in the traditional scholastic notion of the potentia obedientialis for the incarnation. In Jesus’ humanity – and in humanity as such – there must be something that makes

Revelation and inspiration  91 it possible for the human to be united with or ‘assumed by’ God in a personal or ‘hypostatic’ way. This point becomes clearer if we compare the orthodox Christian theology of Incarnation with the Hindu idea of the ‘avatars’ of Vishnu. In the great poem the Bhagavad-Gītā Krishna proclaims the principle of his manifestations: Whenever righteousness wanes and unrighteousness increases I send myself forth. For the protection of the good and for the destruction of evil, and for the establishment of righteousness, I come into being age after age. (4.7–8) The avatars are ‘descents’ of the one God (usually Vishnu) into the world. By God’s supreme maya (creative energy, but also ‘illusion’), God creates divine manifestations in the world. According to the Bhagavata Purana, these are innumerable, but Vaishnavas generally recognize at least ten direct (sakshat) avatars that are mentioned in the Garuda Purana. Vishnu has appeared as Vamana, the dwarf; as Parashurama, a sage; as King Rama, the hero of the Ramayana; as Krishna, the royal charioteer of the BhagavadGītā; as Buddha. And He will appear in the future as Kalki (time or eternity) to end the age. All of these are human in form. But Vishnu’s avatars also include appearances as a fish, a tortoise, a boar and as Narasimha, a halfman, half-lion, and some lists include an avatar as a swan. In the classical Christian understanding of the Incarnation, by contrast, the ‘enfleshment’ of God could take place only in a human being. Certainly, God could be manifested in the form of an animal (a dove, for example, in Mk. 1:10 and parallels) or even in purely physical things and events (a burning bush in Ex. 3:2–6, a cloud in Ex. 13:21, a gentle breeze in 1 Kg. 19:12, a voice in 1 Kg. 19:13–14, 1 Sam. 3:10–11 and so on, tongues of fire in Acts 2:3–4 or various human-appearing ‘angels’ or messengers of the Lord in Jg. 6:21–24 and so on). For that matter, God’s Word could ‘dwell among us’ precisely as words, in the Scriptures. But the Word could not become flesh in any of these. The orthodox Christian notion of Incarnation implies more than mere appearance or inhabitation or divine ‘descent’ into the world. It designates personal (‘hypostatic’) union, and hence can take place only in a creature capable of personhood, capable of being engraced and ‘divinized’ while remaining itself as a creature distinct from God and in relation to God. Hence, the mainstream tradition’s rejection of the partial formulations found in Eutychianism and Monophysitism, and its insistence on the reality of Christ’s true and thus full humanity.

92  Richard Viladesau St Thomas Aquinas summarizes the matter with typical succinctness: A thing is said to be ‘assumable’ as being capable of being assumed by a Divine Person … Hence it follows that a thing is said to be assumable according to some fitness for such a union. Now this fitness in human nature may be taken from two things, viz. according to its dignity, and according to its need. According to its dignity, because human nature, as being rational and intellectual, was made for attaining to the Word to some extent by its operation, viz. by knowing and loving Him. According to its need – because it stood in need of restoration, having fallen under original sin. Now these two things belong to human nature alone. For in the irrational creature the fitness of dignity is wanting, and in the angelic nature the aforesaid fitness of need is wanting. Hence it follows that only human nature was assumable. (Summa theologiae III, q. 4, a. 1) The likeness of image [of God] is found in human nature, inasmuch as it is capable of God, viz. by attaining to Him through its own operation of knowledge and love … And hence the irrational creature which falls short of the union with God by operation has no fitness to be united with Him in personal being … Hence it follows that only human nature is capable of being assumed. (Ibid. III, q. 4, a. 1) According to Aquinas, of course, personal union with God exceeds the ‘natural’ capacities of humanity. But this is possible by grace, by God’s free gift of self, because humanity has an ‘obediential’ capacity to be raised above itself. That capacity consists in a rational nature: a spiritual level of being that, while limited, is essentially ‘open’ to Being itself, to the infinite, to the mystery of God. I will suggest shortly that this same ontological openness is closely related to our poetic capacity. For the moment, though, let us simply note its theological implications: this teaching not only allows for the real humanity of Jesus, with real personal development over the course of his life, but also opens the possibility of a Christology that is radically ‘from below’ – that is, one that begins with our common humanity, not merely in the abstract but in a concrete perspective. In our day, such an understanding necessarily includes the process of evolution, which implies that for the Word to become flesh in Christ, the flesh of Jesus must develop in its true humanity over the course of a life. And in order for Jesus’ flesh to become Word, human flesh in general must evolve from matter to the level of word, of rational, intelligent, loving spirit, of human flesh open to and longing for the divine. This theological insight, I suggest, intersects with both contemporary science’s evolutionary view of humanity and the poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetic intuition of the world of matter longing to become spirit. In his great ‘Ninth Elegy’ Rilke poses the question:

Revelation and inspiration  93 Warum, wenn es angeht, also die Frist des Daseins hinzubringen, als Lorbeer, ein wenig dunkler als alles andere Grün, mit kleinen Wellen an jedem Blattrand (wie eines Windes Lächeln) –: warum dann Menschliches müssen – und, Schicksal vermeidend, sich sehnen nach Schicksal? Why, when it is possible so to accomplish this span of being: as a laurel, a little darker than every other green, with tiny waves on the edge of every leaf (like the wind’s smile) –: why, then, must we be human – and, shunning destiny, long for destiny? (Rilke 227, ll. 1–6; my translation) The poet’s answer refers both to the inexplicable joy of consciously existing – ‘because being here is much’ (‘weil Hiersein viel ist’) – and also to the world’s need of humanity in order to come to consciousness: ‘because apparently everything around us needs us’ (‘weil uns scheinbar alles das Hiesige braucht’) in order to find expression, to become word, and thus to enter the realm of spirit: Sind wir vielleicht hier, um zu sagen: Haus, Brücke, Brunnen, Tor, Krug, Obstbaum, Fenster, – höchstens: Säule, Turm … aber zu sagen, verstehs, oh zu sagen so, wie selber die Dinge niemals innig meinten zu sein … Hier ist des Säglichen Zeit, hier seine Heimat. Sprich und bekenn. … Erde, ist es nicht dies, was du willst: unsichtbar in uns erstehn? – Ist es dein Traum nicht, einmal unsichtbar zu sein? – Erde! unsichtbar! Was, wenn Verwandlung nicht, ist dein drängender Auftrag. Are we perhaps here in order to say: house, bridge, fountains, gate, jug, fruit-tree, window – at most: pillar, tower? … but to say, understand, oh, to say them so, as never the things themselves thought interiorly to exist. … Here is the time of the sayable, here is its homeland. Speak and bear testimony. … Earth, isn’t this what you desire: invisibly to arise in us? – Is it not your dream

94  Richard Viladesau to be one day invisible? – Earth! invisible! What, if not transformation, is your urgent command? (Rilke 228–29, ll. 31–35, 42–43, 67–70; my translation) We may, of course, hear echoes in this passage of German Idealism and Romanticism, especially from Hegel (through art and idea, what is merely ‘in itself’ [an sich] becomes ‘for itself’ [für sich]), and from Schelling (‘Spirit is invisible Nature’). We may also see a kinship to Teilhard de Chardin’s more recent poetic-metaphysical interpretation of evolution: In my eyes, the universal All, as well as every element, is defined by a particular motion that animates it. But what can this motion be? Where is it drawing us? At this point, to decide the question, I sense within myself the concurrence of suggestions and evidence acquired in the course of my professional research. And it is in the role of an historian of Life, at least as much as in the role of a philosopher, that I answer, from the depths of my intelligence and of my heart: ‘toward Spirit’. (Teilhard 105; my translation) Here, the idea of a ‘natural’ dynamism toward God, combined with the affirmation of the actual gift of divine grace, establishes the basis for an evolutionary and historical theology of revelation. The development of matter to flesh and flesh to word-creating-flesh constitutes the pre-history of revelation. The history of revelation proper occurs wherever God’s ‘word’ is enfleshed and spoken. To say this, of course, is to use poetic language. To say that God ‘speaks’ is to express in mythic fashion the notion that between the divine and human spirit there occurs something analogous to what happens when humans communicate with each other through symbols. God’s ‘action’ can be nothing other than the creation of something ‘outside’ God, or the communication of God’s conscious selfhood to a creature capable of receiving it. God ‘speaks’ to humans in human words. God acts in history through human acts. At the same time, God transcends any of those words and acts, which can at best be a partial expression of the human experience of being drawn into God’s mystery. In this sense, there is a correlation and an overlap between religious inspiration and poetic inspiration. In Karl Rahner’s theology of revelation, for example, all of human experience takes place within the ‘horizon’ of God’s offer of grace (the ‘supernatural existential’). The entire history of human transcendence, in all its forms – intellectual, moral, aesthetic, religious – is to varying degrees the formulation of different levels of response to that offer, or in some cases, of failure to respond to it. Thus all human achievements of goodness, knowledge, beauty, love and communion may be seen as mediating a ‘general’ revelation of God, even if they do not explicitly refer to God. The philosophers of transcendental Thomism love to repeat

Revelation and inspiration  95 St Thomas’s famous statement: ‘omnia cognoscentia cognoscunt implicite Deum in quolibet cognito’ (‘all knowing beings know God implicitly in every content of knowledge’; De veritate q. 22, a. 2, ad 1). That is, God is implied in all knowledge as its horizon and final cause: God is its reason for being, the final intelligibility that is anticipated in all understanding and judgment.1 Even failures to achieve transcendence point to it as their horizon. Similarly, God is the hidden beloved in every love, the pre-apprehended fulfillment that grounds hope and courage, the conscious joy in being that is the exemplar of beauty, and the Act of making that is the veiled Muse of creative art and poetry. I have chosen the last phrase purposely to suggest a link between the theological concept of inspiration and the forces that ‘inspire’ the poet. In her paean to inspiration, ‘The Muse’ (1924), Anna Akhmatova appeals to the personification of those forces in the deity (or nymph, depending on your theology) from Greek mythology: Муза

The Muse

Когда я ночью жду ëë прихода, Жизнь, кажется, висит на волоске. Что почести, что юность, что свобода Пред милой гостьей с дудочкой в руке.

When at night I wait her coming, life, it seems, hangs upon a thread. What is talent, youth, or freedom before the sweet visitor, flute in hand?

И вот вошла. Откинув покрывало, Внимательно взглянула на меня. Ей говорю: ‘Ты ль Данту диктовала Страницы Ада?’ Отвечает: ‘Я.’

And now she’s come. Throwing back her veil, steadily she gazed at me. I say to her: ‘Did you dictate to Dante the pages of Inferno?’ She answers: ‘It was I.’

The poet’s ‘muse’ may be a person, or the figure may symbolize the mysterious confluence of influences, internal and external, conscious and subconscious, that draw forth and direct the creative impulse. I suggest that this kind of inspiration is parallel to, and indeed often coincides with, the divine inspiration that produces ‘revelation’. If we affirm that God is truly transcendent, and not another finite actor in the world, then God’s selfmanifestation must be mediated by human minds and hearts. The activity of God in the world is that of its teleological cause, suggesting that God is ‘cause’ of the advancement of the world on an ontological level. This ‘final’ causality, whether on the level of evolution or of human self-transcendence, is not to be confused with the causes of physics. The confusion of metaphysical with physical causes seems sometimes to be the reason for naive conceptions of creationism, which take literally the poetic descriptions of religious dialogue with God and make God into a cause among other causes. Rather, God is the immanent causality within

96  Richard Viladesau creatures. Materially, the process of evolution is truly ‘accidental’; regarded simply scientifically, physical nature has no teleology. Rilke’s ascription of desire to the things of the world is, on one level, an example of ‘pathetic fallacy’, but ontologically speaking, in the light of spirit that evolves from it, evolution has an ultimate intelligibility (and in this sense, an ultimate cause). Similarly, on the intellectual and spiritual level, our openness to God is mediated first by our openness to the world. God’s becoming flesh in the world is mediated by the creature’s flesh becoming word and spirit. In a celebrated passage Alfred North Whitehead speaks of God as ‘the poet of the world’ (346). I would suggest, however, that God is the ‘Muse’ of the world: God inspires the poetry of human existence, both as flesh and as word. But we remain, as humans, the poets. Religious scriptures and traditions are ‘dictated’ by God in the same sense that Dante’s Muse ‘dictated’ the Inferno. Revelation is in this sense truly ‘poetic’. Much of religion is in fact quite literally poetry. But even in its most abstract ontological assertions, it is poetic in that it speaks in analogies and metaphors that intend and evoke but never contain the divine reality. According to some scholars, the ancient Chinese ideograph for ‘poetry’ consisted of two figures that represent ‘speech’ and ‘heart’.2 If poetry may be described as ‘speech from/to the heart’, then religion is that poetic discourse which speaks of the heart’s consciousness of and longing for God. Religion is in this sense itself poetry. But the converse need not be true. There is, of course, religious poetry: explicitly sacred poetry of the liturgy; poetry with religious themes, like many of the works of Gerard Manley Hopkins, for example; poetry with mystical analogies and symbols, like the verses of Rumi; poetry that does not speak explicitly of the divine or the religious, but that aims at producing an enlightened frame of mind in the hearer, like the Zen-influenced haiku of Bashō, or that evokes spiritual allusions, like the famous ‘Deer Fence’ and other poems of the Tang literatus Wang Wei; poetry that expresses the wonder of being, and – as Pasternak’s Zhivago says – celebrates the joy of existence. But not all poetry is religious, even on an implicit level. Not every poet’s Muse is the Holy Spirit, the Eternal Feminine that ‘draws us onward’.3 But all poetry reveals something of the human condition. Therefore it both is and also speaks about flesh becoming word. The production and enjoyment of art is itself a ‘spiritual’ act – and thus implicitly points to the unique dimension of human being, even at its animal level. Hence, even at its most secular – as the poetry of passion or of earthly love, even if expressed as a cry of outrage against existence or as ‘fleurs du mal’ – it is flesh become word, and tells us something about the possible locus of God’s Word becoming flesh and word in humanity. How poets have taken up this task, and the varied strategies they utilize in such an endeavor, occupy the chapters that follow.

Revelation and inspiration  97

Notes 1 Transcendental Thomist theology makes a distinction between theoretically distinct levels of the anticipation of God. God is implicitly pre-apprehended (or, to borrow Whitehead’s term from another context, ‘prehended’) as creator in every spiritual act; and the ‘vision’ of God in God’s self (which implies a partaking in the divinity) is ‘prehended’ or pre-apprehended in the dynamism of faith, which elevates the natural openness of the human mind to its ultimate possible level. 2 In modern Chinese, the right-hand part of the ideograph shih (poetry) is the sign for ‘court’ or ‘temple’; but according to some it was originally written ‘chih’, meaning ‘from the heart’. The devolution to the modern form was due to simplification of the calligraphy (Pine, ‘Translator’s Preface’ 3–4). 3 So I interpret theologically the final words of Goethe’s Faust, part 2.

Works cited Pine, Red, Trans. Poems of the Masters: China’s Classic Anthology of T’ang and Sung Dynasty Verse. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2003. Rilke, Rainer Maria. Gedichte 1910–1926. Ed. Manfred Engel, Ulrich Fülleborn, Horst Nalewski and August Stahl. Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 1996. Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre. Comment je crois. Paris: Les Éditions du Seuil, 1969. Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology. New York: Macmillan, 1978.

7 Word made flesh made word On the poetic force of Macbeth Marta Gibińska

Debates on the nature of drama have gone on from time immemorial, but finally they have produced a clear-cut distinction between drama as a work of literary art and drama as a work of theatrical art. I do not say ‘clear-cut’ in the absolute sense; I do not believe that this distinction provides the ultimate resolution, in every aspect, of all the quarrels between literary and theatre scholars and critics. But at least agreement has been reached that the text of a play as it is printed or presented for reading (for example in digital media) and the text of a production of the same play are different phenomena which demand different frames of reference and open themselves to altogether different methodologies and interpretations. This said, it must be stressed that the object of the present divagations will be to find ways of bridging, or of tunnelling beneath, this peculiar divide. It seems obvious that when actors study a character in order to play the part in a performance, they must first turn to the printed text and read it. And the reader who turns to the printed text of a play must imagine it as a performance of sorts. A playwright constructs characters from words and is fully conscious of the natural consequence of this: that these words, in order to become a character, must be given the body of a particular actor, or an imaginary body in the mind of the reader. This process of taking up words and giving them body in the form of an actor’s flesh, looks, gestures and voice might be seen as an act of creation, of transforming word into flesh. In stating this, I believe that, far from trying to force a comparison with God’s act of creation or trivializing complicated theological issues, I am following the line of thinking suggested by Richard Viladesau, when he writes that ‘humanity has an “obediential” capacity to be raised above itself’ (92): that is, a capacity which is essentially open to the mystery of God, and which he sees as related to our poetic capacity. The play that I take as the text for the present reflections is Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a tragedy that depends on the poetic word and our capacity to read it. The transformation of that poetic word into performance, as I argue below, is a complex process, and no simple parallel can be drawn between it and the extraordinary formulation of the prologue to St John’s Gospel. Nevertheless, in the final event I come close to the words

On the poetic force of Macbeth  99 of Rilke, words which Viladesau takes as an argument that poetry allows us to form expression: it allows us to ‘become word, and thus to enter the realm of spirit’ (93): … but to say, understand, oh, to say them so, as never the things themselves thought interiorly to exist. I shall begin my argument by taking a close look at the first words spoken by Macbeth in the play: ‘So foul and fair a day I have not seen’ (I. 3. 39). If I am encountering the play as a reader, I may not at this point have formed any very definite impressions of the character, but when I read this line, I need to give it some sort of vocal interpretation. That interpretation will, of course, be guided by the syntax of the line, its rhythm and its context – for instance, the Witches’ reference to ‘when the battle’s lost and won’, the Captain’s bloody report or the fact that it is Macbeth’s first entrance. In the final resolution, however, it will be my reading in which I, as reader, shape the bodily existence of Macbeth’s voice, albeit in my mind only. The actor will do the same, with the difference that he will actually use his voice, giving the line an audible pitch, intonation, rhythm and stress. This difference between the actor and the reader is essential: the latter may forever experiment with the embodiment of the words, but the former must sooner or later make up his mind as to what particular voice his Macbeth will receive so as to suit the complex shape of the overall production. Both actor and reader, however, follow a similar path, one that Roman Ingarden, the Polish philosopher who worked in phenomenology, ontology and aesthetics, long ago named concretization, by which he meant the process of embodying the intentional (as opposed to real or ideal) ontological status of the literary work by filling it with subjective interpretation, giving it a concrete (but not real and not ideal) shape (see his The Literary Work of Art and The Cognition of the Literary Work of Art). Thus the intentional Macbeth – words on the page – in the process of the actor’s concretization acquires the actor’s bodily shape, his voice, his looks, his gestures. But this does not mean that the actor becomes Macbeth. With his professional skill, his craft and talent, the actor creates signs which the spectator understands as referring to the fictional character. As Jerzy Limon persuasively argues (see Piąty wymiar teatru [The Theatre’s Fifth Wall] and Brzmienia czasu [Soundings of Time]), the actor and the character exist in different dimensions, the actor doing his job on the stage remaining firmly in the real world and its current time while the character exists in his own fictional time and space, to which the audience has access solely via the signs created on the stage. The divide between them is what Limon calls ‘the fifth wall’.1 Returning to Ingarden’s ontology and the concept of the intentional character of fiction, we may argue that the actor’s concretization does not bring the character into the world of the real, but creates signs which enable

100  Marta Gibińska the audience to enter the fictional world, to get through the fifth wall. The embodiment of the word, then, is not a simple process of giving the word a voice and binding it to a body, but a complex process of forming signs which through their Peircean functions of index, icon and symbol create a fictional concretization of fiction. Ingarden himself was highly conscious of these complications and stressed that the impact of language in the real world is different from its impact in the fictional world (‘Funktionen der Sprache im Theaterschauspiel’). This difference is crucial in more recent theoretical discussions, such as Eli Rozik’s ‘The Syntax of Theatrical Communication’ and ‘The Function of Language in the Theatre’, in which the author argues (simplifying somewhat his theoretical proposition) that in the theatre the actual sound – the acoustic system – becomes the iconic system of the fictional world. It follows from the above divagations that our concern with ‘word made flesh’ is a concern with a highly complex phenomenon, and hence we cannot rest content with the idea that by uttering the line ‘So fair and foul a day I have not seen’ the actor embodies the words of Macbeth. Words in Shakespeare’s plays, precisely because they are so saturated with poetry, offer yet another complication: the poetic dimension is not just rhythm, rhyme and metaphors or images, but an extremely condensed index to the internal ‘life’ of the character. In the case of Macbeth, the poetic complication is the key to the concretization of the figure’s conscience, feelings, reasoning, terrors and so on. A good actor – but also a good reader – is faced with a great challenge here. It is not enough for him to work his body into the web of signs which will allow it, with its gestures, movements, voice and looks, to be read as belonging to Macbeth. Macbeth as a dashing young warrior or a seasoned general will never be a satisfactory, full concretization of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Naturally, the figure of Macbeth gets the body of the actor who plays him, but for the full impact of the poetic force to be discernible, Macbeth must be given flesh. That flesh, however, can never be the actor’s own. Here, I follow the distinction introduced by another phenomenologist, Jean-Luc Marion. The body is a physical object, the visible outside, while flesh is internal, the essence of self; flesh is gifted with sense. Invisible to the world though capable of appearing in body, it is the origin of all experience. And for us here, the key distinction between the two is that flesh can ‘take body’; it can let itself be apprehended through the body. Body, however, can never ‘take flesh’: Flesh can take body [appear]; body can never take flesh … flesh and body are phenomenologically opposed all the more radically that one has for its function to make appear in feeling, to the point that it remains invisible as such, while the other, having for its definition to appear as visible, is never in a position to make appear, or feel, or intend. (Marion 88)

On the poetic force of Macbeth  101 To construct the figure of Macbeth with all his ‘givenness of the self’, to make him a persuasively tragic figure, doubly complicated by being both villainous and heroic, to read his human metamorphosis as an index to his innermost experience, one has to take the word and make it flesh in Marion’s sense. Or to ‘say [it] so’, in Rilke’s sense, and thus express the innermost unsayable, to make it be. The text of the play invites the reader (and the actor) to do this every time Macbeth opens his mouth. To illustrate this, I shall take scene 2 of Act II, the great murder scene in which there is no murder on stage and yet terrifyingly it is there, in Macbeth’s mind and conscience. MACBETH. This is a sorry sight. LADY MACBETH. A foolish thought, to say a sorry sight … (20–21) Editors often add a stage direction here: ‘looks at his hands’. This is the trace of the reader’s embodiment of Macbeth’s words: the deixis ‘this’ must have a referent, and the later development of the scene tells us that that referent is Macbeth, coming down with blood on his hands. But in giving the line ‘This is a sorry sight’ its body, the actor has the freedom to do whatever he wishes with his hands and his eyes. He does not necessarily have to look at his bloody hands. The exchange with Lady Macbeth pointedly does not concern their present appearance or his being foolishly unmanly about the murder. The exchange between them is in fact an act of non-communication. To make sense of the utterance we must give it not only body, but also, and importantly, ‘flesh’, in Marion’s sense. ‘This’ may refer to the bloody hands of the actor, the physical sign of the deed, to the ‘body’, in Marion’s sense; but the ‘sorry sight’ is what Macbeth feels and experiences; it denotes the flesh and it is on this difference that Macbeth’s givenness is hinged. To wave a pair of hands with blood on them is not sufficient to constitute Macbeth. Before we look into the problem of the flesh, though, we have to consider the body, the bloody hands. The text of the scene makes it gradually clearer and clearer that Macbeth’s bloody hands are visible, though he stays curiously divorced from their reality. We may compare the words, ‘As they had seen me with these hangman’s hands’ (II. 2. 27), when Macbeth speaks of being unable to say amen to the chamberlain’s prayer. It is difficult to imagine these words uttered without a gesture and a look, that is to say, without the body, but again, it does not follow that Macbeth sees them. And later, when Lady Macbeth admonishes him to ‘wash this filthy witness from your hand’ (II. 2. 46) and takes the daggers to carry them upstairs, Macbeth exclaims: What hands are here? Ha! they pluck out mine eyes. Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather

102  Marta Gibińska The multitudinous seas incarnadine, Making the green one red. (II. 2. 58–62) The interesting point here is how Shakespeare plans the action in this scene: Macbeth must enter with bloody hands, but he discovers them only at the end of the scene; the discovery brings gradual understanding: ‘this my hand’. The bloody hands and daggers are the signs of the crime; they function as symbols. But hands as part of the actor’s body are icons of Macbeth’s body, the body of the murderer. The embodied words create both the crime and its perpetrator. However, the action here is not murder, or discussion of the murder and the necessary alibi. The action is a process which goes on within Macbeth; it is the process of experiencing the shock, re-living it and gradually reaching the horror of the truth. The action means a gradual (re)gaining of sight. To play this, the actor must give the words much more than body. He must make the words become flesh. The word hands, embodied in the actor’s hands, is the way the flesh can take body. To repeat Marion’s statement: flesh can ‘take body’; it can let itself be apprehended but it remains invisible. How can the invisible be rendered visible? How can the actor create the ‘givenness of the self’ which is not his own self? The part of Macbeth is incomparably more difficult to play than that of any other tragic hero in Shakespeare’s canon, precisely because flesh is so much more important than body here. The only key, the only guide as to how to move from the body to the flesh, is the word. ‘What hands are here?’ is an utterance grounded firmly by the deixis in the actual movement of the body. But the next words, ‘they pluck out mine eyes’, must not be treated as a physical action (unless we go for a farcical performance). They call for the flesh, not for the body. The flesh can take body here first of all through the voice: the line must be said in such a way that ‘the plucking out of the eyes’ – the words – can actually become the sign of the experience of horror, and ultimately the flesh of Macbeth. But in saying this, I am not pretending to tell the actor what to do. He is the craftsman; he should know how to do his job. My task as textual scholar is to stress the weight of the words and the strength of the image they create. If in the attempt to give body to these words their power be lost, no flesh will be created. The actor’s articulation of the line must give the image the power of an iconic sign of the character’s terror. Ultimately, then, the words that sound on our side of Limon’s ‘fifth wall’ become the act of experiencing terror on the other side of it. The actor’s body must transport them through the wall and transform them into Macbeth’s flesh. I have jumped from the ‘sorry sight’ to the plucking out of the eyes, from the early to the late action in the scene, signalling the continuous presence of the bloody hands as the necessary embodiment through which the givenness of the character’s self may be created. But this scene is packed with words that call for enfleshment. More, the demand throughout the scene is

On the poetic force of Macbeth  103 consistent in offering the chance for the action to be built inside Macbeth rather than outside. To a large extent, the visible bodily incarnation of the bloody hands in this scene gives a false lead to many a director and actor, not to mention reader, who through paying too much attention to this clue may miss the essence of Macbeth’s tragic experience. Let us consider the two purple passages from this scene, the speech on the word ‘amen’ and the speech on sleep. They are well known and often quoted, but rarely analysed for their essential dramatic function. Both passages rely on the striking rhetorical use of repetition, and in both, behind the repetition there opens an image which has the potential to become the icon and the symbol of the mind and conscience of the character. Here is the first of them: MACBETH.  There’s one did laugh in’s sleep, and one cried That they did wake each other: I stood, and heard them; But they did say their prayers, And addrest them again to sleep. LADY.  There are two lodg’d together. MACBETH.  One cried, ‘God bless us!’, and ‘Amen’, the other, As they had seen me with these hangman’s hands: List’ning their fear, I could not say ‘Amen’, When they did say ‘God bless us’. LADY.  Consider it not so deeply. MACBETH.  But wherefore could not I pronounce ‘Amen’? I had most need of blessing, and ‘Amen’ stuck in my throat. (II. 2. 21–32) The lines form a continuum, constituting the story of what happened upstairs right after the murder: Macbeth was standing with his bloody hands listening to the prayer of the grooms, interpreting the prayer as a symptom of their fear (as if they had seen his ‘hangman’s hands’, he says), except that they said ‘amen’ and he could not. The discrepancy between the moment of telling and the moment of the story’s action is focused on the bloody hands: up there in the story, Macbeth knew he had ‘hangman’s hands’; in the here and now of the telling he does not apprehend them. On the stage we must see the actor and his hands, while in the fiction (behind the fifth wall) we understand that Macbeth in his flesh has not left the place of the crime, though in his body he is downstairs, in the hall. In his flesh he knows what he has done, but in his body he does not know what is happening to him. The body of the actor will guide us to the body of the character, and only in that latter body can the flesh ‘make appear’, to use Marion’s phrase once more. The other focus in this passage is in the repetition of the phrase ‘I could not say amen’: in the story Macbeth could not pronounce it, but in the telling he repeats the word again and again. The actor on the stage repeats the word, giving it vocal vibrance, which due to repetition becomes

104  Marta Gibińska an especially powerful sign – and an ironic one to boot. By articulating the repetition, the actor constructs a sign which means a repeated lack of articulation of that one word behind the fifth wall; the body of Macbeth articulates what his flesh, paralysed with fear, could not. The second passage that I would like to consider follows immediately in the text of the play: MACBETH.  Methought I heard a voice cry, ‘Sleep no more! Macbeth does murther Sleep’, the innocent Sleep, Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care, The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath, Balm of hurt minds, great Nature’s second course, Chief nourisher in life’s feast. LADY.  What do you mean? MACBETH.  Still it cried, ‘Sleep no more!’ to all the house: ‘Glamis hath murther’d Sleepe, and therefore Cawdor Shall sleep no more!’ Macbeth shall sleep no more. (II. 2. 34–42) Two things are worth discussing here. First, the text introduces another voice besides Macbeth’s. The actor can, of course, introduce two different embodiments for the words; that is to say, he may use two different voices speaking with different rhythms and pace. But whether he does this or not, he will still use his body and his voice as the icon of the character in the fictional reality. The problem for us is what we do with the icon: whether we understand ‘Sleep no more’ as the flesh of Macbeth’s givenness of the self or as hallucination, a fiction outside his flesh. (This problem, by the way, is amply illustrated by the editorial history of the passage, which reveals that readers – or editors – have often treated the voice as a quotation, a text outside Macbeth’s consciousness, by changing punctuation and insisting on quotation marks.) I would argue that the packed, insistent series of metaphors for sleep is the index to Macbeth’s consciousness, and thus to his flesh. My other observation concerns the metaphor/image ‘Glamis hath murther’d Sleep’. It must take us out of the body and move right into the flesh: the metaphorization means the physical act of violence is transported beyond the body into the realm of knowing of the ‘deepest consequence’. The soliciting of the Witches cannot be good. What was unclear before is obvious now: Cawdor shall sleep no more; Macbeth has no life ahead. Let us recall: flesh as understood by Marion is the source of knowledge. Thus the metaphor is the sign, both iconic and symbolic, of Macbeth’s flesh. In this way I come to my conclusion. The word of drama must be embodied, otherwise we cannot begin to make sense of it. Whether we bring this about in imagination, or whether the actor impersonating a character does the embodying for us, the process of giving body to the words is only the beginning of a complicated process of semiosis whereby we also attempt to

On the poetic force of Macbeth  105 make words into flesh. In the case of such highly poetic words as those of Macbeth, the postulate of word made flesh is inevitable and indispensable. But in the final act of interpretation I return to the word. Without it I can hardly construct Macbeth’s flesh, the essence of his fictional truth. The word is in the text; the word must be articulated by the actor (or the reader) and the word must be carried beyond the articulation (the body) to knowing, to comprehending, to the ‘flesh’. Macbeth as a fictional character will not become a great tragic impersonation of our ambitions, fears, longings and valour if he does not carry the understanding of what it means to have blood on one’s hands: Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather The multitudinous seas incarnadine, Making the green one red. (II. 2. 57–62) In the beginning was the word. In poetry we return to the word. It is the guide of all flesh and the seat of wisdom and knowledge. If, again following Viladesau, ‘the Word’, here understood as the eternal Logos and pre-existent Son of the Father, ‘“became” – which is to say, did not merely “take on” or “appear in” but was “hypostatically” or personally united with – “flesh” … understood not merely as referring to a human body, but rather to an entire concrete human nature, body and soul: that is, flesh, intellect, will and psyche’ (90), then Marion’s flesh – intellect, will, psyche, conscience – must not only be created by human words – poetry – but must be created in such a way that the flesh can take body, can appear in human words whose desire is to reach back to God. This can be done; a moment of epiphany can be reached, but only through the most perfect of human words: poetry.

Note 1 Limon’s ideas about the fifth wall are summarized in English in ‘The Fifth Wall: Words of Silence in Shakespeare’s Soliloquies and Asides’.

Works cited Ingarden, Roman. The Cognition of the Literary Work of Art. Trans. Ruth Ann Crowley and Kenneth R. Olson. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973. Original title: O poznawaniu dzieła literackiego. Lwów: Ossolineum, 1937. ——. ‘Funktionen der Sprache im Theaterschauspiel’, Das Literarische Kunstwerk. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 1972. 403–428. ——. Das literarische Kunstwerk. Eine Untersuchung aus dem Grenzgebiet der Ontologie, Logik und Literaturwissenschaft. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 1972 [1931]. The Literary Work of Art. Trans. George G. Grabowicz. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973.

106  Marta Gibińska Limon, Jerzy. Brzmienia czasu. Gdańsk: Słowo/obraz terytoria, 2011. ——. ‘The Fifth Wall: Words of Silence in Shakespeare’s Soliloquies and Asides’. Shakespeare Jahrbuch. Shakespeares Klingwelten, Band 144. Bochum: Verlag und Druckkantor Kamp, 2008. 47–65. ——. Piąty wymiar teatru. Gdańsk: Słowo/obraz terytoria, 2006. Marion, Jean-Luc. In Excess: Studies of Saturated Phenomena. Trans. Robyn Horner and Vincent Berraud. New York: Fordham University Press, 2002. Peirce, Charles Sanders. The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings (1867–1893). Ed. Nathan Houser and Christian J. W. Kloesel. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992. Rozik, Eli. ‘The Function of Language in the Theatre’. Theatre Research International 3 (1993): 104–114. ——. ‘The Syntax of Theatrical Communication’. Assaph 3 (1986): 43–57. Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Ed. Kenneth Muir. The Arden Shakespeare. London: Methuen, 1984.

8 ‘Like a word still ripening in the silences’ Rainer Maria Rilke and the transformations of poetry Mark S. Burrows I won’t be still until I’ve attained this: to find images for my transformations. The rising song is not enough for me. I must attempt for once, and powerfully, to utter into full visibility what rarely happens, even in our surmising.1

These lines from one of Rilke’s early poems, published in his ‘Worpswede Diary’ (1899), chart his early understanding of the poet’s vocation: the poet is a seeker after images – archetypal images, Jung would later say – which both reflect and sustain inner transformation. Poetic language is thus not simply functional. It is dynamic. One might even say that it is determinative of change, of the kind of interior change that alters the way we inhabit our lives and our world. But how does one ‘find’ such images for this journey of growth? Where do they come from? Rilke turns to such questions in a poem written a few years later, in 1902, describing poets as artists who are ‘enclosed in themselves’, and thereby ‘gather images both murmuring and deep’: ‘They go out and ripen through metaphor’, as he suggests, ‘and remain alone their whole life’ (Die Gedichte 243). The poet, in Rilke’s mind at least, must accept a life of solitude, the experience of Einsamkeit that suggests both ‘aloneness’ and a sense of loneliness at once. The poet’s capacity to attend to this phenomenon has something of the eremitic about it, and indeed this conviction seems to shape the collection of poems Rilke wrote after returning from Russia in the fall of 1899 – The Prayers, later published as The Book of Monastic Life. Several years later, Rilke began work on a collection that came to be called Das Buch der Bilder (The Book of Images, 1902/1906). The opening piece, which the poet entitled ‘Eingang’, or ‘Entrance’, begins with an invitation that sees the poetic life as generative for every life: ‘Whoever you may be’, he begins. With this direct and general address, Rilke voices his conviction that the mediation of poetry – and this is to say the mediation of images – is needed for life to find its expansive form. For it is by engaging

108  Mark S. Burrows the imagination, Rilke sensed, that we are able to ‘find images for [our] transformations’, and this is to say that we ‘ripen’ through metaphors, through the way images work within us in the depths of the psyche. It is this conviction that shapes Rilke’s evolving sense of his vocation as an artist as one whose work is meant to be a witness for others, offering them an image of the ‘form’ of life. The transformations of this life thus find expression – or ‘utter into full visibility’ – in such archetypal images. This poem gives shape and substance to Rilke’s conviction regarding what we might call the ‘transformations of poetry’: Whoever you may be: in the evening, go out of your little room where you know everything; for your house stands at the edge of distances – whoever you may be. With your eyes, so tired that they can scarcely free themselves from the worn threshold, you lift with measured pace a single black tree and place it before the skies – slender and alone. And you have made the world. And it is vast and like a word still ripening in the silences. And just as your will grasps its meaning, your eyes tenderly let it go. (Gedichte 1895–1910 257) This poem serves as an ‘entrance’ to this volume, but it is much more than this. It could be read as a marking point in Rilke’s development as an artist in the way it voices his self-understanding as a poet: the archetypal image that shapes the poem suggests the importance Rilke placed on leaving the safety and familiarity of ‘home’. The bind we find ourselves in as human beings, the consequence of the modern longing for security, arises from our efforts to control our lives. It reflects our inability or refusal to turn ourselves toward what the poet, in his later Duino Elegies, describes simply as ‘the Open’: animals, he suggests, face this naturally, keeping death behind them in their turning toward God who is before them. As he suggests in the First Elegy, ‘animals in their knowing recognize / that we aren’t at ease / in our managed world’ (Rilke, Gedichte 1910–1926 201). ‘Entrance’ offers Rilke’s probing of the transformative power of imagination in shaping our lives, interpreted here as a way we ‘make’ the world. It is an interior journey, ‘a deeply interior confession’ as he had recently put it, one we first must chart in our ways of inhabiting the ‘outer’ world.2 This passage from the outer to inner takes us into the heart of poetic experience, and in this is analogous to what Richard Viladesau refers to as an ‘ontological openness [which] is closely related to our poetic capacity’ (92). Rilke describes its significance in the closing lines as an internal struggle between the will, which functions as what Carl Jung would later call the

Rilke and the transformations of poetry  109 animus, and the ‘eyes’, which suggest the function of the anima. For Rilke, as for Jung after him, both of these have a rightful place in human experience. But the anima guides us into the interior energies that alone can give direction to our transformation – Viladesau’s ‘“obedential” capacity’ of the human (92). The anima is what orients us, through its allurement, as the ‘place’ where our most profound experiences of creativity occur. And, most importantly, the anima holds the secret to what the art of poetry, according to Rilke, is meant to do for us whether as writers or as readers, which is to say what poetry longs to do within us. This poem also suggests, implicitly at least, how poems happen, sketching in succinct form the interior horizon of the creative process. In probing the nature of ‘poetizing’, Rilke invites us to wonder what it is we are doing when we make art; where artistic images – or, more to the point, the metaphors that are essential for poems – come from; and how they ‘behave’ once they assume their life on the page. Such questions, of course, are generally implicit for poets: one does not ponder them in the act of writing, just as composers would not wonder where melody and rhythm come from in the process of writing music. It is surely the case, though, that words (and images) are evoked in and through the ‘flesh’ of experience: the relation of experience to language (and vice versa) is crucial, not only for poets but also for humans as language-bearing beings. But how do we ‘make the world’, as Rilke suggests? Is experience prior to language? Do images precede words in human cognition? And does the very act of imagining depend on the existence of language, at least as it takes shape within – and shapes – our inner and outer experience? Such questions lie close to the pulse of Rilke’s work, early and late, as we shall see. The philosopher and phenomenologist Gaston Bachelard suggests that when we read language, particularly the words of a poetic line, our primary stance is as what he calls ‘dreamers of words, of written words’ (17). This is so in part, as he goes on to say, because words themselves are dreaming entities. They dream in us, Bachelard suggests. He even goes so far as to suggest that words even dream us. For this reason, Bachelard wonders ‘how … we [can] read what the poet has written in an anima reverie without anima reverie?’ He goes on to conclude: ‘And that is how I justify not being able to read poets except by dreaming’ (67). If this is the case, then poems are ‘oneiric’, deriving their essential energy from the work of reverie or daydreaming, which is as true for writers of poems as for their readers. Such claims as these seem particularly important – if also perhaps a bit awkward to state – in an academic argument, reminding us that our work of engaging poems must go beyond simply thinking about poems and analysing them. It cannot be constrained by drawing upon the animus to probe their voices, examine their diction and consider what they mean (119). Rather, we must open ourselves to their enchantment, to how they mean within us, a stance that calls for admiratio – or wonderment – on our part so that we might ‘receive the qualities of what is perceived’ (119). We must avail ourselves of

110  Mark S. Burrows the movements of anima which shape words in their dreaming life, opening ourselves to the more fluid dimension of our imagination which is the dwelling place of reverie. All of this is to say that the mind’s capacity to imagine – that is, to form (or re-form) images, and to allow images to form (or re-form) us – is the invitation to live by ‘risking enchantment’, as T. S Eliot later put it (26). It is the call to enter the dreaming power of words, allowing them to transform us in their own unfettered ways. Bachelard describes this experience by establishing his role as reader as being ‘a dreamer of words, of written words’: I think I am reading; a word stops me. I leave the page. The syllables of the word begin to move around. Stressed accents begin to invert. The word abandons its meaning like an overload which is too heavy and prevents dreaming. Then words take on other meanings as if they had the right to be young. And the words wander away, looking in the nooks and crannies of vocabulary for new company. (17) Rilke’s poem ‘Entrance’ vividly illustrates the ‘dreaming’ power of words. One might encounter it as a pondering, as a musing of words in their transformative powers. It invites us to engage the anima through the transformation of the deep metaphors he uses – which enables us ‘to utter into full visibility’ what these images bring to life in our depths. For we ourselves ‘ripen through metaphors’, as Rilke puts it, and it is in this way that we ‘come’ to poems and they to us. Or, as the poet suggests, this is the inner pathway by which poems come to us and begin to do their work within us. The poem also suggests how the anima must contend – once it gives itself to this energy of language – with the more structured pressures of the animus. This is the drama, according to Rilke, that frees us to our ‘world-making’ potential, not simply as poets but also as readers of poems. This is the heart of his ‘deep-innerly confession’, the interior structure of how he understands the poetic vocation. The invitation that opens the poem ‘Entrance’ – to leave ‘the little room where [we] know everything’ – calls us to set aside the grip of the animus which structures and orders, measures and analyses the world. ‘The image’, Bachelard insists, ‘cannot provide matter for a concept. By giving stability to the image, the concept would stifle its life’ (52). Thus, the animus in its necessary and critical work with concepts and the anima in its way of engaging images constitute the essential structure of the human psyche. In their outworking they reflect the tensions within us between what Heidegger would later describe as ‘calculative thinking’ (animus) and ‘meditative thinking’ (anima). Neither Heidegger nor Bachelard after him disputes the significance of the former, which promotes the efficiencies and productivities of human

Rilke and the transformations of poetry  111 life. But both agree that the animus cannot touch or even locate the wellsprings of the imagination, and thus join in recognizing that it has no ability to bring us to the inner transformations of art (and life). It cannot glimpse the ‘meanings which evolve from the human to the divine, from tangible facts to dreams (songes)’, as Bachelard puts it, by which ‘words take on a certain thickness of meaning’ (36). Or, as he elsewhere suggests, ‘whoever gives himself over with enthusiasm to rational thought can turn away from the smoke (fumées, f.) and mists (brumes, f.) by means of which irrationalists try to surround with doubt the active light of well-associated concepts’ (52–53). These ‘irrationalists’, as Bachelard describes those who make themselves susceptible to the poetic, have no interest in an ‘intellectualist criticism of poetry’, since they know that this will never lead them to ‘the source (foyer) where poetic images take form’ (53).3 Their work is that of ‘conjuring’, as it were, the indirect light of images; more on this in a moment. As Rilke describes this through the medium of an archetypal metaphor, ‘Whoever you may be: in the evening, go out / of your little room where you know everything; / for your house stands at the edges of distances – / whoever you may be.’ What does it mean to answer this directive to ‘go out’ of our ‘little room’, a marvellous metaphor for the empirical constraints we so often impose on ourselves – or find imposed on us – in late modern societies like ours? Rilke’s admonition points to how the work of the animus diminishes us in our capacity to imagine and thus stunts the transformative power of the image. It reduces our inner vision. The pressures of our world leave us scarcely able to free ourselves from its grip – or to lift our eyes from ‘the worn threshold’, as he imagines it with a reference to the place of ‘passage’ from our ‘little room’, tracing the familiar movement from ‘home’ to work back home again. How do we find our way to transformation, to an inner experience that is able to liberate us from the confines of our ‘little room where [we] know everything’, wherever that may be? How do we come to the experience of feeling our inner life ‘widened’ – or, as Rilke puts it, ‘at the edge of distances’? Again, Rilke avoids giving us some kind of ordered instruction. Rather, he suggests how we find our way to these ‘distances’ by ‘lifting’ with our tired eyes an image of a ‘single black tree’ and ‘plac[ing] it before the skies – slender and alone’. Much could be said of this metaphor in its capacity to stir something within us – this archetypal image of a tree, rooted in place before the vast expanse of the skies, apparently bereft of leafage and standing in stark silence against the coming dark of night. In what follows, Rilke suggests that this act of imagining is how we ‘make the world’, which is to say, this image of a barren tree, ‘slender and alone’, becomes through the interior transformation of this root image something ‘vast / and like a word still ripening in the silences’. The ‘single black tree’ expands beyond what we control with our reason, calling us forth from the confines of the ‘little room where [we] know everything’. And, just as ‘[our] will grasps its meaning, / [our] eyes

112  Mark S. Burrows tenderly let it go’ – which is the poet’s way of saying that, just as we fall back on the organizing power of the animus to structure our experience, the eyes as the source of images (anima) alone are able to ‘let it go’. We allow this image to carry us in its reverie, its dark wandering in the depths of the psyche. Again, Bachelard: It is anima who dreams and sings. Dreaming and singing, that is the work of its solitude. Reverie – not the dream (rêve) – is the free expansion of all anima. It is doubtless with the reveries of his anima that the poet manages to give his animus-ideas the structure of a song, the force of a song. (67) Bachelard describes this experience with a marvellous aside of sorts in the form of a phenomenological description of day-dreaming: Reverie before the still waters gives us that experience of a permanent psychic consistency which is the possession of the anima. Here we receive the teachings of a natural calm and an entreaty to become conscious of the calm of our own nature, of the substantial calm of our anima. The anima, the principle of our repose, is that nature within us which is sufficient unto itself; it is the tranquil feminine. The anima, the principle of our profound reveries, is really the being of our still water within us. (69–70) Or, as Rilke puts it by means of metaphor: ‘And you have made the world. And it is vast / and like a word still ripening in the silences.’ What Rilke is here describing is the inner work of the poetic image, the transformations of poetry that come to us through the ways we engage and work with the ‘flesh’ of experience, which suggests how images work within us and how they work on us in the depths of the psyche. This inner process, leading us to a kind of deep knowing, is what alone has the capacity to evoke our own transformations. This is how images ‘ripen’ in us, and ultimately have the potential of ripening us. As the poem suggests, this is a slow process, one that takes time and can be difficult for us. Above all, it demands our attention: we are to do this work ‘[w]ith [our] eyes, so tired that they can / scarcely free themselves from the worn threshold’ of our life. This necessary condition of our creativity requires that we become vulnerable to the power of the image in its autonomy, giving ourselves over to the free play of its dreaming nature through the receptivity – the ‘welcome’ as Bachelard puts it – or our anima. This insight which Bachelard describes is one Rilke puts to work, showing us what it is like through the transformative power of metaphor: the poem thus begins with the utterly

Rilke and the transformations of poetry  113 ordinary, with a familiar object close at hand – just outside the ‘little room’ of our animus, here taking the form of a slender, barren tree standing firm against the vastness of the evening sky. Again, Bachelard: ‘For things as for souls, the mystery is inside. A reverie of intimacy – of an intimacy which is always human – opens up for the [one] who enters into the mysteries of matter’ (72). Moment by moment, an unimaginable plenitude of visual images engage us. Most of these enter the deep dimension of our minds that we refer to as the unconscious, and remain there undisturbed. They imbed themselves there in the image-gathering part of brain, the ‘thalamus’, which lies at the deep core of the brain and acts as a regulatory organ to convey and process visual stimuli. It seems, however, that we are remarkably inefficient as collectors of images; the visual receptors of our eyes pass their data on to this filtering part of the brain, and here only a small percentage of what we take in finds an active or conscious resonance within us. Or, rather, our eyes take them in and the brain begins the unavoidable work of sorting only a relative few into manageable material for our consciousness. This has to do with the sheer excess of such images; we are simply unable to contain, much less manage, their immensity. What is fascinating about all this, of course, is that this ‘excess’ is a dimension of our very being; we are abundantly more than we can grasp. St Augustine once put it this way: ‘I cannot grasp the whole of what I am [nec ego ipse capio totum, quod sum]’ (187). What intrigued Rilke was not simply this abundance, this excess, but rather the process within us, and within the poet first of all, which brings a glimpse of this unknowable ‘whole’ to life – primarily through the images we take into the depths of our unconscious. What he sensed and explored in his manner of writing is how these images, given the ‘length’ and ‘breadth’ of their endurance within us, come to emerge slowly through the workings of metaphor. In the confession he puts on the lips of his quasiautobiographical character Malte in The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge: ‘I am learning to see. I don’t know why it is, but everything enters me more deeply and doesn’t stop where it once used to. I have an interior that I never knew of’ (9). Metaphors arise from the images that come to us, first of all, in raw, unfiltered form. But as they abide within us, in the depths of our psyche, they begin to take on a life of their own and act upon us. Eventually, they come to constitute memories, but not those we had actively cultivated because of the vividness of a given experience. Rather, they arise within us from the deep substratum that Rilke calls ‘the darknesses’ (die Dunkelheiten), and which Jung later describes as the ‘unconscious’. These are the images that matter most for the forming – or transforming – of our identity. In the memorable prefatory remarks Rilke gave for a poetry reading in Hottingen near Zürich in 1919, he warned his audience against being ‘put off by the fact that I often call up images of the past’. As he

114  Mark S. Burrows went on to explain, ‘[t]hat which was also is, in the fullness of occurring, if you grasp it not according to its content but by means of its intensity’ (The Inner Sky 186). This leads to what the philosopher Jean-Louis Chrétien describes as ‘the excess of a human being over himself, an excess of what one is and can be over what one can think and comprehend’ (119). These ‘intensities’ of experience ‘know’ more than we can ‘think’ or ‘comprehend’. They remind us that we are ‘larger’ than what we can ever know, and ‘deeper’ than what we can imagine. They inspire within us a confidence that reaches beyond what we can grasp. In the ways we come to experience them, in their coming into language, they carry a deeper and wider experience than anything we could have known through the processes of thought alone. In other words, such images come to us through the slow passing of time – and pass into consciousness by means of the texture of metaphor and poetic line, thereby offering glimpses of their long-hidden life. Such images startle us. They wake the anima in us. They come to us as an unexpected reminder of the ‘excess’ within us, the essential surplus that gave birth to them. They call us into their dreaming arms. As Rilke goes on to put it in his remarks in Hottingen: And we – as members of a world which brings forth movement after movement, force after force, seeming to crash into inexorably fewer and fewer visible objects – we have to rely on this superior visibility of the past if we want to represent, in allegorical form, the hidden splendor of the present which we are surrounded by, even today. (The Inner Sky 106) This concise description of the poet’s vocation captures the subtle intention one senses in Rilke’s poetry: the search to represent ‘the hidden splendor of the present’, as he calls it. And this cannot be conveyed directly. It transpires through the creative deflections of metaphor, and their transformative power as they come to dwell in the depths of the psyche. This happens within us by means of the indirect and unconscious transformations of image, or what Rilke here calls ‘allegorical form’. It also suggests something of how art happens – or in this case, how poems come to be, which is to say how their images take form within the poet on their circuitous way to language and only then form themselves within us as they make their way back into the silences of an ‘original’ experience. Rilke explores this theme in a brooding poem entitled ‘Wendung’, or ‘Turning’, written at the edge of the Great War, in June 1914. Here, he devotes his full attention to describing the shape of poetic experience: The act of looking, you see, is a boundary. And the world we glimpse wants to thrive through love.

Rilke and the transformations of poetry  115 The work of seeing is finished; do now the heart-work with the images, the held images, which lie within; because you’ve conquered them, but you don’t yet truly know them… (Rilke, Gedichte 1910–1926 101–102) This is a generative starting point: by noting that the ‘act of looking’ is a ‘boundary’ (Grenze), and the ‘work of seeing’ is ‘finished’, the poet is pointing to how visuality begins with the raw data of images. But his point is driving beyond this claim to note how these stimuli are in their ‘glimpsed’ state not yet capable of birthing art – or, in this case, poetry. Something further must occur in how these images become available to our creative capacities, our anima, which Rilke here describes as ‘heart-work’ (Herz-Werk), beyond mere seeing as the dimension of true knowing. It is how we eventually come to ‘truly know’ these images in their transformative powers – that is, how poetic metaphor leads us into our own ‘inner transformations’, a way of voicing what Viladesau calls poetic ‘ascent’ by which ‘flesh becomes Word’ (90). In this sense, art for Rilke is the means of sensing something of the ‘whole’ of which we experience only broken parts, glimpsing at best fragments or ‘moments’ from the larger patterns of our lives. It is the result of ‘transformations’ occurring within us. It represents the means by which we come to know them (and ourselves) through the ‘heart-work’ of giving poetic images their soul-shaping power. The poet is the solitary one, as Rilke understood his vocation, whose task it is to ‘utter into full visibility / what rarely happens, even in our surmising’. The poet’s work is to gather and shape a harvest of metaphor from the fragmentary and momentary images of our lives. In this sense, the poet’s own ‘ripening through metaphor’ invites the reader into the dynamics of poetic experience. It is a way by which we enter with the poet into the transformations of poïesis, the ‘world-making’ way of being as Rilke early described it. Poetry becomes a means of such change, and precisely in this way can one say with the poet that ‘it is vast / and like a word still ripening in the silences’.

Notes 1 Rainer Maria Rilke, in Sämtliche Werke, vol. 6, 669; all translations from Rilke’s works, unless otherwise noted, are mine. 2 The phrase he uses is ‘ein tiefinneres Geständnis’; see ‘Über Kunst’, Rilke’s response to Leo Tolstoy’s essay ‘What is Art?’ (1897) (cited in Ryan 31). 3 As Bachelard goes on to say here, ‘[o]ne must keep from giving commands to the image as a mesmerizer gives commands to the somnambulist. In order to know the success of images, it is better to follow the somnambulistic reverie, to listen … to the dreamer’s somniloquy. The image can only be studied through the image, by dreaming images as they gather in reverie. It is a non-sense to claim to study imagination objectively since one really receives the image only if [one] admires it’ (53).

116  Mark S. Burrows

Works cited Augustine. Confessions. Trans. Henry Chadwick. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Reverie: Childhood, Language, and the Cosmos. Trans. Daniel Russell. Boston: Beacon Press, 1971. Chrétien, Jean-Louis. The Unforgettable and the Unhoped For. Trans. Jeffrey Bloechl. New York: Fordham University Press, 2002. Eliot, T. S. ‘East Coker’. Four Quartets. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971. Rilke, Rainer Maria. Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge. Wiesbaden: Insel Verlag, 1951. ——. Die Gedichte. Gesamtausgabe. Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 2006. ——. Gedichte 1895–1910. Kommentierte Ausgabe in vier Bändern. Ed. Manfred Engel, Ulrich Fülleborn, Horst Nalewski and August Stahl. Vol. 1. Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 1996. ——. Gedichte 1910–1926. Kommentierte Ausgabe in vier Bändern. Ed. Manfred Engel, Ulrich Fülleborn, Horst Nalewski and August Stahl. Vol. 2. Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 1996. ——. The Inner Sky: Poems, Notes, Dreams. Trans. Damion Searls. Boston: David R. Godine, 2010. ——. Sämtliche Werke. Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 1976. Ryan, Judith. Rilke, Modernism and Poetic Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

9 The logos of the guess Bradford William Manderfield

The discussion undertaken in this chapter is related in important ways to the subject of Richard Viladesau’s reflections on the nature of the ‘Word’ or ‘Logos’ and the relationship of that ‘Word’ or ‘Logos’ to the more human phenomenon of inspiration. As my title suggests, here the Logos is connected with the phenomenon of the guess. I argue that there is a link between the theological-philosophical category of the Logos and the human category of guessing. Where Viladesau concentrates on the continuity between the Logos and the flesh, between divinity and humanity, in the form of inspiration, my purpose is to suggest that the faculty of guessing may be seen as another human approach to the divine. Viladesau emphasizes the ‘ascending’ model of the Incarnation, against predominantly ‘descending’ models. The guess, and its relationship to the Incarnate Logos, also stresses the ascending model. Guessing may appear a pedestrian term, much like inspiration, or at least a very human term, at a remove from the technical parlance of the Logos. T. S. Eliot, however, in describing ‘Incarnation’ in Four Quartets as ‘the hint half-guessed, the gift half-understood’ (199), implies that the ordinary human faculty of guessing might be a means by which one could approach this astonishing mystery. Guessing, like inspiration in Viladesau’s terms, possesses an eminently human character. It lacks the determinateness of either ‘knowing’ or ‘understanding’ as a means by which one might engage theological concepts, yet in Eliot’s estimation it is an apt faculty for approaching the reality of the Incarnation. Although guessing does not yield the certain or determinate mode of knowledge that one associates with the sciences, it may afford a form of knowledge proper to such theological subject matter. For Eliot, the Incarnation itself offers a hint as well as a gift to humanity, and we might say that the human faculty best equipped to approach that hint is the faculty of guessing. If Eliot is correct that guessing is a viable approach towards understanding the Incarnation, then guessing itself must possess a logos. In Viladesau’s traditional formulation of the matter, flesh can be made into Word or Logos because the flesh is not only flesh but also possesses its own logos. The descendent approaches for integrating the flesh and Logos have concentrated on the logic from God’s side. Yet Eliot, like

118  Bradford William Manderfield Viladesau, places the process of integration between flesh and Logos closer to the level of human inspiration when he suggests guessing as a faculty for appreciating the gift of the Incarnation. Established precedents for the descendent approaches to the Incarnation reside within philosophy. The logos, as understood from one philosophical standpoint that precedes Christianity, denotes a reasonability or intelligibility. The logos is at once intrinsic to humans in the form of reasoning, as well as independent of them as an ordering principle of the cosmos. In a broad sense, giving a logos to ‘bios’, ‘geos’ or ‘theos’ indicates that these objects – life, rocks and God alike – may be given some intelligible account by human reason. A ‘logos of the guess’ supposes that guessing, like these objects, instead of being ‘random’ or ‘unintelligible’, also participates in a form of reason. Guessing may possess a logos, even if the nature of that logos, from the human vantage point, admits of less precision than the science of biology or geology. Aristotle refers to the nature of this precision in respect of various logoi at the beginning of his Ethics. He warns his audience not to demand from this work the same degree of determinacy and precision that he is able to demonstrate in his Politics or Physics: ‘Our account of the science will be adequate if it achieves such clarity as the subject-matter allows, for the same degree of precision is not to be expected in all discussions … [F]or it is a mark of the trained mind never to expect more precision in the treatment of any subject-matter than the nature of that subject permits’ (Aristotle 64–65). The subject matter of his Ethics is necessarily more subjective and therefore less precise than that of his Politics or his Physics. Yet this imprecision in Aristotle’s approach does not suggest the unimportance of the Ethics; on the contrary, the generally subjective character of ethical considerations testifies to the importance of the subject matter. In this sense, Ethics touches upon the quality and meaning of human life in a way that Physics does not. Similarly, one cannot formulate a logos for ‘theos’ with the same determinacy or rigour with which one may develop a logos for ‘geos’. In this sense, the logos of the guess is more akin to the logos for ‘theos’ than to that for ‘geos’, such that the indeterminacy of these subject matters is not grounds for denigrating them. On the contrary, their indeterminacy may be a sign of their necessarily subjective character and, correspondingly, a sign of their importance, insofar as the quality and meaning of human life are concerned. The descendent approach in theology, like the discipline of philosophy itself, emphasizes the ability of the human logos to reach the divine Logos. Because of this overlap, I will utilize the resources of philosophy via the work of the contemporary Irish philosopher William Desmond to analyse the approach present in the logic of the guess, since his philosophical approach attends to the importance of guessing in philosophical terms. This is particularly true in terms of how the guess functions in terms of a theological subject like that of the Incarnation. As a faculty of human experience, guessing plays an important role for Desmond because the subject

The logos of the guess  119 matters that he prizes as a philosopher are highly indeterminate ones – like love and death, to which he does not hesitate to ascribe a logos, as Aristotle did not shrink from treating in his Ethics, despite its necessarily less precise nature. In this case, an indeterminate faculty of thought, like guessing, is not only useful but necessary for treating subject matters as indeterminate as these. Thus, too, the indeterminate nature of the Incarnation as a theological ‘object’ of faith requires an indeterminate faculty like guessing. While Desmond does not characterize his philosophy as a mode of guessing, key components of his philosophical thought provide a stronger sense of the nature of guessing and its epistemic relationship to the Incarnation than Eliot had suggested. Among these, those most important for developing a logos of the guess are the terms equivocity, univocity and suffering, categories which Desmond considers as potencies within being. For this very reason, they suggest how it is that one might improve one’s ability to guess well. In what follows, I describe Desmond’s concepts as hermeneutical vantage points by which one learns to better orient oneself towards being. By extension, they also operate as lenses that might illuminate one’s appreciation of the Incarnation. In terms of these three concepts, Desmond values the equivocal hermeneutic over the univocal, arguing that an equivocal hermeneutic eventuates in suffering, mentally and otherwise. This suffering, which I also call desperation, is a preliminary condition for the logic of guessing and its application to the Incarnation, serving as a mental form of askesis or humbling. Such an askesis serves as a preliminary stage for engaging the equivocal hermeneutic of guessing and its relation to the Incarnation: the equivocal nature of the Incarnation, to be properly appreciated, requires an equivocal mode of knowing like the guessing Eliot suggests. The equivocal mode of the guess is also similar to the mode of knowing the apostle Paul recommends in his First Letter to the Corinthians, and in what follows I discuss the relationship between a knowledge of the cross (see 1 Cor. 1:18ff.), in Paul’s terms, and the knowledge conferred by the guess.

Equivocity Although Desmond does not explicitly address the logos of the guess in his philosophy, he speaks extensively of what he terms an ‘equivocal mode of knowing’. This mode can function as a hermeneutic for deepening an appreciation of a logos of the guess, since guessing, for our purposes, is an equivocal mode of knowing – that is, a form of knowing that approaches subject matters which are themselves equivocal, such as love, death and Incarnation. The equivocal, historically speaking, is a term that describes a doubleness or ambiguity in a word or concept, thus requiring clarification. Desmond applies the term, however, on a scale that far exceeds reference to the ambiguity of words, since for him the equivocal signifies an ambiguity or difference inherent within life itself. Equivocity is for him primarily existential,

120  Bradford William Manderfield designating a difference within being and within the person that cannot be reduced to sameness. At an elemental level, it abstractly refers to the merest differences that occur in nature, such as that between an apple tree and a pear tree, as well as differences that inhere within the human person, such as self-interest and self-giving. Often these differences cannot be reconciled into an untroubled synthesis. Desmond’s use of equivocity stresses the personal forms of difference, such as that between self-interest and self-giving, forms of difference in the human person that cannot be synthesized into a calm or coherent unity. In Desmond’s approach, equivocity expresses differences that are irreducibly different, pointing to differences in nature and within the subject which are a cause of strain. Equivocity creates a stress for the intellect, because the intellect always seeks clearer modes of knowing. For Desmond, as earlier suggested, two of the most equivocal aspects within the human person are experiences of love and death. Rather than being unintelligible, such experiences reside at the extremes of our faculty of reason. That is, they resist a clear, rational account, which is why philosophy often ignores them. However, the difficulty they create for reason does not mean they are contrary to reason itself. In the same sense, the Incarnation offers an equivocal subject matter, because it eludes a certain manner of conceptual analysis. As Eliot seems to hint in ‘The Dry Salvages’, the logos of the guess is the equivocal hermeneutic that best pertains to the Incarnation. Guessing, as a viable hermeneutic for making sense of the Incarnation, creates a certain stress upon the intellect that reorients one away from ‘classical’ modes of knowing. To guess requires that one enter a stressful form of knowing, which Desmond describes as equivocal. The hermeneutic of equivocity is a means by which one thoughtfully engages with subject matters that resist many classical forms of reasoning. Like Aristotle, Desmond would describe ethics not only as more indeterminate than physics, but also as more equivocal. Its equivocal character implies a human subject, and the human subject for Desmond is by nature highly equivocal. Thus, the human person is more fundamentally defined by difference and equivocity than by sameness and univocity. A mode of reasoning that treats equivocal topics (whether in ethics or in guessing) must employ alternative resources of reasoning, rather than many of the classical forms: ‘The law of contradiction that would separate out the opposites into exclusive univocal categories is not entirely faithful’ (God and the Between 77). Classical logical strategies, such as the ‘law of contradiction’, fail to capture highly particular matters, such as love and death, which always possess a deeply personal dimension. Univocal categories of thought – and Desmond would term the ‘law of contradiction’ a more univocal mode of thought – compromise the complexity of these subject matters. In contrast, Desmond argues that ‘[t]he spontaneous languages of religion, in their imagistic, mythic, representational equivocity are, in this respect, truer than the more univocal languages of philosophers’ (God and the Between 78;

The logos of the guess  121 emphasis added). This ‘spontaneity’ of religious language, for Desmond, provides a truer hermeneutic for the equivocities within being, since such languages are more ‘truthful’ or ‘faithful’ to subject matters that resist a univocal hermeneutic.

Univocity In order to appreciate the nature of the ‘hermeneutic of the equivocal’ in Desmond, it is necessary to appreciate his understanding of the univocal which stands in contrast to the equivocal. From the outset, Desmond defines the univocal sense of being as something constituent of the human condition: ‘When we encounter the astonishing diversity of happenings … our search for intelligibility looks for, looks to, constant sameness in the muchness of multiplicity’ (God and the Between 49). That is, in the midst of multiplicity, one seeks intelligibility for that multiplicity; one looks for a framework in which to bring that multiplicity within a coherent whole. Desmond terms this tendency of the mind the univocal. The univocal frame of mind manifests itself in a variety of modes: There are many forms of determinate intelligibility – common sense, mathematical, scientific, and so on. Yet the general attitude remains constant: intelligibility means transcending the too muchness given in the original astonishment, guided by faith that there is, in the end, nothing too much, and nothing, in the end, in excess of intelligible determination. (God and the Between 49) All forms of thought can fall into the univocal mindset. Part of what this univocal orientation means is that a determinate form of intelligibility becomes the primary goal of interpretation, over and against the perplexity and strain of equivocal experience, which love, death and the Incarnation always evidence. The univocal manner of reasoning would more easily equate ‘guessing’ with ‘randomness’, such that guessing would seem to lack any connection to logos. Univocal forms of thought, for Desmond, downplay the particular and ephemeral aspects of existence, like the experiences of love and death, which do not fit a more clear and distinct mode of theorizing. Such univocal forms of thought downplay or devalue the equivocal nature of love or death. Love is usually specific, directed at someone or something, and because of its specificity does not fit into a more generalized philosophical discourse. Ephemerality, which is witnessed most radically in death, also eludes a univocal analysis, and a univocal frame of mind discounts the intelligibility and worth of experiences defined by particularity or ephemerality. A univocal perspective thus devalues the equivocal experiences one encounters in concrete human experience; by extension, a univocal attitude would also discount the extreme particularity that the Incarnation implies.

122  Bradford William Manderfield Desmond provides an analysis of the genesis of univocity. For him, the univocal is not an ‘originary’ sense of being, in that it is not the most elemental or primal plane of being. Desmond understands the concepts of the univocal and equivocal in part in relation to each other: ‘But just because they (the univocal and the equivocal) mix, there is a sense in which the equivocal is more fundamental’ (God and the Between 74; emphasis in original). For him, the category of univocity always derives from more fundamental and equivocal states of being, such that a univocal mode of thought is derivative from an originative and originating equivocity or difference. Such a mode increasingly seeks more determinate forms of knowing, so as to make the straining difference of the equivocal experience more manageable. Thus, the univocal is always a secondary state in contrast to the more elemental and equivocal potency. Desmond outlines this causal structure of univocity in these terms: ‘Equivocity reveals a happening that is too much for us, hence perplexing. We try to place determinacy where this over-determinacy is. The univocal way is correlative with the specification of definite curiosity about this or that determinacy of being’ (God and the Between 74). For Desmond, ‘equivocity’ is the most ‘originary’ state of being, such that the equivocal is always anterior to a univocal mode of being. Equivocity, however, is also and always too much. What this suggests is that an equivocity that precedes all categorization always exerts an influence upon the subject that is overwhelming. Hence one always reduces the ‘too muchness’ into more manageable categories. For Desmond, thought will normally return to univocal states of mind because of the incessant desire for intelligibility: the inability to remain in unintelligible, perplexing experiences always leads one back to univocity. As he puts it, ‘we cannot live indefinitely with marvel or trepidation. We need to determine more familiar unities and samenesses. Common sense effects a familiarization of our “being in the midst” … The search for more ultimate unity inevitably emerges’ (God and the Between 52). For Desmond, ‘being in the midst’ signifies one’s relation to concrete happening in its particularity and ‘muchness’. To be ‘in the midst’ is to be a single subject capable of preserving the ‘muchness’ or ‘equivocity’ of experience itself. ‘Being in the midst’ thus signifies a sensitivity to the ‘muchness’ of being. This ‘muchness’, however, is continually reduced into manageable and familiar categories that are ‘unfaithful’ to the complexity of ‘being in the midst’. Love and death, like the Incarnation, partake of the equivocal. The encounter with these phenomena necessarily takes place in an equivocal mode of being. Yet the human inclination is always to flee such experiences by retreating into a more univocal way of being. The univocal mindset and the desire to singularize existence into clearly intelligible categories is itself without limit. In this vein, univocity applies itself to all modes of thought and to all objects, including the ultimate: God, for Desmond, is not a concept that is immune from univocalizing intentions. The singularizing mode of thought reduces the particulars of creation, grouping

The logos of the guess  123 its ‘muchness’ into clear, delimitable categories. An equivocity which never admits of clear intelligibility eventually exerts a form of suffering upon the individual, which one must combat with curiosity: one is ‘curious’ about the equivocal and seeks to understand the equivocal more and more. This initially innocent curiosity increasingly demands more and more intelligibility from the equivocal experience, thereby becoming continually parasitic upon the more original state of being. Thus, the indeterminacy that initially characterizes equivocity, which Desmond positively describes as its ‘over determinacy’, becomes more and more determinate. One continually reduces the ‘overdeterminate’ nature, of love, death or Incarnation into clear and distinct determinate categories. The univocal sense of being seeks greater and greater determinacy, fostering greater and greater forms of intelligibility in its object. In the end the univocal gains the ascendancy.

Suffering and the equivocal As mentioned above, the equivocal for Desmond always implies a form of suffering. The difference and particularity in creation resists all analysis, and this resistance also painfully strains the subject. Such strain cannot be distinguished from Desmond’s understanding of a hermeneutic of equivocity. The logos of the guess also necessitates this strain or suffering that Desmond develops in his thought on equivocity. Guessing, as an alternative form of reasoning, requires a certain estrangement from classical forms of reasoning. Yet it is important to note that this guessing and the strain it exerts on thinking bears an important resemblance to the apostle Paul’s ‘message of the cross’, which also forces a theological strain upon all forms of knowledge. Further exploration of this suffering of equivocity illumines the nature of the logos of the guess. One of the ways Desmond describes equivocity is in terms of ‘being at a loss’. The nature of this straining difference, as mentioned above, is that it lacks a comprehensive hermeneutic that might synthesize the experience of difference. The difference is such that no concept can make the difference intelligible. Equivocity thus involves ‘being at a loss’, and this loss, as Desmond understands it, typifies his understanding of what it is to be a philosopher: ‘Again I reiterate that the philosopher’s self-identity can be forged in a deep awareness of being at a loss’ (Perplexity 40). This ‘loss’ is synonymous with the dark and enigmatic side of equivocity, since equivocity stipulates the sense of a bodily and mental loss which cannot repair itself with normal philosophical hermeneutics. Moreover, this ‘loss’ is the ‘space’ where Desmond’s concept of the philosopher is forged. Thinking itself, for Desmond, is this loss: ‘Thinking brings us a loss of unreflective tradition, shows what is hitherto accepted and lived as coming to nothing’ (God and the Between 41). The prominence Desmond gives to this ‘coming to nothing’ is explicated below. His first clause is a normative one: thinking should bring about loss, in the encounter with the unreflective portions

124  Bradford William Manderfield of the philosophical tradition. Thinking, as I here argue, should make us, following Desmond’s estimation, more like ‘guessing beings’. In this interaction between living thought and its engagement with the philosophical tradition, a ‘nothing’ results, such that the philosopher in the spirit of Desmond’s approach encounters the death of many forms of thought. Indeed, thinking should also risk the death of thought, one that brings about what he terms a ‘nihilistic’ thinking, a mode of thought that directs one towards loss: ‘There are no concepts within any system that can tell us about those eyes looking on death, looking out of death, on life’ (Perplexity 42). In this sense, death evidences the extreme singularity that no concept can capture. It is the extreme of equivocity, which evidences the singularity in all creation; in the extremes, most notably in love and death, the loss of all conceptual powers is most apparent, signalling the end of thinking. The ‘idiotic’ for Desmond is another key term for appreciating the equivocal. As a term, it highlights an irreducible singularity, and thus a difference that cannot be reduced to sameness. ‘Idiotic’, for Desmond, refers to the literal Greek sense of ‘singleness’, conveying as well the duress of singularity. It is of the nature of the idiotic to be an outcast in the philosophical milieu: Our anxiety with the singular as singular stems from our inability to formulate it in a system of universal categories. We seem to be reduced to an inarticulate gesture towards its thisness. Our anxiety is that outside of a system of universal categories and their possible completeness we are always threatened by such an idiotic inarticulacy. (Perplexity 58)1 Desmond accuses philosophy of systemically neglecting the idiotic. In fact, philosophy does not merely neutrally neglect the singular, but goes further in devaluing it. The particular that philosophy cannot capture creates anxiety for the philosophical temperament. The idiotic, as an equivocal category in Desmond’s thought, purposes to think the particularized portions of experience that a philosophical analysis often avoids. Consequently, the inarticulacy of the idiotic is what remains most troubling for philosophy, for its silence makes philosophy uneasy. A theory that explains being can successfully be constructed, but the unyielding silence of particularized existence still troubles its completion. The idiotic, for Desmond, captures the constitutive difference in experience. The darkening aspect of particularity reveals the potential blankness of being. This idiotic silence might indicate a ‘nothing’ that is at the foundation of all philosophical theory. For Desmond, the experiences of love and death above all always manifest an idiotic singularity. In this regard, he calls upon Shakespeare to illustrate the nature of this singularity: A beloved ‘this’ forces on us the thought of irreducible singularity. Recall again Lear’s love for Cordelia. Lear loves Cordelia in the thisness

The logos of the guess  125 of this ‘this’; he does not love Cordelia as representative of a universal humanity. Cordelia’s love also is not for the father as father or as king but for the father as just this singular father. There is a love that is concentrated on the singular. (God and the Between 60) It is just this love, as well as its ensuing death, that Desmond’s category of the equivocal attempts to instil with philosophical authority. The effects of love and death are not unintelligible, although they escape the normal theoretical frameworks. Instead of being simply unintelligible, the effects of love are the singularities that escape theory. Love and death are the ‘experiences’ that epitomize the idiotic, which are often consigned to the philosophical hinterland. In love, one awakes to the importance of singularity. In the experience of death one knows singularity due to the pain of knowing what one can never replace. The beloved makes one intimate with the idiocy of creation, such that existence is no longer stripped of its particularity by means of an encompassing theory. Love and death forge the ‘unreasonable’ attachment to specific segments or bodies within creation that gives the idiotic its unique form of intelligibility. Again, this intelligibility usually takes the form of images, myths and poetics: the aesthetic mindfulness of the artist is an important instance. Art is a determination of mindfulness that is non-objectifying relative to the happening of the between. Of course, there is determinacy with art, for the artist produces determinate works that have a pitch of singularity that is extraordinary. Yet these singularities remain alive with an excess that cannot be determinately objectified. (Perplexity 94; emphasis in original) Desmond explicitly upholds the nature of the art work and its philosophical condition in that the art work as he understands it contains a determinacy that preserves the equivocal. This is particularly true in terms of great art, where the crystallization of form is seen to live alongside equivocity. Art is the determinacy of the singular for the sake of the singular. The specificity of an instance or showing does not serve a common denominator that neutralizes its singularity. For Desmond, great art typifies what great philosophy or theology should also practise.

Suffering and its nothing In Desmond’s thought, the equivocal is a potency from which one may shield oneself. One may remain a recluse within safe constructions, given more stable structures of thought, and thus avoid the troubling aspects of equivocal existence. The univocal attitude, however, also numbs one to the intensities of both life and death, creation as well as destruction. One secludes oneself

126  Bradford William Manderfield within safe interpretations of life that serve to buffer the onset of the equivocal particulars of existence. Love is illustrative of this equivocity, because love always catches a person unawares. Theoretical frameworks withdraw when love advances. Thus the category of love highlights equivocity, and the creative advances of love issue in death-like blows. Love and death work hand in glove, in Desmond’s image. The intimacy and power of both creation and destruction is inevitable in love. The trouble that the experience of the equivocal brings lies precisely in the way it distances us from intelligible models of interpretation. Existence reveals itself as beyond all hermeneutical procedures: An abyss opens within; we are already an abyss but now are made to mind it … We are an underground whose own groundlessness comes to mind. This is perhaps what it means to be radically a porosity of being – an openness that does not ground itself but that wakes to the mind of its own ‘being as nothing’. (God and the Between 80) For Desmond, we ourselves are an abyss, and our natures are equivocal, which is to say full of creative and destructive forces which remain inseparable. Erotic love floods these creating and destroying forces: creation, in its singularity, occurs alongside its own undoing. But one may also distance oneself from the abyssal nature, seeking refuge in conceptual schemas: ‘no torment, and the shrewd will to live without perplexity, with a domesticated equilibrium that shuns the excess of God and the excess of godlessness; a temperate middle … no big questions and no big answers, no great suffering, no great bliss’ (God and the Between 87). Panic may emerge and be safely synthesized into another theory. In pain, however, one is made to mind one’s abyss. Such a groundlessness surrounds all grounded theories for Desmond. The awakening to one’s own elemental groundlessness takes the form of suffering. Desmond’s ‘porosity’ of being captures the state of remaining open to the influences of the extreme of all appearing and disappearing in the form of love and death: ‘We are intermediate beings who remain in love with the extremes. The wretchedness that can follow the impulsion to the extreme is the twin of the greatness also promised’ (God and the Between 87). Eros and destruction, love and death, are the inseparable poles that exceed all interpretation. The porous being does not flee suffering but abides in this groundlessness, and minds that groundlessness without superimposing new theoretical coverings. The porosity does not run to new explanations but rather endures the singular loss that invites the passion of darkness. Desmond assigns a purgatorial role to the dark, destructive half of equivocity. The darkness itself admits of something that is not purely dark, such that the nothing of the equivocal can serve a purgatorial function. For Desmond, nihilism is not simply a comment on the valueless nature of

The logos of the guess  127 creation; it is a comment upon the theories that devalue creation. Desmond welcomes the zero of nihilism, which ‘strangely makes the light itself strange’ (God and the Between 33). In this sense, he does not assign a univocal definition to nihilism, since in his philosophy the nothing of nihilism reminds one of the ephemerality of all singular creations. Or, to put it another way, nihilism yields a product that is not a mere nothing, effecting something more akin to a ‘secret’ or a guess: Indeed after this trauma, there is no speech that is not the guardian of its own secret silence – a blank of spirit buried in the idiocy of the soul. And yet, it is often so that out of such secret hidings come the deliverances of the divine. (God and the Between 78) The awareness of the nothing in all theories and in all thinking results in something other than the pure nothingness which one might expect from a classical understanding of nihilism.2 Facing the undoing of being arrests the rational mind. This nihilism, which is inextricable from all being, also empties being, and the ‘zero’ of nihilism would seem to suffocate all being. But in recommending this death into nihilism, Desmond supplies another possibility: ‘Despair may destroy; despair may also bring one to a bottom, to a crisis, hence to a turning point … Coming to nothing may be the reopening in us of the porosity of being’ (God and the Between 78). Here he goes so far as to recommend the despair of nihilism, since this is an aspect of being that must be intensified and not denied. Indeed, the denial of nihilism distorts the equivocity of existence, as Desmond understands it, since the reach of nihilism shows itself in all aspects of being. Of course, he points out that the realization of the ‘nothing’ that is intrinsic to our condition can be delayed; one may remain in flight from the despairing effects of nihilism in a series of panics, immured in a univocal state of being. But this avoidance of equivocity is not possible interminably. Thus, his philosophy is an encouragement to reach further into the abyss of existence which yields no univocal solutions. Death is the necessary directive, revealing the necessary aspect of darkness that clings to all existence. The embrace of this darkness also reveals its own ambiguous character, since the loss this entails is also connected to potential openings: ‘I am dead, and I must die so the flow of life can move again. The experience of dying is a shock that may let that flow flow again’ (Ethics 205). This death is equivocal, such that the necessary step into the darkness is always filled with uncertainty. But the crisis of being that Desmond’s philosophy demands brings one into a state of openness or porosity. Only in that place of uncertainty, which theoretical explanations exclude, is porosity possible: ‘death is the great energizer, the spur to creation in us, even if also the destroyer, the reaper not always grim in driving us to seize the day’ (Ethics 107). The ‘reopening’ of porosity is kindred to the return to zero:

128  Bradford William Manderfield Nihilism is this process of coming to nothing. Being brought to nothing, we are returned to the primal ethos … The desert of nihilism is the doubling, redoubling of equivocity … It (the desert of nihilism) can be the occasion of new mindfulness of the promise of the ethos, and the resolve to construct better. (Ethics 47) The primal ethos to which nihilism, in Desmond’s thought, leads one is ‘primal’ in the double signification of the term: primary and originative. For him, nihilism is a process one undergoes, a stripping of solid formations of thought and being that returns one to a ‘zero’ point. That zero is full of pain as well as foundational desires, a negating which initiates a process of unknowing that leads not towards an inactive ignorance but towards a dynamic ground: ‘the purgatory of the equivocal brings home to us, in our not-knowing, the truth of the divine as beyond us. I do not say impossibly beyond’ (God and the Between 88; emphasis in original). The suffering returns one to a place of primacy where one may encounter new forms of knowing, which are integrated with the suffering and with existence: ‘with a mindfulness that awaits what will come, come what may; that does not force its own categories on what is there at play’ (God and the Between 88). Desmond imparts a quasi-religious appellative to this nothing, terming it a ‘desert’ reminiscent of the apophatic tradition of the desert fathers: the desert in part because of its intensity of light is a frequent metaphor in his writings to describe an equivocal state of being: ‘One wanders a desert that bleaches with burning light’ (God and the Between 31). Instead of the sun’s representing a univocal entity, as it is often portrayed in Platonic literature, light for Desmond is deeply equivocal: ‘And even when the highest, the Sun, is glimpsed, nothing is univocal; for excess of light produces blindness’ (God and the Between 85). The person becomes a living tabula rasa in this equivocal mode of being in which the sun burns and bleaches one. This blanking of the self, however, also creates a porosity, such that the painful emptiness it implies creates a slate upon which something new may be written. A new mindfulness for existence arrives, ‘that does not force its own categories on what is there at play’ (God and the Between 88).

Guessing The erasure of preconceived ideas, such as the ‘nothing’ of the equivocal, may prepare us for what Eliot terms the guess. As I have suggested, guessing need not be understood as a random act, but may in a more positive sense possess its own logos, a logos suited to the subject of the Incarnation – the theological claim denoting the entrance into humanity of the Logos itself. Again, the link between inspiration, as Viladesau understands it, and guessing is noteworthy, since his argument joins the Incarnation with theological knowing in general, referring to Thomas’s now famous phrase: ‘Omnia

The logos of the guess  129 cognoscentia cognoscunt implicite Deum in quolibet cognito’ (‘all knowing beings know God implicitly in every content of knowledge’). Transcendental theologians went on to use this formulation in part to sacralize all thinking, or as Viladesau puts it: ‘God is implied in all knowledge as its horizon and final cause’ (95), and he goes on to extend this same reasoning to the nature of love: ‘Similarly, God is the hidden beloved in every love’ (95). He then extends this reasoning, logically speaking, to the relationship between poetic inspiration and religious inspiration, or what we term revelation. For Viladesau, there is a difference of degree between these modes of inspiration, but not a difference of kind. Poetic and religious inspiration exist on a scale. For this theologian’s purposes, poetic inspiration always implies its archetype, which is religious inspiration or revelation. By employing Viladesau’s thought we are enabled to see that the theological reality of the cross is also hidden or implied in every experience of suffering. Thus, one might suggest that the suffering described by Desmond’s equivocal participates in Christ’s suffering. Paul, too, in his first letter to the Corinthians, puts the nature of Christ’s suffering on this epistemic plain, by explicating the intersection between suffering and knowledge. For the apostle, the cross challenges all conceptual pretence. Describing the message of the cross as ‘the power of God’, Paul says: For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Cor. 1:18–20) These well-known verses recommend a desperation and deep equivocity for those who possess any pride in their knowing, an epistemic humility akin to Eliot’s recommendation when he suggests guessing as the appropriate hermeneutic for the Incarnation. Guessing, as an equivocal hermeneutic, designates a loss of the intellectual power assigned to scholar and philosopher. Yet guessing might also be understood as a reawakening to a theological object as surprising as the Incarnation. Guessing may function as a humble form of knowing that prepares us to appreciate the image of God in the world. As a mode of approaching the Incarnation, guessing according to Eliot’s suggestive remark purposely lacks scientific or authoritative status. This mode of knowing even lacks the pedigree of inspiration. However, like inspiration, guessing may arrive as a last resort when one is desperate. When one has ostensibly lost all wisdom but still wishes to understand, then one begins guessing, as one may equally ‘begin’ to be inspired. In this sense, guessing like inspiration has a connection with spirit and pneumatology in general. For, as Paul suggests, the spirit is another way of knowing. Such knowing is

130  Bradford William Manderfield surely equivocal by certain philosophical or scholarly standards, but it is not for that reason, according to Paul, either less real or less relevant. After the apostle recommends a mental cross or askesis for all knowledge, he introduces his most extensive pneumatological thought in the second chapter of the epistle, as an alternative form of knowing or being wise: When I came to reveal to you the mystery of God’s plan I did not count on eloquence or on a show of learning. I was determined not to know anything among you but Jesus, the Messiah, and a crucified Messiah. I myself came weak, fearful and trembling; my words and preaching were not brilliant or clever to win listeners. It was, rather, a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might be a matter, not of human wisdom, but of God’s power. (1 Cor. 2:1–5) Paul refers to this spiritual knowledge, in what follows, as ‘God’s secret wisdom’ (1 Cor. 2:7). After impugning wisdom as antagonistic to the message of the cross, he turns in this chapter to introduce a new wisdom, or a new way of knowing. This new mode of knowing is a secret: something about its essence resists articulation, an inscrutable mode of knowing which places Paul’s logic on a plain similar to guessing. For guessing, as I have suggested, presupposes a desperation when compared to other ‘standard’ modes of knowing. And it would seem that Eliot applies guessing to the Incarnation for the very reason that such forms of knowing cannot approach this experience, either in idea or in reality. Thus, guessing functions as an equivocal mode of knowing, and, like Desmond’s notion of equivocal logic, does not qualify as a classical mode of knowledge. Nevertheless, it may still qualify as a means of approaching a reality as indeterminate as the Incarnation. In this sense, we come to see how it is that Desmond’s path of logic for the equivocal, which serves as a basis for the logos of the guess, follows a path of reasoning similar to Paul’s. When the apostle describes the intellectual losses that must precede secret wisdom or spiritual knowledge, such losses mirror Desmond’s own descriptions of an equivocal or negative form of knowing in performing a purgative role for later states of knowing. A certain wisdom or intelligence must be destroyed in order to make room for a ‘new-knowing’, which can approach the messages of the Incarnation and the Cross. Such new-knowing is ‘foolishness’ in Paul’s words, because it comes without ‘eloquence or superior wisdom’. It is attended by weakness, fear and trembling. The characteristics of such knowing correspond to the equivocal mode of guessing, which, as a mode of knowing, approximates just the ‘foolishness’ Paul recommends. But guessing also prevents one from boasting, which is a prerequisite for Paul’s new-knowing. Thus, equivocal modes of knowing, like Paul’s or Eliot’s or Desmond’s, ultimately prepare the whole person to engage in the holistic reality of the Incarnation.

The logos of the guess  131

Notes 1 This term is discussed at length in Desmonderm is discus. ‘esmonderm is discuss–54, and rm is discussed at length–102, in Perplexity. 2 Nihilism is often understood as an assertion against the value of existence itself. It is important to emphasize that nihilism does not denote a valueless state of existence. On the contrary, it is not a criticism of life as valueless but a criticism of the negative interpretations of life that have prevailed in certain religious and philosophical milieux. The term ‘nihilism’ criticizes Christianity and Platonism for their impoverished interpretations of life. These systems of thought subtly bias their adherents against the value of sensuous life. It is such impoverished interpretations that account for the nihilistic state of things.

Works cited Aristotle. Ethics. Trans. J. A. K. Thomson. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1976. Desmond, William. Ethics and the Between. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001. ——. God and the Between. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2008. ——. Perplexity and Ultimacy. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995. Eliot, T. S. Collected Poems. London: Faber and Faber, 2002.

10 Still-born words and still life worlds in the poetry of T. S. Eliot Małgorzata Grzegorzewska

The poetry of T. S. Eliot seems precariously suspended between the birth and death of the Word made flesh. The poet’s desire to formulate ‘right’ sentences, where ‘every word is at home / Taking its place to support others’ and to find words ‘exact’, but ‘without vulgarity’, expressed in the concluding part of ‘Little Gidding’ (ll. 846–852), must be confronted with his acknowledgment of the fact that the Incarnation of the poetic word remains a deferred miracle, prevented by the same kind of hostility which accompanied the birth of the Divine Word. Eliot’s ongoing meditation on the inherent vulnerability and ‘woundedness’ of human speech, rooted in his sympathetic accounts of the homeless, scorned, suffering Word, points to the acceptance of silence as the only genuine, dark epiphany of sense and understanding available in poetry – and indeed in all language. The poet’s uneasy negotiations between word-made-flesh and flesh-made-word, from ‘Gerontion’ through ‘Ash Wednesday’ up to Four Quartets, led him into the night of the cross where the Word is made silence, and prompt the reader to undertake a similar journey of interpreting poetry in the dark light of faith which ends beyond the restless night in the desert and beyond the chilling silence of death. This is the reason why I have chosen to refer to the ‘memory’ of the Incarnation, spanning birth, death and the glory of Resurrection, as the informing principle of the following account of Eliot’s struggle with words and silence.

‘The word within a word’ The speaker of Eliot’s ‘Gerontion’ introduces himself as ‘an old man in a draughty house / under a windy knob’ (ll. 32–33). His life draws to an inevitable end, and with hindsight he can see the profound insubstantiality, ‘the unbearable lightness of being’, to borrow a phrase from Milan Kundera. The way in which Gerontion formulates his predicament echoes both Job’s lamentations and Ecclesiastes’ disenchanted view of human life: ‘vacant shuttles / weave the wind’ (ll. 30–31). The Books of Job and Ecclesiastes contain the best known scriptural passages reminding us of the vanity of human existence. Job complains: ‘My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and are

The poetry of T. S. Eliot  133 spent without hope’ (Job 7:6).1 Ecclesiastes responds: ‘Vanity of vanities … all is vanity’ (Eccles. 1:2). These notes of weariness and disillusionment are not absent from the great symphony of the Psalms, either: ‘My days are like the shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass’ (Ps. 102:11), says the Psalmist; and God decrees: ‘let them be as chaff before the wind’ (Ps. 35:5). The deuterocanonical Wisdom of Solomon reminds us, moreover, that a similar complaint may also stem from outright disbelief and obstinate materialism, and serve as a wily excuse for the iniquity of the ungodly: For the ungodly said, reasoning with themselves, but not aright, our life is short and tedious, and in the death of man there is no remedie: neither was there any man knowen to return from the grave. … For the breath in our nostril is as smoke, an a little sparke in the moving of our heart. Which being extinguished, our body shall be turned into ashes, and our spirit shall vanish in soft aire: … and our life shall passe away as the trace of a cloud: and shall be dispersed as a mist that is driven away with the beames of the Sunne and overcome with the heat thereof. (Wis. 2:1–4) The significance of such biblical meditations on the frailty of human life has been lucidly explained by the contemporary French philosopher Jean-Luc Marion: We … can note that, in fact, the term we traditionally render by ‘vanity’, the Hebrew hebhel, cannot be translated by nothingness but suggests the image of steam, a condensation, a breath of air. A mist, as long as it remains immobile in the atmosphere, remains under the gaze as a reality – that it is. But this reality, without destruction or annihilation, can nevertheless disappear in a light breeze. … Man does not weigh a lot: under the breath of the spirit, he flies to pieces, dissipates, is undone. (125–126)2 Although the protagonist of Eliot’s existential drama proves too shortsighted to view reality from the perspective of scriptural wisdom and to recognize the breath of the living spirit in the gusts of cold air that run loose in his draughty house and pass through his body, he is certainly well aware of his own fragility and weightlessness: ‘I am an old man / a dull head among windy spaces’ (ll. 15–16). Old age implies here the loss of language and the subsequent alienation of the speaking subject, both from other people and from the life-giving spirit of the Divine Word. The protagonist of Eliot’s dramatic monologue complains: ‘I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch: / How should I use them for your closer contact?’ (ll. 60–61). Confusion, forgetfulness and senescence preclude contact with others and with the Divine Other, but perhaps the most acute aspect of the speaker’s condition is his loss of hearing, which can be understood on two levels:

134  Małgorzata Grzegorzewska as a severe physical impediment, but equally as a self-pitying unwillingness to respond, a stubborn reluctance to lend his ear to others, to consider their needs and make himself available to them. We may speak in this context of a breach of the ‘ethics of hearing’, as expounded by one commentator on Martin Heidegger’s ‘phenomenology of the ear’: The ear puts us is in the mode of being summoned, of being answerable and having to appear. It situates us. It brings us into the open, puts us at risk, whereas the eye allows us to stand or hang back, seeing but unseen. (in Potkay) I propose to interpret the ‘still point’ of Gerontion’s temporal universe over against the background of this ethical stance: ‘The word within a word, unable to speak a word, / swaddled with darkness’ (ll. 18–19). These lines, of course, refer to one of Lancelot Andrewes’s Nativity sermons. Interestingly, however, the poet modified the borrowed phrase, which in the original was ‘the word without a word’, pointing in the sermon to the paradox of the Word’s infancy, or speechlessness (as in the Latin word infans, meaning ‘unable to speak’). In ‘Gerontion’ this became the much more tantalizing ‘the word within a word’. The change well reflects a peculiar quality of Bishop Andrewes’s use of language, which must have attracted the attention of the modernist poet in his pursuit of the Divine Word. In an analysis of Andrewes’s distinct rhetoric, Debora Kuller Shuger draws our attention to ‘his puns, quibbles, near-rhymes, sound play, and loving attention to the precise connotations of each word in his chosen text’ (47). As she contends: The playfulness is almost Derridean; the ontology is the exact opposite. If, as Stanley Fish notes (quoting Ricoeur), ‘“structuralism is Kantianism without a transcendental subject”, then Christianity is structuralism with a transcendental subject’, both opposing, however, ‘the ideology of the referent’. The relation between word and transcendental subject is made explicit in Andrewes’s conception of biblical language. While he acknowledges that all discourse about God remains inadequate, broken human speech, yet ‘since the Holy Ghost hath made choice of these terms, they are no idle speculations that are drawn from them’. (47) Following on from this, the critic provides us with an insight vital for understanding Eliot’s alteration of Andrewes’s original phrase: Andrewes does not, in fact, think in terms of reference. The meaning or nature of the object is contained in the word, or at least essentially bound to it, for God’s ‘nominals be reals’; the word is the thing, and ‘the name is that we know a man or a thing’. The term in its etymological

The poetry of T. S. Eliot  135 depths corresponds to and discloses the true nature of its res. … Words are full or pregnant because they contain a richness of meaning that discloses the complex theological structure of reality. … The deep structure of the word is the world. (47–49; emphasis added) We may take up this clue in order to connect the beginning of Eliot’s line, ‘the word within the word’, with Andrewes’s persistent digging in the soil of discourse or, to use Shuger’s equally potent organic metaphor, his constant attempts at ‘exfoliating’ the word: ‘The first Nativity sermon exfoliates the word apprehendit as if the term held in its core the whole nature of divine love shown in the Incarnation’ (48). He goes further in anatomizing or dissecting it, as Shuger goes on to note, such that the significance of God’s word for Andrewes is not a matter of a superficial, skin-deep understanding that is made available at first glance; instead, it must be sought inside ‘like the organs of a body covered and held in by verbal integument’ (49). On the one hand, Eliot remains faithful to his source, as he too stresses the muteness of the infant word: in his poem the word is also speechless, unable to say anything. At the same time, though, the transformation of ‘the word without a word’ to ‘the word within a word’ forces us to shift the perspective from external (‘without’ not only meaning ‘devoid of’ or ‘lacking in’, but also being suggestive of outside) to internal (‘within’ meaning ‘inside’ or ‘contained by’). The poet’s phrase can thus suggest the infant Jesus, for although the use of lower case in ‘the word’ seems to deny the possibility of identifying it with Logos, the Word of God, the use of articles implies that we are dealing here with an image of the (personified) word from whom one desires to hear a word, for instance in response to one’s prayers. At the same time, Eliot’s poem reveals an important lesson taken from Andrewes, that the meaning of words is not to be sought outside language, in the world, but inside, within the impenetrable depth of Divine Speech. In Eliot’s dramatic monologue, however, Andrewes’s belief in the dormant meaning that can be recovered from within the word changes into an image of Logos imprisoned, locked up within imperfect human speech, surrounded by the darkness of sin, while at the same time the poem points to the idea of Deus absconditus, the hidden God, who enters ‘the cloud of [our] unknowing’. Shuger’s seminal analysis also prepares us to review Eliot’s formula in the light of Jacques Derrida’s well-known concept of dissemination. Whereas Derrida envisages words (and texts) as constantly reaching towards other words, and on and on to still other ones (endlessly so, as in Derrida’s account the denial of the origin is tantamount to the absence of the end, identified with the telos of the interpretative effort), the speaker in Eliot’s ‘Gerontion’ instead seems to imply that the process of construing the text resembles that of dismantling a Russian doll: not moving further and further away from the point of departure in the pursuit of an unattainable sense, but rather discovering one word hidden within another, and then yet another one.

136  Małgorzata Grzegorzewska While Derrida’s concept is quite obviously kinetic and temporal, implying both pursuit and escape, Eliot carefully encloses his idea in a nominal phrase which allows him to avoid any suggestion of movement, time or change. Unlike Derrida, Eliot seems obviously attracted by the corporeality of the word, even when he describes the dead stillness at the heart of poetic discourse; the expression ‘word swaddled with darkness’ immediately calls to mind the figure of Mary, who ‘brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger’ (Lk. 2:7). We might thus think of a baby wrapped in the warmth of a cozy blanket (perhaps even a fetus in the darkness of a womb), but it is also possible to associate the poet’s metaphor with a dead body in ‘swaddling clothes’, as if sheathed in a winding sheet. ‘The darkness’ which envelops the word would not then be the blessed night of the Nativity, but would denote instead the hour of iniquity and the ‘power of darkness’ (Lk. 22:53, 23:44), when the Word dies on the Cross for the sins of the world and is wrapped in burial clothes. Although in the context of Eliot’s poem the association with death may seem far more obvious, we can also say that the word in ‘Gerontion’ remains mute, either because it is a speechless newborn child, or even more radically because it has not yet been born. It stands on the threshold of Incarnation, yet its birth is precluded – not, though, by the fact that old age prevents the protagonist of the poem from giving birth to the word, but by his inward inhospitality towards the word that waits to be born in him.

The tiger’s leap The mystery of the Incarnation, as Richard Viladesau implies in Chapter 6, not only pertains to the actuality of the divine Word made flesh, but also opens a prospect for mortal, suffering flesh, suggesting that it may eventually reach the glory of the divine Word. As Viladesau puts it: Hence, the enfleshment of the Word of God is tied to the history of Jesus’ life and death in faithfulness to the Father; his divinization is a function of his humanization. The Incarnation is completed only in the resurrection. For the Word to become flesh, the flesh must become Word. (90) If we look at Greek versions of the New Testament we may discover that this ‘ascending’ aspect of the Incarnation, implied in the formula of ‘flesh made Word’, is best articulated in the accounts of the Resurrection and Ascension. Speaking of the glorification of the flesh, Emmanuel Falque points to its theological implications in Christ’s ascent: It goes without saying that his [i.e. Christ’s] being ‘raised’ upward is not simply that of his material body – since Christ appears here, for the last

The poetry of T. S. Eliot  137 time, with the flesh of the Resurrected One … – nonetheless it is in some respect human corporality [sic] that he takes with him, and forever, into the depths of the Father, at his last farewell. It needs to be said frankly, this time with Romano Guardini for our guide: ‘Christianity dares to place the (human) body in the most hidden depths of God’. … Neither the Son, nor we ourselves, remain the same as we were after the taking back of the Son by the Father. … He brings his fleshly humanity, and our corporality, into the heart of divinity. (84) The descriptions of the Resurrection found in the gospels rarely use verbs which simply denote Christ’s return from the dead. Instead, the verbs used also imply a form of ascent, as in the English translations which render the Greek verbs ’ανιστήµι and ’ενεργείεν – literally, to wake up and to stand up – as ‘to rise’. This verb also hints at the transformation of the flesh, made vile by sin, into the flesh glorified in Christ’s Resurrection. Thus, Gregory of Nyssa, writing of the Incarnation, proclaimed that ‘The God who was manifested mingled himself with the nature that was doomed to death, in order that by communion with the divinity human nature may be deified together with him’ (Bettenson 163). In the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar, whose thought will be an important point of reference in the following section, this twofold movement is described as leading at first ‘from Father to Son in the Incarnation and from the Son to the Father in the Resurrection of the Crucified’ (Nichols 169). As Aidan Nichols puts it, in The Cambridge Companion to Hans Urs von Balthasar: What the Spirit lays out in doing so is the definitive revelation of the Father in the former, the endless glory of the Son in the latter, and in both the perfection of their mutual love. The share of the disciples in this movement and disclosure is what the Greeks call ‘divinization’ and the Latins ‘incorporation in Christ’. (165) Yet before the project of the ‘Word made flesh made Word’ can be fulfilled, which is indeed how one can understand the promise of redemption, the drama of Incarnation must be acted out in all its painful authenticity and materiality. The glory of Resurrection and Ascension thus remains inextricably bound up with the kenosis of God’s birth in the flesh. One of the earliest theological expositions of the concept of Word made flesh comes from Tertullian, who argued against a Gnostic heretic, Marcion, that Christ did not simply take on the appearance of a mortal man, as if he had only put on a mask of suffering and had been arrayed in the trappings of mortality (as an actor impersonates a character on a stage), but did indeed become a human being; in other words, the eternal Logos, the Word of God, did not simply ‘appear’ in bodily form, but became flesh capable of suffering

138  Małgorzata Grzegorzewska (Osborne 57). Born of a woman, He ‘came to share a body like ours, shaped by bones and criss-crossed by veins’ (cited in Falque 188). This metaphor splendidly highlights the materiality of the flesh made of ‘the dust of the ground’ (Gen. 2:7). The focus on the birth of God in this flesh, for Marcion as inconceivable and scandalous as the idea of God’s suffering and death, plays a vital role in Tertullian’s polemics. A contemporary commentator on the apologist’s works sums up his argument in the following manner, averring that Jesus had flesh which could die, be buried and rise again. Therefore he had two substances: divine and human, two states, two natures. … ‘The powers of the spirit of God proved Him to be God, his sufferings proved his human flesh. … He chose to be born rather than to pretend in any way. To die a human death He had to have human flesh; mortal flesh has to be preceded by birth.’ (Osborne 59) Gregory of Nyssa, concurring with Tertullian, stresses the fact that in recounting the life of Jesus Christ one must view his birth and death in a unique perspective; according to Gregory, Christ’s birth was a voluntary act of obedience to the Father, undertaken with the prospect of the death on the Cross: ‘If one examines this mystery, one will prefer to say, not that his death was a consequence of his birth, but that the birth was undertaken so that he could die’ (cited in Balthasar, 20–21). The list of the blessings bestowed on mortal flesh which Tertullian provides in the course of his argument against the Marcionists echoes the well-known healing miracles performed by Jesus, but in the Christian apologist’s brilliant account all of these miracles are presented as universally valid. Tertullian’s strong sense of the reality of Christ’s flesh and of what it implies for human fallen nature is rendered in the following formula: Our birth he renews from death by a heavenly regeneration; he restores our flesh from every sickness which afflicts it; he cleanses the stain from the flesh of the leper; he gives light to it when it is blind; he restores strength to it when it is paralysed; he exorcises flesh possessed by the demons; he gives life again when it is dead. (cited in Osborne 58) These assertions chime well with what must appear a truly scandalous claim by St Paul: ‘For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him’ (2 Cor. 5:21). The double nominal predicative (‘made to be sin … made the righteousness’) in this sentence pronounces a twofold metamorphosis of God and humanity, rooted

The poetry of T. S. Eliot  139 in the incomprehensible ‘commerce’ of Incarnation. The redemption of flesh can only take place in the Word made flesh; it is the work of the sacrificial Lamb who, although he himself is altogether without sin, takes away the weakness of the lepers, the blind, the paralyzed and the possessed by bearing their sicknesses and sins on his shoulders (as in the Latin formula: qui tollis peccata mundi, the one ‘who takes away the sins of the world’). It is no longer sick individuals who seek and receive Christ’s gift of healing, since what is healed is fallen human nature itself, our flesh, our weakness. The same understanding of Christ’s birth, death and Resurrection informs the Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday, included in the Liturgy of the Hours, where we read: ‘God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began’ (emphasis added). The awakening of the Son of God from the slumber and numbness of death is also the awakening of all those with whom he shares human nature. Eliot seems to follow the same path in his various poetic accounts of the Nativity, always opposed to the image of Christ’s birth cast in a falsely sentimentalized pastoral mode. In ‘Journey of the Magi’, for instance, the travelers arrive at a scene where the portents of Christ’s Passion take the limelight in place of the Nativity star. We catch a glimpse of the three crosses, heavy clouds hanging low over the earth, the white horse of the Apocalypse without a rider, and drunken soldiers who try to drown in wine the memory of the recent execution: … three trees on the low sky, And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow. Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel, Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver, And feet kicking the empty wine-skins. (ll. 24–28) The speaker then asks: … were we led all that way for Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly, We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death, But had thought they were different; this Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death. (ll. 35–43) In ‘Gerontion’ the already mentioned recollection of Bishop Andrewes’s Christmas sermon is preceded by an important biblical quotation: ‘We would see a sign!’, which in turn stresses the drama of the Word rejected by the hearers. The context for the desire expressed by the Pharisees can be found in all the synoptic gospels, although the strongest version of Christ’s disagreement with his adversaries over their craving for a sign is recorded in

140  Małgorzata Grzegorzewska Matthew’s gospel: in this account, the argument about the human fondness for portents and miracles is connected with a foreshadowing of the truly incomprehensible event, the ‘second birth’ of the Word made Flesh, which for three days will remain buried in the dark womb of the earth: Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, ‘Master, we would see a sign from thee’. But he answered and said unto them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’. (Mt. 12:38–40; emphasis added) We should place Eliot’s recollection of Bishop Lancelot Andrewes’s Christmas sermon against the background of this biblical passage, which forces us to see the death of Christ as the very climax of the mystery of Incarnation. This insight culminates in the leap of Christ, the tiger, followed by the carefully veiled reference to the Passion, whose memory dwells ‘incarnate’ in the mention of a Judas tree (cercis siliquastrum) and the implicit allusion to the Last Supper and the Eucharist. Eliot writes: Signs are taken for wonders. ‘We would see a sign!’ The word within a word, unable to speak a word, Swaddled with darkness. In the juvescence of the year came Christ the tiger. In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering judas, To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk Among whispers. (ll. 18–23) Eliot invokes this mid-winter awakening, fire on the ice, beam of light ‘in the dark time of the year’ to recall a phrase from the beginning of ‘Little Gidding’, in line 49: ‘The tiger springs in the new year. Us it devours.’ The allusion to Eastertide, suggested by the possible pun on ‘spring’ as a verb (‘to leap’) and springtime (‘depraved May’), once again points to the inseparable bond between the nativity and the death of Christ. On the other hand, the ‘leap’ suggests an insurmountable barrier separating life from death, a hiatus that opens at the hour of death, a radical discontinuity or disjunction whose drastic implications must not be belittled. The tiger’s leap could also become an incentive for Gerontion’s leap of faith, were he capable of hearing words and accepting the gift of the Word. For faith, as the apostle Paul phrases it, ‘cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’ (Rom. 10:17). Gerontion’s fear, however, prevents him from taking on two ethical aspects of hearing: ‘responsiveness (a step toward responsibility) and vulnerability (a sense of which underscores our obligation to care for others)’ (Potkay).

The poetry of T. S. Eliot  141 If we turn now to the Gospel of John, we read that even among the Jews who believed in Jesus, his word did not meet with the openness due. His consequent address to the crowd, though it can be read in the immediate context of the approaching Passion, points beyond this to a universal predicament of stifled, even miscarried words, which are rejected by their reluctant hearers: ‘ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you’ (Jn. 8:37; emphasis added). In other words, Christ’s audience lacks the virtue which was so excellently rendered by the Old English adjective hiersum, meaning ‘ready to hear, obedient’, and this is why they cannot see the glory of the Word Incarnate. Precisely the same connection between petty inhospitality towards the Divine Word and outward, even deadly hostility to Christ’s coming, seems also to emerge from the diagnosis Eliot formulates in his masterly dramatic monologue. Viewed from this perspective, ‘Gerontion’ not only provides us with a heartrending portrayal of old age, but also becomes a story of the homeless and alienated Word, turned away by the flesh – in exactly the same way as Mary and Joseph were turned away from the inhospitable inns of Bethlehem – and of treacherous human words, dispossessed and ‘swaddled’ in the darkness of the night. In brief, it is a narrative of deferred Incarnation (‘deferred’ also in the Derridean sense of différance).

‘The Word without a word’ The most important question to emerge in this context is this: how can we reconcile the disillusioned voice that comes to us directly from the desert of humanity’s ‘dry season’ – as indeed ‘Gerontion’ is commonly perceived as a prelude to The Waste Land – with its exact opposite, by which I mean the ideal union outlined in Eliot’s Clark Lectures? In the latter reflections, Eliot uses a twofold formula which perfectly accords with the ascent of the flesh and descent of the Word discussed in the previous section. He speaks of poetry that ‘elevates sense for a moment to regions ordinarily attainable only by abstract thought, or on the other hand clothes the abstract, for a moment, with all the painful delight of flesh’ (Eliot, Varieties 55). I propose to address this problem in line with the connection that an old Catholic custom establishes between the triumph of Palm Sunday and the liturgy of Ash Wednesday: namely, the practice of using ash from the burnt palms to mark the foreheads of the faithful on the first day of Lent. Indeed, in Eliot’s ‘Ash Wednesday’ we encounter an entirely different perspective on the mystery of Incarnation, which takes place despite the inhospitality of the flesh, and which foreshadows the ultimate triumph of light over darkness precisely at the hour of Christ’s death. In this way, we are assured that his obedience fulfills the prerequisite of our faith, making us capable of receiving the gift as expressed in the already quoted fragment from the epistle to the Romans: ‘and hearing [comes] by the word of God’. In the following passage the gap between the unspoken and unheard Word – that is, between

142  Małgorzata Grzegorzewska the Word which either remains unborn or is miscarried – is finally overcome, and this is due only to the forgiving and therefore salvific silence of the Word itself, both in the humility of Jesus’ infancy and at the hour of His death. In the poem, however, this silence is articulated by the voiceless sibilants in the words ‘centre’ and ‘silent’, placed at the very heart of a spinning triad of sonorant semi-vowels and liquid consonants: ‘word … whirl … world’. If the lost world is lost, if the spent word is spent If the unheard, unspoken Word is unspoken, unheard; Still is the unspoken Word, the Word unheard, The Word without a word, the Word within The world and for the world, And the light shone in darkness and Against the Word the unstilled world whirled About the centre of the silent Word. (ll. 149–157) The ‘stillness’ of the word can be read both as connected with the humble, mild silence of the sacrificial Lamb and as foreshadowing the rejection of the Word by the flesh, at least when we associate it as Eliot does with the phrase ‘still-born’. In the former case, the stillness of the Word expresses its serene and poised beauty; in the latter case, the same stillness is brought about by people’s stubborn unwillingness to hear and accept the good news of Emmanuel, God-with-us. Hans Urs von Balthasar warns his readers against a purely symbolic understanding of the moment that plays such an important part in Eliot’s poetic meditation on the death of the Word: This state of being dead is not, for the Word made man, one situation among others in the life of Jesus, as if the life thus briefly interrupted were simply to resume on Easter Day (although certain sayings of Jesus, aimed at consoling his disciples about the ‘little while’, may sound like that). Between the death of a human being, which is by definition the end from which he cannot return, and what we term ‘resurrection’ there is no common measure. In the first place, we must take with full gravity this affirmation: in the same way that a man who undergoes death and burial is mute, no longer communicating or transmitting anything, so it is with this man Jesus, who was the Speech, the Communication and the Mediation of God. He dies, and what it was about his life that made it revelation breaks off. (49–50) Indeed, the silence of the Word spans Christ’s death on the cross, the night of the grave and even the dawn of Resurrection. For even his rising from the grave takes place most unexpectedly, in complete silence, without any

The poetry of T. S. Eliot  143 eye-witnesses to provide a trustworthy testimony of his triumphant victory over death. There is no doubt that Eliot similarly understands the danger of the hasty consolation which would enable the spectators of the Paschal drama to come to terms with the scandal of the Crucifixion, when the Word, smothered by death, is left without words – and, to quote Balthasar again, becomes non-Word. Then the World becomes also non-World. The German pre-romantic poet Jean Paul in his ‘Siebenkäs’ expressed the inexpressible by making the dead say: I descend as low as being casts its shadows, I looked into the abyss, and cried: ‘Father, where are you?’ But I heard only the everlasting ungovernable storm. … And when I looked from the unmeasurable world to the eye of God, it was an empty socket, without foundation, that stared back at men. And eternity rested on the Chaos, gnawing at it, ruminating. (cited in Balthasar 51) Eliot’s respect for what should indeed be called the truly unspeakable mystery of the death of the Word seems to be the reason why, at the end of his poetic journey in the Four Quartets, he returns to the image which played such an important role in ‘Gerontion’, as if to suggest once again that the context for the arrival of the Spirit – whether embodied in the Pentecostal tongues of fire, or in the breath of the wind which ‘undoes and does’ fragile human existence – could not change: Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind That blows before and after time, Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs Time before and time after. (‘Burnt Norton’ ll. 107–110) Yet although the scenery of the human drama remains here exactly the same as in Eliot’s earlier works, there is a new element this time in the focus on redeeming Love, shedding brighter light on the vanity of human endeavors. The change of perspective is signaled most visibly in a brilliantly lucid passage of ‘Burnt Norton’, illumined with the momentary flash of blazing ultramarine and vermillion of the halcyon, the bird which in western culture symbolizes calm days and tranquil evenings: After the kingfisher’s wing Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still At the still point of the turning world. (ll. 137–139) On the other hand, the beam which reflects the invisible sparkle of divine light is not the last stage in Eliot’s ongoing meditation on the aporias of the

144  Małgorzata Grzegorzewska Word made flesh in order to become non-Word. Instead, in the last of the Quartets we come across the chilling image of ‘ash on an old man’s sleeve’, being ‘all the ash the burnt roses leave’ (ll. 55–56). Paradoxically, however, this inarticulate dust seems to fit the incomprehensible mystery of love incarnate even better than any poetic incantations of the shadow of the mystical Rose. One may connect the poet’s image with the prophecy of Isaiah, according to which the coming of Christ gives ‘beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness’ (Isa. 65.3; emphasis added). In brief, this prophecy carries the promise of flesh made Word. Eric Osborne highlights this ‘transactional’ character of the Incarnation in the following passage, which opens with a well-known assumption expressed by Irenaeus: ‘“Because of his infinite love, he became what we are, to make us what he is” … Through obedience, Jesus destroys disobedience; he had to be human among the humans, to be visible and tangible, if he were to unite humanity and God’ (60). The price of this miraculous exchange is, however, the real agony and death of the Word, as clearly pointed out by Balthasar. The broken unity between humanity and God cannot be mended in any other, cheaper way, but only at the cost of Christ’s loving sacrifice and his persevering obedience towards the Father, which leads him straight towards the gaping hiatus of sin and death: the death, and the dying away into silence, of the Logos so become the centre of what he has to say of himself that we have to understand precisely his non-speaking as his final revelation, his utmost word: and this because, in the humility of his obedient [we could add here: hiersum] self-lowering to the death of the Cross he is identical with the exalted Lord. What founds the continuity is the absolute love of God of man, manifesting itself on both sides of the hiatus (and so in the hiatus itself), and his triune Love in its own intrinsic reality as the condition of possibility for such a love for man. (Balthasar 79) In Eliot’s idiom, this theological message is expressed in the last section of ‘Burnt Norton’, where we can find clear echoes of Keatsian aestheticism: Words move, music moves Only in time, but that which is only living Can only die. Words after speech, reach Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern, Can words or music reach The stillness, as a Chinese jar still Moves perpetually in its stillness. (ll. 140–146)

The poetry of T. S. Eliot  145 Eliot’s ‘Chinese jar’ is, of course, a twin sister to Keats’s Grecian urn, the ‘still unravish’d bride of quietness’ and ‘foster child of silence and slow time’ (ll. 1–2) whose ‘silent form dost tease us out of thought / As doth eternity’ (ll. 44–45) (Bloom and Trilling). It represents, however, far more than an earthly shadow of the eternal idea: ‘the silence’ of the Word. The careful reader of the Clark Lectures may recall at this point that any descent of abstract thought into the flesh of the senses, or a converse ascent of the senses into the regions ordinarily attainable only by abstract thought, can take place only ‘for a moment’, as the achieved balance, the fusion of flesh and word, is subject to the erosive force of time: ‘that which is only living / Can only die’ (emphasis added). This announcement, however, can also point to the fact that at the very end of the pursuit of the meaning of words, when the task of ‘exfoliating’ or ‘examining’ them in depth, as envisioned by Bishop Andrewes, is completed, one reaches their innermost, silent core, the ‘still point’ at their center, which constitutes them more truly than the motions and sound of speech. The remaining ‘rest’ – as Prince Hamlet would phrase it – ‘is silence’ (5.2), but whereas Shakespeare’s protagonist seems to surrender to calm resignation in the face of death, Eliot puts trust in the silence found at the very core of the Word. This is why after the caesura marking the sentence end (‘Can only die’), which places the hiatus of death right in the middle of the line, the poem reaches the other side of speech: the silence and stillness beyond time. This is not, one might be allowed to suppose, a manifesto of despair, but the announcement of ultimate fulfillment, the completion of the word, just as the silence of the Cross finishes the mission of the Word made flesh. Then again, another meaningful caesura: ‘the silence. / Only by the form’, divides the silence which ends the sentence from the promise of life eternal, guaranteed by the ‘form, the pattern’. There seems to be more to this belief in aesthetic value than the satisfaction of a connoisseur admiring the absolute perfection of a masterpiece of ‘still life’ painting. The reader of these lines of ‘Burnt Norton’ may be led to think of form not only as aesthetic perfection, but as Gestalt, form as understood in the theology of Balthasar, in which it designates not only the harmonious order of creation, but first and foremost points to its inner splendor, bestowed on the ‘unstilled world’ by Jesus Christ who is Word Incarnate: the Word made Flesh, made non-Word (see Donnelly).

Notes 1 All biblical quotations in this essay are taken from the King James Version of the Bible. 2 It may be worth recalling in this context that the name of Abel, the Old Testament type of Christ and the first man to suffer death, derives from the Hebrew word hebhel, as if the name were given to him in prediction of his vulnerability and defencelessness.

146  Małgorzata Grzegorzewska

Works cited von Balthasar, Hans Urs. Mysterium Paschale: The Mystery of Easter. Trans. Aidan Nichols OP. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990. Bettenson, Henry Scowcroft. The Later Christian Fathers: A Selection from the Writings of the Fathers from St. Cyril of Jerusalem to St. Leo the Great. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990. Bloom, Harold and Trilling, Lionel. Eds. Romantic Poetry and Prose. New York and London: Oxford University Press, 1973. Donnelly, Veronica. Saving Beauty: Form as the Key to Balthasar’s Christology. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2007. Eliot, T. S. The Complete Poems and Plays of T. S. Eliot. London: Faber and Faber, 1969. ——. The Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry: The Clark Lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge 1926 and the Turnbull Lectures at the Johns Hopkins University, 1933. Ed. Ronald Schuchard. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1993. Falque, Emmanuel. The Metamorphosis of Finitude: An Essay on Birth and Resurrection. Trans. George Hughes. New York: Fordham University Press, 2012. Marion, Jean-Luc. God without Being. Trans. Thomas A. Carlson. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012. Nichols, Aidan. ‘Theo-logic’. The Cambridge Companion to Hans Urs von Balthasar. Ed. Edward T. Oakes and David Moss. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 158–170. Osborne, Eric. Tertullian, First Theologian of the West. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Potkay, Adam. Wordsworth’s Ethics. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012. Available at https://muse.jhu.edu/book/18819, accessed 18 March 2015. Shuger, Debora Kuller. Habits of Thought in the English Renaissance: Religion, Politics and the Dominant Culture. Berkeley, Los Angeles and Oxford: University of California Press, 1990.

Part III

Word made flesh The poem as body enclosed in language

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11 Incarnations in the ear On poetry and presence Angela Leighton

Let me start with a quotation from Gdansk’s own, not uncontroversial, Günter Grass. It’s that moment in The Tin Drum when Oskar, for a second time, visits the Church of the Sacred Heart, and once again puts his drum into the plaster-cast hands of a statue of the boy Jesus: ‘“sweet little plaster Jesus, go on and drum!”’ he laughingly incites, certain, this time, that he knows the outcome. The first time, the statue did not move and Oskar lost his child’s faith. But this time the joke’s on him. Jesus begins to beat the drum, in simple and complex rhythms and in many different styles, secular and religious. In fact, Oskar admits: ‘He was a musician through and through’ (350). In fury he snatches back his instrument. ‘“You’ve got your cross, that should do you”’ (351), he whispers, and starts to run as fast as he can, out of the Church and all it stands for. But a voice catches up with him, and there follows an ironic repeat of Peter’s questioning by Christ – a questioning which, to Oskar’s dismay, only confirms his founding Petrine role. Here is the passage in Ralph Manheim’s translation: ‘Dost thou love me, Oskar?’ [the voice asks] Without turning, I replied: ‘Not that I know of.’ Whereupon he, without raising his voice: ‘Dost thou love me, Oskar?’ This time my tone was more biting: ‘Sorry, old man, I’m afraid not.’ For the third time he came at me with that irritating voice of his: ‘Oskar, dost thou love me?’ I turned around and looked him full in the face: ‘You bastard, I hate you, you and all your hocus-pocus.’ (351) This surprising interchange, which ought to confirm the hero’s belief, only infuriates him. ‘You bastard, I hate you’, he replies, though the German original is less ferocious: ‘Ich hasse dich, Bürschchen’ (Die Blechtrommel 240) – in Breon Mitchell’s more literal translation: ‘I hate you, little fellow’ (338). In a work published the year before Grass’s novel, a similar vehemence is vented against the Christian God. In Beckett’s Endgame, Hamm and Clov kneel to pray and, getting no reply, conclude: ‘The bastard! He doesn’t exist!’ (38). God, it seems, is cursed if he does, and cursed if he

150  Angela Leighton doesn’t, exist. ‘“You bastard, I hate you, you and all your hocus-pocus”’, Oskar retorts when faced with the slightly tacky miracle of a God who not only moves and speaks, but plays the drum like a real musician. Manheim’s ‘hocus-pocus’ is an idiosyncratic rendering of the German ‘Klimbim’, meaning junk or trash, but there’s a stroke of genius about it. The phrase expresses, first of all, the element of cheap magic in the situation – it means a magic trick, a conjuring. But since the late seventeenth century, it has also carried mocking Protestant overtones of the Latin Mass: ‘hoc est corpus’. Oskar’s final expletive, ‘“you and all your hocus-pocus”’, reviles the church’s ‘trick’ of presence while paradoxically repeating and substantiating it. For indeed, the live, drumming, speaking Jesus comes back to life in the novelist’s magically real, yet ironically self-mocking, ‘hocus-pocus’ of his own. The plaster statue turns into a ‘real presence’ – a presence substantiated not only by Grass’s kitsch narrative at this point, but also by the English translator’s resonantly re-substantiating word. And so, ‘Word made flesh made word’, the subtitle of this book, like some abracadabra or hocus-pocus of its own, suggests a conundrum, a reversal, a trick, but also a working philosophical syllogism. If the Word may be(come) flesh, may flesh be(come) word? May the relation of theology and poetry be reversible, and thus circular? Both, after all, have some deep investment in presence, and in the language which, through various kinds of metaphor, conjures presence. And both, of course, rely on the power of language to carry that transference of flesh into word, in particular through the language of charm, ritual, incantation. ‘“Dost thou love me, Oskar?”’ Jesus asks three times, ritually repeating a question which, given Oskar’s responses, seems senseless. But the repetition itself becomes seductive, asserting, over and above the logic of rejection, the sway of its own assurance. Jesus is not only a musician, but a poet too, conjuring in words a love which, to all intents and purposes, is not there. Like the sound of his drumming, the words assert an indubitable reality, which triumphs over rebuff, faithlessness, denial. Thus the statue plays the drum, turning the tables on Oskar’s rational unbelief, and then insisting on being loved. I want to call this logic-defying power of ritual language, to filch a word from theology, ‘Incarnations in the ear’. In his translation of a hymn by Thomas Aquinas, Gerard Manley Hopkins once described the mystery of the hidden God in the Eucharist as believable, perhaps, only through hearing: ‘Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived; / How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed’ (211). Not great lines of poetry, to be sure, but they repeat an idea that is everywhere in Hopkins: that the work of the ear might be superior to that of sight, touch or taste – the empirical senses. That phrase, ‘trusty hearing’ – for Aquinas’s ‘auditu solo tuto creditur’ – contains, however, the tiniest catch in an otherwise exact translation: is it ‘trusty’ in the sense of ‘trustworthy’ or in the sense of having to trust what it hears? The two senses jostle in Hopkins’s word, as if to keep open both the assurance and the uncertainty of what is heard in words. ‘Trusty’, paradoxically, contains a hesitation while asking

On poetry and presence in Les Murray  151 to be trusted. Is the ear, the least provable of the senses, for that very reason the most faithful conveyor of presence? There’s a short, but interesting commentary on the ‘Word made flesh’ in Augustine’s treatise On Christian Doctrine. Invoking the analogy of human speech in order to explain the mystery of the incarnation, Augustine writes: It is as when we speak. In order that what we are thinking may reach the mind of the listener through the fleshly ears, that which we have in mind is expressed in words and is called speech. But our thought is not transformed into sounds; it remains entire in itself and assumes the form of words by means of which it may reach the ears without suffering any deterioration in itself. In the same way the Word of God was made flesh without change that He might dwell among us. (14) The theologian, here, explains the incarnation by assuming the priority of ‘thought’ over ‘speech’, the ‘mind of the listener’ over his ‘fleshly ears’. The ‘Word of God’, being not exactly a word or thought but presence itself, transmits into flesh without being deformed, just as ‘thought’ might be communicated directly to another mind, in spite of having to traverse the medium of speech and the faculty of hearing. The analogy works, as all such dualisms do, by privileging something spiritual or inner which is ex-pressed in language, yet remains intact as itself. In this scheme, speech, sound and ears are all figures for what is external to, and deteriorated from, ‘thinking’ or ‘thought’ – the latter being analogous to ‘the Word of God’ before it becomes flesh. But of course there is a cross-purpose in Augustine’s argument, too, since the Christian logos contains, in its very word, an assumption of audibility. And indeed, elsewhere, Augustine is less certain of these hierarchies. In The City of God, for instance, he reflects on a more spiritual ear, an ear within the ear, which might be unspoilt by the limitations of the flesh. Here he writes, when ‘we hear with the inner ear some part of the speech of God, we approximate to the angels’ (in Peters 72). This ‘inner’ or angelic ear might have access to God’s speech, thus breaking through the inside/outside, thought/word dualism, and thus overcome the need for translation or change – though much might depend on the measure of that verb: ‘approximate’. At the heart of the theological problem of the Incarnation, then, lies the problem, for Augustine as for others, of the workings of language. Message and medium, content and form, flesh and word, even Word and flesh, are deep-seated doubles in our language, and in our thinking, which the very structure of grammatical sense keeps in place. Augustine struggles with metaphors of translation, of turning one thing into another, while insisting that the incarnation supersedes the division. It may be that the ‘inner ear’, like Hopkins’s ‘trusty ear’, must somehow overcome not only the grammar of our thought processes but also the limitations of our senses, and thus hear beyond hearing.

152  Angela Leighton Both religious belief and poetic imagination, then, depend on communication through language. But belief and poetry are not identical, and when brought too close may quarrel. In 1989, George Steiner argued for their near-identity when he wrote, in Real Presences, that ‘the experience of aesthetic meaning’ in the arts ‘infers the necessary possibility of [God’s] “real presence”’ (3). ‘[N]ecessary possibility’ hedges its bets a little, between the essential and the possible, as Steiner tries to refute post-structuralism’s allout attack on ‘presence’. However, the problem with such a statement is that, on the one hand, it works by diluting the theological significance of ‘real presence’ in the Catholic, sacramental tradition, and on the other, it ropes all art into some ‘necessary’, numinous purpose. There is a difference between theological ‘real presence’ which makes calls on our belief, and notions of presence, neither real nor unreal, which in art encourage a suspension of belief. While Augustine argues that, like God in the Eucharist, ‘our thought is not transformed into sounds; it remains entire in itself’, in poetry, one might argue, the opposite is true. In poetry, sounds become thought, words are flesh, leaving little residue of what we might call ‘thought’ in their play of form. By its very nature, poetry challenges the Word/flesh, word/thought dichotomy, evoking presence inside, not outside, words – as if thinking, understanding, even believing, might happen only in the aural, inefficacious happening of language. It is this formal self-sufficiency which keeps poetry at a tangent to theology, related, but different. For poetry, pace Steiner, is untroubled by real presence, however defined, and unaffected by calibrations of faith and doubt. Its ‘incarnations in the ear’, you might say, leave nothing more to be desired. But it’s time to turn from generalizations to specifics, from theological paradoxes to poetic examples. In particular I want to consider in this essay the work of the great, contemporary Australian poet Les Murray. Murray was raised a ‘wee free’ Presbyterian, but converted to Catholicism in his early twenties. The move was momentous, in the sense of being both a denominational rejection of his religious heritage and an imaginative selfdiscovery. It was personally costly too. ‘My father was so disgusted’, he recalls, ‘that he never, in nearly forty years, deigned to speak of my perfidy’ (‘The Art of Poetry’). From 1982 onwards Murray prefaced each of his volumes of poetry with the Jesuit motto, ‘to the glory of God’. Yet, it is interesting that unlike, say, Herbert, Hopkins or R. S. Thomas, Murray is not readily classed as a religious poet. This may have something to do with the lyric tradition in English, which has a long history of poetry as prayer or invocation, from George Herbert’s ‘Prayer’, with its lovely, tentative conclusion, ‘Something understood’ (178), to Carol Ann Duffy’s secular ‘Prayer’, which ends with the shipping forecast: ‘the radio’s prayer – / Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre’ (52). Poetry as prayer implies an addressee, explicit or implicit, answering or not. ‘[C]ries like dead letters sent / To dearest him that lives alas! away’ (101), pleads Hopkins in one of his despairing sonnets – the prayer being no less urgent for the absence of

On poetry and presence in Les Murray  153 the hearer. ‘I pray and incur / silence’ (391), writes R. S. Thomas in a poem paradoxically called ‘The Presence’. Lyric verse which speaks towards an assumed other creates a numinous presence even in its absence: ‘The bastard! He doesn’t exist’ is only, as Beckett knows well, a negative kind of prayer. Curse, praise, invocation, address – all these are a reminder of the overlap between poem and prayer, both of which send out a cry to some assumed ‘you’ in the poem’s unspoken stratosphere. But Murray does not quite fit this category. He very rarely uses the lyric address, and very rarely addresses a divine presence. Instead, in his work the numinous or godly turns up in unexpected places, inside the philosophical, descriptive thicks of his language, in its verbal workings, its puns and pronouns. Murray’s God is not out there, attending to poems like an imaginary external audience, an answer to a plea, but is in them, like a verbal instance of the thing itself – an incarnated presence. At one point, for instance, in an essay on ‘Embodiment and Incarnation’, he offers the following summary: ‘In that unique Divine embodiment for which we reserve the term Incarnation, Jesus lives from the first in a wholeness no mortal artist can sustain; he lives on the level of poetry’ (A Working Forest 324). It’s a simple equation, but it’s one which gives to poetry precedence over the language of theology. Poetry, in that it stands for everything which challenges social and doctrinal correctness, is equivalent to the ‘Incarnation’. The ‘wholeness’ of Christ’s life of poetry is something ‘the mortal artist’ can only aspire to. In Murray’s well-known manifesto poem, ‘Poetry and Religion’, he seems to be making the same point: Religions are poems. They concert our daylight and dreaming mind, our emotions, instinct, breath and native gesture into the only whole thinking: poetry. (Collected Poems 267) Once again, the poet inverts the order, claiming not that poems are religious, patterned on the gestures of belief and prayer, but that ‘Religions are poems. They concert / our daylight and dreaming mind … into the only whole thinking’. This is a crucial difference. That poems have a special claim to ‘thinking’ means that Murray, unlike Augustine, puts them first in the ranking order. This is not thought which must be translated or conveyed into speech, but poetry which thinks, or rather is a kind of ‘thinking’ – the participle suggesting an activity which might never finish, like the interpretation of poems themselves. The unusual word, ‘concért’, meaning to justify and bring together, does not altogether erase the other, more familiar sense of ‘cóncert’, a playing together of music. So poetry brings together and perhaps also musicalizes the mind of daylight and of dream. It is this mixed mind, of daytime and night, clarity and haze, or of what he calls, in the same essay, ‘reason, dream and the dance’ (A Working Forest 321), which

154  Angela Leighton constitutes ‘the only whole thinking’. If we start by thinking that thinking is what poetry does best, and that other more familiar kinds of thinking: logic, coherence, rationality, argument, are one-sided approaches to thinking, missing the ‘whole’, then we might start with poetry, and all its concerts, in order to reconsider the very nature of thought. Murray offers an example of such thought in action in his little poem about watching fish swimming, called ‘Shoal’. It begins: Eye-and-eye eye an eye each. What blinks is I, unison of the whole shoal. Thinks: a dark idea circling by – again the eyes’ I winks. (Collected Poems 372) What carries the momentum of this poem are the sounds: ‘eye’ and ‘I’, mirroring and differing from each other, like the flickering sight of a shoal going by in perfect synchronicity, yet ‘each’ eye eyeing the others in singular concentration. The vowel ‘i’ slides along from word to word like a ground bass, interrupted only by the playful stops of the short form, in ‘blinks’, ‘thinks’, ‘winks’. How wittily this captures the rhythms and pauses, the stops and turns, of a shoal going by, watching, winking, but also looking like something – is it us or it? – that ‘Thinks’. Whether it’s an observing human ‘I’, or those instinctively synchronous fish-‘eyes’, the verb signals how the movement of thought, in poet or reader, might mysteriously coalesce into ‘a dark idea’. Something happens across the end-of-line pause, as the intransitive verb ‘Thinks’ turns into, not the object of thought, but into the thought made flesh – in this case, the word made fish: ‘a dark idea circling by’. Murray has caught a sound image for the fish themselves, which is also an image for the movement of the reader who thinks, across a pause, to the idea of a shoal of fish ‘circling by’. The verb, almost on its own without controlling pronoun, figures into the thing, the shoal, while letting us know that this might all be no more than a little passing (wink wink) of fun. Poetry’s ‘whole thinking’, perhaps unlike theology’s, doesn’t have to be taken too seriously! For Murray, however, the language of the one constantly impinges on the other. In an interview of 2009, for instance, he was asked about his conversion and explained: ‘I was wowed and fascinated by the sacramental bridge between earth and heaven that Catholicism offered, by the doctrine of the real presence’ (‘A Conversation with Les Murray’). Ignoring all the theological disputes about ‘real presence’ – its muddling historical crossovers from Protestant to Catholic Christianity – he gives a definition which connects poetic language to this ‘sacramental bridge’. Fifteen years before, he had answered in much the same vein: ‘I was fascinated by the idea of the Eucharist. It absolutely wowed me. Anybody who’s interested in imagery has to be interested in that type of fusion, metaphor taken all the way to

On poetry and presence in Les Murray  155 identity’ (in Alexander 106). The Eucharist, then, takes metaphor to its endpoint in ‘presence’ or ‘identity’ – which means not personality, but the state of being the same. Poetry, similarly, skips the explanation, skips the journey of progressive, verbalized thought, and goes for the thing in words, where words are so nearly the thing that there may be nothing outside. The mystery of presence, of a coincidence or identity of two things become one, is a poetic-theological idea which lies at the heart of Murray’s writing – not ‘word made flesh’, perhaps, but word as flesh. The extent to which this mystery underlies his writing is suggested by the title of the second – and central – section of his extraordinary volume Translations from the Natural World, which, as if to drive the word home, he calls ‘Presence: Translations from the Natural World’. Notice its juxtaposition of two potentially incompatible words: ‘Presence’ and ‘Translations’. In looking to the natural world, Murray wants to catch its presentness, its just being there, outside language, but in doing so, is inevitably caught in the business of translating, from life to language, animal to human, ‘identity’ to ‘metaphor’. However much wanting to return to ‘flesh’, poetry is always also word. At the time of writing this volume, the poet was recovering from one of his periodic bouts of depression, which he called ‘the Black Dog’. ‘I gave my stupid self a rest’, he writes, ‘and tried to enter imaginatively into the life of non-human creatures and somehow translate that life into human speech’ (Killing the Black Dog 14). To get ‘the life of non-human creatures’ into poetry might be a task of translation beyond human power. Such poetry, Murray quips, is ‘“neither Walt Disney nor Ted Hughes”’, and contains ‘“not much metaphor or sense of time, no consequences, no mercy”’ (in Alexander 244). Evidently, the brute reality of the natural world is outside metaphor, outside pity or care, beyond redemption, beauty or time. It is a condition of mere existence or, put another way, of ‘presence’ pure and simple. However, to write about it in ‘human speech’ necessarily involves the poet in complex transactions with all of those. To catch ‘presence’ in the act of translation is to engage in a near contradiction in terms, but one which, in its sense of difficulty, touches on the incarnational paradox at the heart of poetic language. What Murray means by ‘presence’ is similar, in many ways, to what his first great mentor, Hopkins, meant by ‘self’: ‘Selves – goes itself; myself it speaks and spells, / Crying What I do is me: for that I came’ (90). This sonnet, ‘As kingfishers catch fire’, might have fired Murray’s own poem about Australian firetail finches – a poem which also tries to catch the essence of self and self-presence in a glimpsed flock of birds. Hopkins’s kingfishers cry ‘Selves … myself’; Murray’s finches, in the words of the title, cry ‘MeMeMe’:       Me me me a shower of firetail (me me) finches into seed grass flickers feeding (me) in drabs and red pinches of rhyme. All present is perfect … (Collected Poems 383)

156  Angela Leighton Like much of Hopkins’s, Murray’s language thickens with action, not only the flashed instance of ‘flickers feeding (me)’, but also the mixed sound and pronoun, staged in parenthesis, of ‘(me)’. Who, in this description, is ‘(me)’, if it is not exactly ‘Me me me’? Meanwhile, ‘drabs and red pinches’ express the look of the flock, flying in stray bits and pieces, as well as the sudden flashing red of the bird as it ‘pinches’ its seed, and so becomes a pinch itself – another noun-in-action. (The firetail, by the way, has a red bill, as well as red eyes and rump.) So far, this is condensed, but essentially visual. But then there’s a surprise: ‘red pinches of rhyme’. Not only does ‘rhyme’ turn ‘pinches’ into something we might hear rather than see – and it rhymes, incidentally, with ‘time’ four lines back – but it also muddles the comparison: ‘pinches of rhyme’ looks and sounds at once, the analogy (pinches are like rhyme) forced into a new thing: ‘pinches of rhyme’, like pinches of snuff or salt. That ‘pinches’ also rhymes internally with ‘finches’ creates another crossbred sound-thing, whereby the bird becomes its own pinching action, while rhyming, doubly, with the rhyme that it is. That birds might be ‘red pinches of rhyme’ fits both their thieving and their singing. For ‘[a]ll present is perfect’, Murray explains. Certainly, he has brought language as near as it might get to the instance of a flying bird. However, he does not write ‘[a]ll present are perfect’, which would stay focused on the birds, but ‘present is perfect’, which turns our attention to the abstract idea of presence. Is this a grammatical tense, the present perfect? Or a statement about the perfection of the moment – the present being all we have? So the poet seems to catch (as kingfishers catch fire) a metaphysical idea in his bird-object, just as he lightly and inconspicuously slips ‘rhyme’ into the firetails’ ‘red pinches’ to make us see-hear how the object becomes a poem, bird and word at once. Paul Valéry once described poetry, memorably, as ‘a prolonged hesitation between sound and sense’. In French the two, paradoxically, are nearly identical in sound: ‘“le son et le sens”’ (in Agamben 109), as if that ‘hesitation’, aurally at least, were trying to puzzle out the difference. In ‘MeMeMe’, Murray seems to emphasize the hesitation between the onomatopoeic noise of bird-speak, and human grammar with its sense of self and time; between the sound of ‘(me me)’ and the human complexity of the pronoun, ‘me’. There’s a metaphorical transference in that hesitation, as ear and brain squabble over the ‘sound and sense’: over a ‘me’ which is just the heard twittering of finches, and a ‘me’, who? why me myself! adding up to time. Murray thus exploits the poem’s ability to open a gap between sound and sense, or to hear a new sense in sound, and thus raise a query at the very heart of the word. The word ‘present’ then returns in the last line of the poem. Although describing the birds’ ‘heart-rate of instants’, the poet concludes, with a hint of Keatsian autumnal transience: ‘present and still-present bringing steps that mute crickets’ simmer’. On the one hand, this is simply about the birds: each time the finches return, in the present, the noise of crickets stops or is

On poetry and presence in Les Murray  157 muted – a perfectly naturalistic fact. However, notice that ‘present and stillpresent’ are not adjectives, but nouns – grown thick, therefore, with a sense of their own presence. It’s not exactly finches any more, but this abstract time-thing coming back, which is ‘bringing steps that mute’. It’s hard not to hear in this line something ominously like ‘consequences’ – ‘steps’, after all, usually lead somewhere. Something in these ‘steps’ of time is not so merely ‘present’ that it will not be ‘bringing’ (in the hinted future of that participle) the ‘crickets’ simmer’ to an end. Does the verb ‘mute’ mean just to dampen down, as in a musical instrument, or to silence altogether, as in making dumb? In this quietest of double entendres, Murray takes us into a world where every addition of presence brings ‘steps’ to silence. ‘All present is perfect’, he writes, but poetic language, by its very nature, carries past and future on its timed, metrical road, on its own steps to silence. The idea of the animal ‘present’, then, is defeated by the very language into which it must be translated. ‘Presence: Translations from the Natural World’ expresses a self-presence of things without human consciousness which, nonetheless, can never be written without consciousness of metaphor, translation, time: ‘bringing steps that mute’. ‘Presence’ is everywhere in this collection: ‘what is presence?’ the sunflowers ask, gazing at the ‘fiercely dopey’ sun (385–386). ‘I could not have put myself better … than my presence did’ (393), says the beetle. The mollusc becomes ‘the weave of presence’ (375); the great bole concludes, ‘I blaze presence’ (377); the elephants declare that ‘presence resembles everything’ (379), while the DNA cell intones ‘presence and hungers’, ‘presence and freedom’ (385). The more Murray probes the mindset of nature, the more he repeats a word which seems, after all, hardly natural to a sunflower, a beetle or a mollusc. Instead, it stirs with all those human connotations of time, of consciousness, of being here, and even of that sacramental ‘metaphor all the way to identity’ contained in the Eucharist: real presence. It’s as if Murray takes us about as far as we can get from either human or divine worlds, but then discovers precisely the abstract word which plays its own hocus-pocus between brute existence and divine purpose, between animal noise and human speech, between ‘MeMeMe’ in instants, and a human ‘me’ in ‘steps’ of time. Hesitating between them, while containing both, is the poem. Is it this hesitation, then, which might mark the difference, the thin line, between religion and poetry, between the Eucharistic ‘real presence’ and poetry’s verbal games of presence, full of metaphor, shifts and tricks of translation? One might say that religious belief seeks to overcome hesitation, to find the ‘identity’ of Christ’s self-presence which overrides doubt, however hard to achieve; but poetry exploits hesitation, letting us hear the shifts of sound and sense, fact and language, flesh and word, which make up a poem. It’s that hesitation which calls the imagination into action, as it tries to see-hear impossible things: finches, for instance, becoming ‘red pinches of

158  Angela Leighton rhyme’. Such see-hearing might be the start of a challenge to the reader to discover and accept the ‘whole thinking’ that poetry offers. The idea of presence is centre-stage in the title of the poem ‘From Where We Live on Presence’. (It’s spoken by a beetle, just in case you’re foxed): A human is a comet streamed in language far down time; no other living is like it. Beetlehood itself was my expression. It was said in fluted burnish, in jaw-tools, spanned running, lidded shields over an erectile rotor. With no lungs to huff hah! or selah! few sixwalkers converse. Ants, admittedly, headlong flesh-mobbers, meeting, hinge back work-jaws, part their food-jaws, merge mouths in communion and taste their common being; any surplus is message and command. Mine signal, in lone deposits; my capsule fourth life went by clues. I mated once, escaped a spider, ate things cooked in wet fires of decay but for the most part, was. I could not have put myself better, with more lustre, than my presence did. I translate into segments, laminates, cachou eyes, pungent chemistry, cusps. But I remain the true word for me. (392–393) If this is a beetle speaking, who are ‘We’ in the title? It’s as if Murray has taken Kafka’s short story ‘Metamorphosis’ – another text about meta-phor and trans-substance – and inhabited the beetle’s world view. But unlike Kafka’s insect, which gives out only a horrible, inhuman squeak, Murray’s beetle is perfectly rational and marvellously acute: ‘A human is a comet streamed in language far down time’, he writes, suggesting that language is of the very timed essence of the human. The line captures the paradox of the self-present beetle, outside time, looking from a distance on humanity’s timed route of self-extinction, while speaking – how else? – in the language of human time. For all the beetle’s practical working parts, its mechanisms for merely living, this creature is a philosopher: ‘I remain the true word for me’, it declares. Murray doesn’t write, ‘I remains the true word’, which would focus on the word, as if the beetle were still something else, outside the word; instead he writes ‘I remain the true word for me’, which makes the verb agree with ‘I’, the creature rather than the word. Is there a kind of sly theology here, ‘the true word’ being the word made thing or flesh – even beetle flesh? The notion of ‘presence’ then, which is what ‘we live on’, spans both the creature’s tiny existence of ‘chemistry’ and ‘cusps’, and the theological real presence of another ‘Word made flesh’, and another communion. Indeed, in the title’s odd phrasing, with its generalized, inclusive ‘we’, there is a hint of that other Eucharistic dining, which is also what ‘we live on’.

On poetry and presence in Les Murray  159 So the beetle expresses its physical self, its mere ‘jaw-tools’, ‘laminates’ and ‘cachou eyes’, in words loaded with theologically transformative, metaphorical meanings: ‘communion’, ‘presence’, ‘translate’. ‘I translate into segments, laminates’, the creature asserts, taking theology’s technical term for the assumption of the saint into heaven, but reversing its motion back to earthliness. ‘Bless thee Bottom, bless thee; thou art translated’ Shakespeare writes, in another animal metamorphosis which translates earthwards instead of heavenwards. But ‘translation’ is also a verbal concern, of the poet who must turn animal wordlessness into human speech. ‘I could not have put myself better, / with more lustre, than my presence did’, says the beetle, putting himself into ‘presence’, as if into irreducible selfhood, unwordy and untranslatable. But of course, ‘presence’ cannot escape either its own ‘wordliness’ or the idea of the Word, the Logos, gesturing within it – gesturing in particular towards the ants’ ‘communion’, and to whatever it is ‘we … live on’. ‘Translations from the Natural World’ translate in all sorts of directions: down to creaturely ‘segments, laminates’, but also upwards, towards a Eucharistic redemption of all things, even those things eaten in a different communion: ‘things cooked in wet fires of decay’. In this animal world we find in what is merely present, a sense of ‘presence’ – that is, both an irreducible ‘thing-iness’ and a possibility of transformation at the heart of things. Murray’s use of the word thus hints at that hocus-pocus of poetic language which can be infinitely translatable as either religious or bestial. Deeply metaphorical (whatever Murray says), these poems might be an example of that ‘only whole thinking’ which, never thinking just one thing, is poetry. For poetry is a thinking at the heart of words—a ‘whole thinking’, perhaps, which does not seek to overcome doubt, but which opens up the doubts, pauses and hesitations between sound and sense, between ‘(me me)’ and ‘me’, which themselves then become the mechanisms through which the world is made (another) sense of. Listen, for a moment, to the last stanza of a poem called ‘Animal Nativity’, where the religious theme – the birth of Christ – is observed as if through the eyes of cattle, spiders, lambs and dogs. It ends with the lines: Dogs, less enslaved but as starving as the poorest humans there crouch, agog at a crux of presence remembered as a star. (389) In that one phrase, ‘agog at a crux of presence’, we get the whole story: the cross recalled in the word ‘crux’, and the incarnation recalled in ‘presence’. Once again, Murray returns to ‘presence’ as the crux, in many senses, of what poetic language is up to: both the cross and the crucial thing. Either of those might leave us, like the dogs, ‘agog’ – even if at nothing more specific than

160  Angela Leighton a ‘star’. Yet being ‘agog’ might be, for the poet, the best kind of thinking. If what we want is an explanation, a parable or paraphrase, reading these poems will defeat us. They will not yield a message or offer an allegory. But if we are prepared to let the ear, ‘the trusty ear’, believe in what causes wonder and thought (phrases, like ‘a crux of presence’), then we get that sense of incarnation in the ear, of something present to the mind, even if, like the dogs, we might not be sure what it is. It’s ‘remembered as a star’, that’s all. Religious belief might need more than this being ‘agog’, but the poetic imagination probably doesn’t. When asked on one occasion about his attitude to poetic form, Murray explained that he was always, restlessly, trying out new ‘devices’ and ‘layouts’; but then impatiently dismissed the subject: ‘I hew more closely to a concern for rhythm; it’s far more important.’ He goes on to explain the importance of sound in poetry: I love sound imagery … Sound is the extra, celestial conversation that showers in on me between the intended meanings. I love catching the sounds of life. … Sound’s a mystery, though – I think I’d keep it so, for myself. And it may be another refuge from the thought police. (‘The Art of Poetry’) He refuses to define ‘sound’ in poetry; it’s a ‘mystery’, which offers a way to evade what seems most hostile to it: ‘the thought police’. The term refers, on the one hand, to Murray’s own experiences of sexual, political or academic thought-coercion in his life – experiences which it took many years to overcome – but also, on the other hand, to ‘thought’ itself, which might try to ‘police’ the mind with its own appropriate rights and wrongs, its own Calvinist control. The ‘whole thinking’ of poetry is the opposite of ‘the thought police’, which locks poetry up in its various prison-houses. And of course, the aspect of poetry which most easily escapes our social or personal policing by thought is that unruly, anarchic thing: ‘sound’. Murray’s beautiful account of ‘sound’, as an ‘extra, celestial conversation that showers in on me between the intended meanings’, points to the element of the unpredictable and mysterious in it. It is a lucky ‘extra’, a blessing not to be counted on, but recognized when it comes. Certainly, while the poet might intend a particular meaning, the poem only comes right when that intention is crossed or interrupted, as by a shower of rain, by some unexpected, two-way ‘celestial conversation’. With whom?, one might ask. But really it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that it’s a ‘conversation’, therefore not in the poet’s total control, and that it’s ‘celestial’, in that it comes from another region or weather or world. And, of course, if the poet is lucky enough to catch this sound-shower in writing, it means that the reader will also start looking, or rather listening, for it. As we do, in the poem for which Murray is perhaps best known: ‘Bats’ Ultrasound’. The story of its composition is that, in 1985, the poet came

On poetry and presence in Les Murray  161 across two Welsh verses consisting almost entirely of vowels, and these led, in time, to his own composition. It seems to be, at some level, just a brilliantly exact description of what bats are like, in their irreducible battiness: Sleeping-bagged in a duplex wing with fleas, in rock-cleft or building radar bats are darkness in miniature, their whole face one tufty crinkled ear with weak eyes, fine teeth bared to sing. Few are vampires. None flit through the mirror. Where they flutter at evening’s a queer tonal hunting zone above highest C. Insect prey at the peak of our hearing drone re to their detailing tee: ah, eyrie-ire, aero hour, eh? O’er our ur-area (our era aye ere your raw row) we air our array, err, yaw, row wry – aura our orrery, our eerie ü our ray, our arrow. A rare ear, our aery Yahweh. (368) ‘Bats Ultrasound’ reminds us that the echolocation of bats is ‘above highest C’, in a zone almost beyond hearing: ‘at the peak of our hearing’ Murray writes, as if the ear has mountains. This extraordinary landscape, or rather soundscape, of a language none of us know, is transcribed or translated into words full of vowels. But like all Murray’s poems, this is not a matter of mere onomatopoeic noise. These words are real, and they span the heights of our world as if ‘highest C’ were a place to be charted on a map of the universe. Even in the last stanza (the hardest to read aloud), we have: ‘ah, eyrie-ire, aero hour, eh?’ as if leading from an eagle’s nest (an eyrie) into the higher ‘aero’ dynamics of time. Then there follows ‘ur-area’ – a place beyond areas – and ‘yaw’, which is a word for the deviation of an aircraft, till we reach ‘orrery’, a clockwork model of the solar system. In one sense this is all just sound, bat-sound. But in another, it is also a direction, a journey, a way of thinking in words which also becomes a way out of familiarity, out of what we know, and out of our universe. And it works through that old ‘hesitation’ between sound and sense. We have the imaginary sound of bats’ voices, speaking in translation, in slippery vowels; but there is also that carefully mapped geography of heights in the ear, leading with almost logical direction, as if by that ‘arrow’, up to the marvellous last line – it takes a small leap on the page, and a moment’s pause, to reach it: ‘A rare ear, our aery Yahweh’.

162  Angela Leighton Murray, then, has taken us up, beyond the highest eagle peaks, beyond the earth’s atmosphere and out of the solar system, till we reach: well, God, of course. Or, rather, God’s ear, ‘rare’ and ‘aery’. In all this accident of assonance, there is a direction, an ‘arrow’-line to what always lies somewhere deep within these poems, call it ‘Yahweh’, God, presence. And it’s important that in this, one of Murray’s rare namings of God, the presence we are meant to perceive is an ‘ear’. It’s as if, out there in space, the poet takes us all the way to the numinous as a listening device – a listening that makes us listen. And listening is what the poem has made us do, as we find our eerie, airy way to something – is it bat or God? A translation of bat into ‘Yahweh’, or ‘Yahweh’ into bat? Both? Either? No matter. It’s a moment of utter comprehension contained in a figure of utter attention – ‘an incarnation’, if you like, in the listener’s ‘ear’. ‘A rare ear, our aery Yahweh.’ What any poet desires, of course, is for his or her reader to have a ‘rare ear’, that hears the sound hesitating against sense. The sense of this last line is that bats are like ‘Yahweh’, in a long line of metaphors which goes from eyries to rays, auras to arrows. This is language as analogy, metaphor and translation – a carrying across of bats’ ultrasound into words which mean something. But the sound of this line is like ‘metaphor taken all the way to identity’. It’s as if we were hearing the ear of God, which is the sound of an ear listening, a sound we might think beyond the registers of thought. The solution to the poem’s puzzle of meaning ultimately lies not in explaining it – like all this! – but in hearing it again, and then again. That aural journey is a journey through sound, to where sound becomes so thick that it is, almost, the thing itself: bats’ ultrasound. In this poem, Murray takes us on a listening journey towards the place that poetry knows best – the place where sound makes us think, and think again, in a kind of ‘whole thinking’ which may be without conclusions, but is full of attention.

Works cited Agamben, Giorgio. The End of the Poem: Studies in Poetics. Trans. Daniel HellerRoazen. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996. Alexander, Peter F. Les Murray: A Life in Progress. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Augustine. On Christian Doctrine. Trans. D. W. Robertson, Jr. New York: The Library of Liberal Arts, 1958. Beckett, Samuel. Endgame. London: Faber and Faber, 1958. Duffy, Carol Ann. Meantime. London: Anvil Press, 1993. Grass, Günter. Die Blechtrommel. Neuwied and Berlin: Luchterhand, 1971 [1959]. ——. The Tin Drum. Trans. Ralph Manheim. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971 [1961]. ——. The Tin Drum. Trans. Breon Mitchell. London: Harvill Secker, 2009. Herbert, George. The English Poems of George Herbert. Ed. Helen Wilcox. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

On poetry and presence in Les Murray  163 Hopkins, Gerard Manley. Poems. Ed. W. H. Gardner and N. H. MacKenzie. London: Oxford University Press, 1970 [1969]. Kafka, Franz. Metamorphosis and Other Stories. Trans. Willa and Edwin Muir. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1961. Murray, Les. Collected Poems. Manchester: Carcanet, 1994. ——. ‘A Conversation with Les Murray’. Conducted by J. Mark Smith. Image (Winter 2009–2010). Available at http://poems.com/special_features/prose/ essay_murray.php, accessed 26 July 2013. ——. Killing the Black Dog: A Memoir of Depression. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009. ——. ‘Les Murray: The Art of Poetry’. Interview by Dennis O’Driscoll. Paris Review 173 (Spring 2005). Available at www.theparisreview.org, accessed 14 August 2013. ——. Translations from the Natural World. Paddington, NSW: Isabella Press, 1992. ——. A Working Forest: Selected Prose. Potts Point, NSW: Duffy & Snellgrove, 1997. Peters, John Durham. Speaking into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. Steiner, George. Real Presences: Is There Anything in What We Say? London: Faber and Faber, 1989. Thomas, R. S. Collected Poems 1945–1990. London: Phoenix Press, 2001 [1993].

12 T. S. Eliot on metaphysical poetry and the case of Prufrock Francesca Bugliani Knox

In a volume dedicated to poetic revelations it is inevitable that the name of T. S. Eliot should figure conspicuously, particularly in this section introduced by Angela Leighton’s ‘Incarnations in the ear’ and dedicated to poetry as ‘word made flesh’. Eliot’s poetic and critical career developed around the relationship between sense and thought, as well as the concept of ‘word made flesh’ and its converse, ‘flesh made word’. What did he mean by poetry as ‘word made flesh’? When did he first use the phrase? Was Eliot thinking in philosophical, literary or theological terms? The first part of this chapter will trace the meaning of poetry as ‘sensuous thought’ in Eliot’s early criticism and as ‘word made flesh’ and its reverse in his 1926 Clark Lectures. The second part explores the concept of what the poet later called ‘metaphysical poetry’, or the ‘word made flesh’, and how this informed the composition of ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, written between 1910 and 1915. At this early stage of his career, Eliot had not fully elaborated and made public his critical ideas, and yet by 1915 he had very successfully already put them into practice. Finally, the third and concluding part of this chapter will show how close Eliot’s concept of ‘word made flesh’ was, in his view, to the Word of revelation.

Eliot, poetry and ‘sensuous thought’ Whether or not Eliot began to reflect on the connection between philosophy and poetry while studying the poetry of Dante, Donne and Laforgue in 1910 at Harvard (Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry 1), the relationship between philosophy, poetry and criticism remained an abiding preoccupation in his work after 1916, the year in which he completed his doctoral dissertation on knowledge and experience in the philosophy of F. H. Bradley. The early criticism between 1917 and 1921 reveals that Eliot attributed a primary role, in poetical and critical activity, to perception1 as the source of ‘all knowledge’ and ‘all feeling’ (‘Perfect Critic’ 10) and to the ‘intelligent mind’ (‘Perfect Critic’ 13) as the ordering element of those perceptions. It was the task of ‘intelligence’, he wrote, to discern ‘exactly what and how much we feel’ (‘Reflections on Contemporary Poetry’ 151) and to remove

T. S. Eliot on metaphysical poetry  165 ‘accidents of personal emotion’ (‘Perfect Critic’ 15) in writing poetry and about poetry. Intellectual perception or, in his words, the ‘appreciative mind’ (‘Perfect Critic’ 15) transformed ‘impressions into cognitive objects’ (Roeffaers 23), not by imposing abstract ideas but, as Eliot explained, by ‘letting perceptions form themselves a structure’ (‘Perfect Critic’ 15) from which statements were then formulated. This was true for the poet as for the critic. ‘When taken up in the process of thought’ of the ‘appreciative mind’ the poetic experience was, for Eliot, ‘raised to the cognitive level in which the particular is assumed under the general’ (Roeffaers 23). As a poet Eliot tended from the beginning to narrow the dissociation between object and thought, image and thought, feeling and thought (‘Observations’ 70). Similarly, as a critic, he looked for a balance, in poetry, between visual imagination and thought (‘Reflections on Contemporary Poetry I’ 118). His was an attempt to get as close as possible to the ‘Immediate Experience’ where the unity of feeling and thought, of the rational and the sentient, lay. This adherence to the foundation of a Bradleian epistemology (Roeffars 51) explains Eliot’s dislike for ‘unassimilated fragments of metaphysics and sentiment’ in poetry (‘Observations’ 70) and for theoretical abstractions in criticism. In Eliot’s view, the poet’s mind acted as a catalyst between sense and thought. ‘The mind digested and transmuted the passions’, which were ‘its material’ (‘Tradition and the Individual Talent II’ 72). It operated as ‘a receptacle for seizing and storing up numberless feelings, phrases, images which remained there until all the particles could be synthesized and expressed in an artistic vision’ (‘Tradition and the Individual Talent II’ 72). It could also work conversely by starting off the process, like that of Lucretius, of seeking ‘the concrete poetic equivalent’ for the philosophical system entertained by the poet (‘Dante’ 161). Eliot’s liking was, however, for the mind of a poet like Dante, who endeavoured ‘to deal with his philosophy, not as a theory, or as his own comment or reflection, but in terms of something perceived’ (‘Dante’ 171). To illustrate the connections between thought and sense, thought and image, Eliot took several examples from English Renaissance poetry. Donne, Chapman, Marlowe, Webster and Shakespeare, he wrote in his early criticism, ‘had a quality of sensuous thought, or of thinking through the senses, or of the senses thinking, of which the exact formula remains to be defined’ (‘Imperfect Critics’ 23). He also explained that French symbolist poets like Laforgue and Corbière had the same essential quality as Donne of ‘transmuting ideas into sensations, of transforming an observation into a state of mind’ (‘Metaphysical Poets’ 284). This working of the poet’s ‘appreciative mind’ entailed a surrendering of the self to the work to be done. The ensuing process of depersonalization (Roeffars 74) brought about a ‘significant emotion which has its life in the poem and not in the history of the poet’ (‘Tradition and the Individual Talent II’ 73). In this process, whereby the particular was assumed under the general, the poet’s ‘appreciative mind’ became aware of how the past

166  Francesca Bugliani Knox related to the present, ‘the conscious present being an awareness of the past’ (‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’ 55; see also his essay of the same year, ‘Reflections on Contemporary Poetry’ 39–40). An essential quality of poetry for Eliot arose precisely from the poet’s awareness of how ‘the past was altered by the present and the present directed by the past’ (‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’ 55) and from attentiveness to tradition (‘Contemporanea’ 84).2 ‘We shall often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of his [viz. the poet’s] work’, he wrote, ‘may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously’ (‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’ 55). Eliot’s early reflections on poetry and perception, ‘sensuous thought’, the ‘appreciative mind’, the importance of ‘tradition’ and the ‘conscious present being an awareness of the past’ laid the philosophical and literary foundations for the Clark Lectures that he later delivered at Cambridge in 1926. Eliot’s Clark Lectures and ‘the word made flesh’ Eliot was not keen to have the Clark Lectures published in his lifetime. In some respects they were not wholly original since Herbert Grierson and Herbert Read had anticipated several of his points. The lectures also required pruning and revision. Yet they help us understand Eliot’s poetics better, perhaps, than any other of his critical essays, and this for three reasons. First, in them Eliot systematized his reflections on poetry, elaborating for the first time a theory suggesting that ‘true philosophical poetry’, the tradition he saw himself as representing, was the type of poetry where, in his words, the ‘word’ was ‘made flesh’ (Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry 54). Second, around this concept of what he called ‘true philosophical poetry’ Eliot formulated his idiosyncratic literary canon. Finally, the concept of true philosophical poetry as explained in the Clark Lectures remained intact throughout Eliot’s later works. This remained a recurrent theme in his writings despite the changes – and modest ones, at that – in his views on the role and function of the critic developed in reaction to contemporary tendencies in literary theory, from The Sacred Wood (1920) and ‘The Function of Criticism’ (1923) to The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933) and his last important statements in literary criticism, The Frontiers of Criticism (1956) and To Criticise the Critic and Other Essays (1965). In his Clark Lectures, Eliot argued as follows. Since he shared, he said, a prejudice like Santayana’s for the clear and distinct, he was not concerned with what he called ‘ineffable philosophy’ (Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry 251) in poetry, by which he meant a philosophy of an occult type like Blake’s or Yeats’s. Instead he was focused on ‘a philosophy which is expressed’ (Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry 251). In the latter case, Eliot maintained, thought could ‘invest itself and become poetry’ in three different ways, producing three different types of philosophical poetry (Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry 3).

T. S. Eliot on metaphysical poetry  167 The first type occurs ‘when a thought, which may be and most often is a commonplace is expressed in poetic form though in the language of thought’ (Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry 53). This is the ‘gift of magnificent sentences’ (58), an illustration of which was Shakespeare’s King Lear: ‘Men must endure / Their going hence, even as their coming hither; / Ripeness is all’ (V.ii.9–11; quoted in Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry 53). The second type happens in ‘the discursive exposition of an argument’ (53). This is the gift of ‘exposition’ (58). Instances of this type are Pope’s ‘discursive exposition of an argument’ in ‘Essay on Man’ and Dante’s passages in Purgatorio illustrating the Thomist-Aristotelian theory of the origin and development of the soul (53). Finally, the third type of philosophical poetry emerges when an ‘idea, or what is ordinarily apprehensible as an intellectual statement, is translated into a sensible form, so that the world of sense is actually enlarged’ (54). Eliot calls this the ‘gift of incarnation’ (58). This third type of philosophical poetry generates the only true philosophical poetry, poetry as ‘word made flesh’, which Eliot challengingly labels ‘metaphysical’. In 1921, in his review of Grierson’s collection of metaphysical poetry, Eliot had already renounced the definition of metaphysical poetry, in the manner of Samuel Johnson, by its faults. Eliot had found, in what commonly went by the name of ‘metaphysical poetry’ as obscurely witty and imperfectly modulated verses, ‘something permanently valuable which subsequently disappeared, but ought not to have disappeared’ (‘Metaphysical Poets’ 285). This ‘something permanently valuable’ was the fusion of sense and thought (Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry 50). What were the characteristics of Eliot’s ‘metaphysical poetry’? ‘It is a function of poetry’, he wrote, ‘to fix and make more conscious and precise emotions and feelings in which most people participate in their own experience, and to draw within the orbit of feeling and sense what had existed only in thought’ (Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry 50–51). While the general function of poetry was, in his words, in one form or another ‘an enlargement of immediate experience’ (54–55), the metaphysical, which is one form of such an enlargement, ‘elevates sense for a moment to regions ordinarily attainable only by abstract thought, or on the other hand clothes the abstract, for a moment, with the painful delight of flesh’ (55). Here, Eliot drew once again on the role of the ‘appreciative mind’ which he had examined in his earlier critical essays. This third, metaphysical, type of philosophical poetry he characterized as ‘of the first intensity, work in which the thought is so to speak fused into poetry at a very high temperature’ (Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry 50). In 1919 Eliot had already commented on the importance of the ‘intensity’ under which the fusion of thought and sense in poetry should take place (‘Tradition and the Individual Talent II’ 72): metaphysical poetry, following on this, is thought become incarnate, ‘word made flesh’. It ‘differs radically from the other two types’ of philosophical poetry (Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry 54). In Eliot’s words, it ‘evokes’, ‘expresses’, so that ‘it is hardly a

168  Francesca Bugliani Knox thought at all’ (54). An example of this is John Donne when he expresses, evokes the idea of union, fusion and identification of souls in sexual love, as for example in ‘The Good Morrow’ (54). In January 1927, one year after delivering the Clark Lectures, Eliot published in The New Criterion a piece by Jacques Maritain, in the translation of F. S. Flint, on ‘Poetry and Religion’. The similarity of Maritain’s argument with Eliot’s ideas of metaphysical poetry is intriguing: This divination of the spiritual in the sensible, which will express itself in the sensible, is indeed what we call poetry. Metaphysics also pursues the spiritual, but in a way quite different, and with quite another formal object. Metaphysics keeps on the line of knowing, of the contemplation, of truth; poetry keeps on the line of making, of the delight in beauty; an essential difference, which cannot be ignored without loss. The one seizes the spiritual in an idea and by the most abstract intellection, the other glimpses it in the flesh, and by the very point of sense which intelligence sharpens. (‘Poetry and Religion’ 15) Eliot, criticism and the ‘word made flesh’ ‘Metaphysical poetry’ understood as ‘word made flesh’ lent itself perfectly to Eliot’s suggestions about how poems should be read. Poems, he explained, are living things capable of, and intended to, give enjoyment to the reader. It is not to our intellect that poems first appeal, but rather to our emotions and aesthetic sense. They communicate immediately through images, sounds, rhythm, in short through the ‘flesh’. Nothing, at first reading, should stand between a poem and the reader, even if the philosophical sense of the poem may thus remain un-grasped or only half-revealed to the uninitiated reader. The simple perception of those emotions on the part of the reader or listener is already in itself a fruitful response to the poem.3 After all, poetry, particularly ‘metaphysical poetry’, as Eliot remarked, does not aim at explaining. It reveals through the emotions. From the beginning of his career, however, Eliot was careful to distinguish the role of the reader from that of the critic. The reader could enjoy the aesthetic components of the poem without fully grasping the philosophy underlying the poem. Not so the critic. As a critic himself, Eliot sought to combine close contact and generalization, fact and meaning, sentient and intellectual perception (‘Perfect Critic’ 15), convinced as he was that knowledge is acquired by seeing the universal in the particular and the particular in the light of the universal. ‘Criticism’, he wrote, ‘should combine sensuous as well as intellectual perception’ (‘Imperfect Critics’ 23). Hence his insistence, from his early through to his later essays, on criticism conducted ‘by men engaged in creative work’ (‘Perfect Critic’ 15, 11). A critic, just like a

T. S. Eliot on metaphysical poetry  169 creative writer, exercised a concomitant activity of sensibility and thought through perception and intellectual discernment of feelings and emotions (‘Studies in Contemporary Criticism II’). His role was precisely to capture the thought (‘the word’) incarnate in the ‘significant emotion’ of the text. A critic’s ability to do this through the chief tools of analysis and comparison (‘Function of Criticism’ 33) allowed him to interpret poems consistently and to define the literary canon (‘Perfect Critic’ 13). Criticism, in his view, aspired to the contemplation of ‘the object as it really was’, a ‘beatific vision’ devoid of all personal emotions. Its purpose was, in his words, ‘the elucidation of works of art and the correction of taste’ (‘Function of Criticism’ 24), which by 1956 Eliot had modified to the promotion of ‘the understanding and enjoyment of literature’ (Frontiers of Criticism 16). ‘We do not fully enjoy a poem unless we understand it’, he explained, ‘and on the other hand it is equally true that we do not fully understand a poem unless we enjoy it’ (17). The task specific to a critic was, therefore, ‘to explain poetry to help the audience understand it and savour its ‘meaning’. Without an explanation there was, in his view, no correct understanding, that is, no enjoyment for the right reasons (17), as well as the danger of false enjoyment by means of which our reading becomes finally little more than a projection of our own mind. Through ‘a labour which is largely a labour of the intelligence’, Eliot wrote, the critic will make the reader who has been ‘excited’ by the first reading of the poem become more aware (‘Perfect Critic’ 14–15). Through his – that is, the critic’s – commentary and explanation based on details of composition, facts and explanation of allusions, the reader would be led from emotional enjoyment to full understanding of the poem (Frontiers of Criticism 11). The explanation and presentation of facts, as distinct from opinions and theorizations, did not corrupt taste and was more plausible than interpretations that tended to trace a definitive authorial intention, neglecting the contribution of the reader to the process of understanding poetry. With the help of the critic’s commentary and explanation the reader will revert to the poem with increased awareness and enjoyment, once again bridging emotion and thought. The critic thereby leads the reader to the threshold of a poem’s possible meanings. ‘So the critic I am most grateful to’, Eliot wrote in 1956, ‘is the one who can make me look at something I have never looked at before, or looked at only with eyes clouded by prejudice, set me face to face with it and then leave me alone with it.’ ‘From that point I must rely’, he added, ‘upon my own sensibility, intelligence and capacity for wisdom’ (Frontiers of Criticism 19), suggesting that the ‘meaning’ of a poem was ‘never exhausted by any explanation, for the meaning is what the poem means to different sensitive readers’ (15). Thirty years earlier he had made a similar statement: ‘it is fairly certain that interpretation is only legitimate when it is not interpretation at all, but merely putting the reader in possession of facts which he would otherwise have missed’ (‘Function of Criticism’ 32).

170  Francesca Bugliani Knox

The case of Prufrock Eliot’s own poetry, in his view, was no exception. He expected the reader to enjoy its images, sounds and rhythm, that is, its ‘flesh’. He also expected the reader to discover in the poem, either by his or her own intelligence, or with the help of the critic, the ideas, the ‘word incarnate’, so that the poem could be enjoyed fully. In what follows I shall try to illustrate the ideas informing ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ by looking at something, as Eliot suggests, ‘which has never been looked at before, or looked at only with eyes clouded by prejudice’. I shall do so by way of focusing on the history of its composition and its literary and philosophic influences. ‘That’s one way in which my mind does seem to have worked throughout the years poetically’, Eliot wrote, ‘doing things separately and then seeing the possibility of fusing them together, altering them, and making a kind of whole of them’ (‘Art of Poetry I’ 58). This applies also to ‘Prufrock’. Eliot wrote the first fragments of what came to be known as ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ at Harvard in 1910. He completed the poem in Paris in the summer of 1911. In the same year he transcribed it as ‘Prufrock among the Women’ in his notebook, which remained unpublished until 1996, when Christopher Ricks edited it in a volume entitled Inventions of the March Hare.4 In 1912 Eliot added, in pages left blank for this purpose, a poem of 37 lines, Prufrock’s love song, called ‘Prufrock Pervirgilium’. When, in 1915, Ezra Pound managed to get the poem published in a new version entitled ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, the poem had changed. It now contained only five lines from ‘Prufrock’s Pervirgilium’. Above all, it did not keep the logical connection with the poem preceding it in the notebook: ‘Suite Clownesque III’ had ended with the Laforgian line ‘just say, are you serious?’ thus inviting a reply, possibly that of Prufrock’s ‘Let us go, then, you and I’. Eliot had connected the two poems by an arrow.5 With these changes came a new title and epigraph. The new title, ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, re-established the centrality of the theme of the love poem that had been lost with the suppression of ‘Prufrock’s Pervirgilium’. The new epigraph, a passage from the episode of Guido da Montefeltro in Dante’s Inferno Canto xxvii, replaced an epigraph taken from the episode of Arnaut Daniel in Dante’s Purgatorio and introduced the idea, previously suggested by the connection with ‘Suite Clownesque III’, that the monologue was a response to the exhortation of an interlocutor. Just as Dante the pilgrim had elicited a confession from Guido da Montefeltro, so too Prufrock’s imaginary interlocutor elicits a confession, the poem itself, from him. The comparison of the two versions brings out the main points of Prufrock’s monologue. It is the literary influences, however, which clarify the relationship between Eliot and Prufrock. Jules Laforgue’s poems and prose works were of the greatest importance to Eliot. He confessed that he owed more to Laforgue ‘than to any one poet in any language’ (To Criticise

T. S. Eliot on metaphysical poetry  171 the Critic 22). The feeling of inertia, vanity and desperation, the lack of trust in women and the fear of death were the reasons that brought Laforgue to create his clowns and his Pierrot. Eliot’s Prufrock, echoing Laforgue’s Les Complaintes, Moralités Légendaires and Derniers Vers, points to exactly the same reasons for his lack of conviction. Prufrock, Laforgue and the ‘voices’ in Laforgue’s poetry share a ‘worldly prudence’.6 They renounce, that is, love and heroism. They escape the overwhelming question, Laforgue’s big question about the universe. They isolate themselves. They escape into the world of art in order to interrupt the boredom of life. Laforgue provided Eliot with the character of Prufrock. Ezra Pound, by contrast, supplied the literary ideas, those of Provençal poetry, thirteenthcentury Tuscan love poetry and Michelangelo’s sonnets, against which Eliot measured Prufrock’s poetic aspirations. In this way the ‘conscious present’, embodied in Prufrock, becomes inseparable from what in ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’ Eliot called an ‘awareness’ of the past. In 1910 Pound had published The Spirit of Romance, where he cited Michelangelo in the translation of J. A. Symonds (173, 249), defining Arnaut Daniel as il miglior fabbro (13) and quoting the expression ‘dared to desire her’ from one of Arnaut Daniel’s poems, in Pound’s translation, in which the speaker was happy to dare because ‘she’, the woman, was ‘the summit of worth’ (25). In the monologue Eliot, too, hints at the Provençal love poet Arnaut Daniel. His words ‘do I dare?’ replicate Arnaut Daniel’s ‘auzier’ (‘to dare’). The image of ‘descending the stairs’ recalls, by way of contrast, Arnaut Daniel’s ‘al som de l’escalina’(‘at the top of the stairs’) in Dante’s Purgatorio Canto xxvi. Eliot also alludes to the ‘sweet new style’ of poetry. The expression ‘should I presume?’ evokes Guido Guinizzelli’s ‘Che presomisti?’ in his poem ‘Al cor gentil rempaira sempre amore’, where the speaker equates the love of woman with the love of God. Michelangelo is also famously mentioned by the women who, in Prufrock’s imaginary scene, ‘come and go / Talking of Michelangelo’. In Pound’s opinion Michelangelo was the artist, the religious idealist and lover, who, as J. A. Symonds had explained in the introduction to his 1878 translation of Michelangelo’s sonnets, ‘worshipped beauty in the Platonic spirit, passing beyond its personal and specific manifestations to the universal and impersonal’ (Sonnets of Michelangelo 13). Michelangelo, whom Pound regarded as a follower of Dante (Spirit of Romance 249), allowed himself to be transformed, like Dante, by the divinized woman, the ‘madonna’.7 Unlike Arnaut Daniel, Guinizzelli and Michelangelo, however, Prufrock is unable to idealize women. He is the victim of cerebralism – in Pound’s words, the ‘hair-thinning’ that has the potential to destroy artistic form. Eliot’s line, ‘They will say: “how his hair is growing thin”’ (l. 41), brings to mind the metaphor that Pound was to use later in the postscript to his translation of The Natural Philosophy of Love by Remy de Gourmont (Gourmont 211). In contrast to the poets of lyrical and romantic traditions, Prufrock cannot see why he should sing enthusiastically about love. This has led many

172  Francesca Bugliani Knox critics to claim that Prufrock’s point of view was also Eliot’s. Undeniably, Prufrock’s philosophy of life closely resembles that of Laforgue, as described in Arthur Symons’s The Symbolist Movement in Literature, a work that introduced Eliot to Laforgue. But does this allow us to say that Eliot identified with Prufrock and, through Prufrock, with Laforgue? Let us first consider the apparently disconnected style of Eliot’s poem. Prufrock, assuming just like Guido da Montefeltro that there is no way out of a hellish existence, tells his story, inviting his interlocutor to come and see what it is like for him to be ‘among the women’. He introduces his interlocutor into an imaginary scene in which women ignore him and ‘come and go / Talking of Michelangelo’, the ideal love poet. Immediately afterwards, and in contrast to the reference to Michelangelo, Prufrock reminds his interlocutor, through a series of images, of the indecisions, the sloth and the boredom of life which accompany his visits to this group of women. These visits discourage him from writing a love poem in the tradition of Arnaut Daniel, Guido Guinizzelli or indeed Michelangelo. Prufrock is unable to connect feeling and thought: he can manage only five lines, which are a summary of what he has seen and felt that evening, the poverty, the lack of communication, his choice of isolation and silence. After that Prufrock resumes his conversation with his interlocutor, admitting that he prefers the twilight of life and rejects Lazarus’s otherworldly knowledge of some higher existence. At this point Prufrock disingenuously reveals what is behind his sense of inadequacy. He is not, he says, Hamlet, nor is he John the Baptist, men who fought, respectively, against corruption and the sexual attraction that leads men astray, preferring to die for the truth; he is purely an example of worldly and world-weary8 prudence. He asks no metaphysical questions. Remaining a spectator, he will wear the same clothes as the clown in ‘Suite Clownesque III’. He will continue to wear a mask, to live in disguise. Prufrock concludes his monologue by declaring that until [human] female voices bring us back to an all-destroying existence, we may at best say that we have kept the flux and boredom of life in ‘suspense’ by dallying with the female images we carry in our unconscious. These are images, however, of women crowned with weeds. The romantic muses of the past have disappeared. Prufrock saw them leave. He heard them sing, but not in his direction. They were singing among themselves, like the women he had just described ‘coming and going talking of Michelangelo’ – and ignoring him. Does Eliot then identify with this world-weary, clownesque, anti-hero Prufrock and hence, indirectly, with Laforgue’s view of life? There are reasons to believe otherwise if we consider the meta-poetic element underscoring Prufrock’s monologue and Eliot’s own ideas of poetic impersonality and tradition. Eliot had ‘felt’ – already at Harvard, as he later put it – strong similarities between the thirteenth-century love poets, seventeenth-century poets and Laforgue (Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry 160): ‘I felt the resemblance’, he wrote, ‘between the affects of Donne, Guido and Laforgue before I formed any theory’ (291). He had studied and chosen as guides

T. S. Eliot on metaphysical poetry  173 Dante Alighieri and John Donne. There can be no doubt that the major references and allusions in the poem are to Dante and thirteenth-century Italian poets, to Donne and to Laforgue. Eliot elaborated only later, in 1926, his theory of the three different periods of metaphysical poetry: a first period characterized by the poetry of Dante and thirteenth-century love poets, a second by the poetry of John Donne and a third by that of the French symbolists, particularly Jules Laforgue (Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry 290). These poets, however, figure already in ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ and they do so in a way that indicates that Eliot had already elaborated a sense of the historical development of the type of poetry he later called metaphysical. In both the 1912 and 1915 versions Dante was, as already mentioned, the inspirer of the epigraphs. The epigraph of the 1912 version, taken from Purgatorio xxvi (‘“Sovegna vos al temps de ma dolor” – Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina’), sets the theme, that of a love song, and the perspective, that of Prufrock and Arnaut Daniel, in ironic contrast. Dante also inspired the epigraph from Inferno xxvii in the 1915 version, in which Eliot suggested the similarity between Guido’s and Prufrock’s states of mind and the confessions elicited from them. If the allusions to the thirteenth-century love poets Arnaut Daniel and Guido Guinizzelli, who along with Dante represented, in Eliot’s view, the first period of ‘metaphysical’ poetry, might be less obvious to the uninitiated reader, the ‘psychologism’ of John Donne, representative of the second period, is evident from the beginning. The expression ‘let us go’, with which Prufrock addresses his interlocutor or alter-ego, comes from John Donne’s first satire, which Eliot had read at Harvard. Finally, the allusion to Jules Laforgue’s poetry, which exemplified what Eliot called the third period of ‘metaphysical’ poetry, is pervasive, as might be expected given how deeply Symons’s book on symbolism influenced Eliot. In the chapter dedicated to Laforgue, Symons had commented: It is an art of the nerves, this art of Laforgue, and it is what all art would tend towards if we followed our nerves on all their journeys. There is in it all the restlessness of modern life, the haste to escape from whatever weighs too heavily on the liberty of the moment, that capricious liberty which demands only room enough to hurry itself weary. It is distressingly conscious of the unhappiness of mortality, but it plays, somewhat uneasily, at a disdainful indifference. And it is out of these elements of caprice, fear, contempt, linked together by an embracing laughter, that it makes its existence. (Symbolist Movement in Literature 111) The similarity with the character of Prufrock is obvious. Pertinent, too, is another comment by Symons, glossing a line from Laforgue: ‘Votre idéal y est bien vite magnifiquement submergé’ (Laforgue 160). The ideal for Laforgue, Symons explained, was submerged ‘in life itself, which should form its own

174  Francesca Bugliani Knox art, an art deliberately ephemeral, with the attaching pathos of passing things’ (Symbolist Movement in Literature 112). Prufrock’s final disenchantment and drowning at the sound of ‘human voices’ comes to mind. Finally, in Symons’s view Laforgue ‘is the eternally grown up’, ‘mature’, he writes, ‘to the point of self-negation … He thinks intensely about life, seeing what is automatic, pathetically ludicrous in it, almost as one might who has no part in the comedy’ (Symbolist Movement in Literature 114). To this can be compared Prufrock’s laments about growing old. In short, just like Laforgue, Prufrock suffers the consequences of that dissociation of thought and feeling which, as Eliot argued in his Clark Lectures, had taken place since Donne’s times. The history of the poem, the literary references and the philosophical and historical allusions, suggest that we read Prufrock in a different way from that explored by most literary scholars. First, Eliot does not identify with Prufrock. The epigraph that Eliot chose for the 1915 version corroborates this. By quoting from the episode of Guido da Montefeltro, a sinner punished among the deceivers in Dante’s Inferno, Eliot emphasizes from the outset the themes of fraud, deception and unrepentance, inviting his readers to contemplate Prufrock’s monologue with the same detachment that Dante expected of his readers when they read Guido da Montefeltro’s monologue. Prufrock is someone who, like Guido, betrays truth and rejects the questioning from which the virtue of prudence arises, consecrating himself (‘frock’) instead to ‘worldly prudence’ and disguise.9 Second, and more importantly, by the time that he completed ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, Eliot had distanced himself from the ‘mental stress and tension of some of the more tortured Laforgue’ (Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry 295) and regarded his own poetry as a variant and development of French nineteenth-century metaphysical poetry. Once again, an epigraph substantiates this suggestion. The quotations from the Statius episode in Dante’s Purgatorio xxi (‘tu sei ombra ed ombra vedi’ and ‘puoi, la quantitate comprender del amor che a te mi scalda, quando dismento nostra vanitate’) appeared on the title page both of the notebook and of the published collection Prufrock and Other Observations of 1917. The epigraph signals Eliot’s detachment from Laforgue’s view of life and poetics. Laforgue was for Eliot what Virgil had been for Statius and what Guinizzelli had been for Dante: a huge poetic influence, almost a revelation in Eliot’s own canon of ‘metaphysical’ poetry. By the time of the composition of ‘The Love Song’ and certainly by 1915 he indicated, through literary allusions and the use of irony, that he had moved on. To Pound, Prufrock was an example of failure, ‘the quintessence of futility’. To us ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ signals Eliot’s sensitivity towards higher truth.

Eliot, the ‘word made flesh’ and mysticism How did Eliot’s poetry evolve after Laforgue’s inspiration had worn off? Did Eliot, by referring quite early on to the creative act and the interpretative

T. S. Eliot on metaphysical poetry  175 process by way of theological similes (‘word made flesh’, ‘beatific vision’), equate the poetic and hermeneutic process with the mystery of the Incarnation? This seems unlikely. Eliot was careful not to push the similarities too far. He remarked that it would be ‘facile to call metaphysical poetry mystical’ and added that he ‘wished to emphasize the intellectual quality of this operation of poetry’ (Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry 55): ‘I hasten to discountenance the use of this word’, Eliot wrote, ‘for there are many kinds of qualities of mysticism’, and he preferred ‘to keep the word mysticism out of the way’ (55). In his view, ‘the capacity for feeling beyond the ordinary boundaries of experience’ was not always mysticism (120). Commenting on Henri Brémond’s Prayer and Poetry (1926), where the Abbé attempted to establish the likeness, and the difference of kind and degree, between poetry and mysticism, Eliot concurred that there was ‘a relation (not necessarily noetic, perhaps merely psychological) between mysticism and some kinds of poetry, or some of the kinds of state in which poetry is produced’ (Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism 137–138). But he preferred ‘not to define, or to test, poetry by means of speculations about its origins, as Brémond had done’. He maintained that ‘the generic character of poetry was not mystical at all’ (137–138). Nevertheless, mysticism together with philosophy, in Eliot’s view, did play a role in shaping the minds of metaphysical poets. As Eliot put it in his Clark Lectures, in the case of the great metaphysical poets there had always been ‘a mysticism and a philosophy in the background’ (Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry 119) which were, in Eliot’s words, ‘operant’ on their minds. For Dante this was the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas and the mysticism of the Victorines. For Donne it was a mixture of mediaeval philosophy and the visual imaginative method of St Ignatius, whereas for Laforgue it was the mystical philosophy of Hartmann and Schopenhauer (Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry 293). What of Eliot’s own metaphysical poetry? Eliot confessed that he could not see ‘much prospect of metaphysical poetry issuing from the liberal or radical political cosmologies of the immediate future’. He continued: A philosophy which lays under cultivation only the more social emotions and virtues, and which leaves the more private emotions to flourish or languish as weeds, could at best provoke the mental stress and tension of some more tortured Laforgue, but could not produce the harmony of the philosophical, the religious and the personal emotion which we find in Dante. (Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry 295) On what ‘philosophy and mysticism’ did Eliot’s own metaphysical poetry rely in its quest for a harmony of the philosophical, religious and personal? In the background for Eliot, from as early as 1910–1911, were the idealist philosophy of Bradley and, as I have argued elsewhere, the whole tradition of Christian mysticism as recently popularized by Evelyn Underhill.10 It was

176  Francesca Bugliani Knox these influences that defined Eliot’s own sensibility, which was unlike that of his creation Prufrock, shaped as the latter was by Laforgue. ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ exemplifies, therefore, what Eliot meant by ‘metaphysical poetry’ or ‘word made flesh’ in that it ‘elevates sense for a moment to regions ordinarily attainable only by abstract thought’ and ‘on the other hand clothes the abstract, for a moment, with all the painful delight of flesh’ (Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry 55). This idea of metaphysical poetry as ‘word made flesh’ evoked the Christian idea of the Incarnation. Eliot himself, as we have seen, spoke of metaphysical poetry as ‘the gift of incarnation’. Nevertheless there was no confusion in his mind between the ‘word made flesh’ in poetry and the ‘Word’ of Christian revelation. The creativity of the metaphysical poet and of the critic was only one aspect of the absolute creativity of the Word, absolute in its stillness, timelessness and silence. For Eliot ‘to apprehend’ that ‘point of intersection of the timeless / With time, is an occupation for the saint’ (‘The Dry Salvages’ 292–294): that is to say, for the mystic, not for the poet or the critic. Their creativity at its best, like that of Dante, can lead readers to the threshold of the mystery; but it cannot carry them over that threshold.

Notes 1 For a fine discussion of the philosophical setting of Eliot’s criticism, see Roeffaers. 2 In Eliot’s words: ‘A poet like a scientist is contributing toward the organic development of culture’ (‘Contemporanea’ 84). 3 ‘To study even the best commentary on a work of literary art is likely to be a waste of time unless we have first read and been excited by the text commented upon even without understanding it … Understanding begins in the sensibility: we must have the experience before we attempt to explore the sources of the work itself’ (Eliot, ‘Note of Introduction’ to David Jones’ In Parenthesis, viii). 4 During his holidays in East Gloucester in 1910, Eliot bought a notebook in which he wrote poems until September 1914, when he met Ezra Pound in London. The notebook, later entitled Complete Poems of T. S. Eliot, was dedicated to Jean Verdenal [1889–1915], the friend who died in the Dardanelles. It had the subtitle Inventions of the March Hare and two epigraphs taken from Dante’s Purgatorio, Canto xxi. 5 An arrow points to the epigraph and indicates a continuation from page 27 of the notebook, ‘But say, just be serious’, to page 28, ‘Let us go, then’. Eliot had ripped out two pages. See also Eliot, Inventions of the March Hare, 35, 37. 6 ‘Whether good or bad, prudence always seeks to regulate conduct with regard to a definite end, and it is of vital importance that that end should be the right one. In the case of worldly prudence the end may frequently seem to be the right one, but its criterion is the world’s standard of business, tactics, policy or what not, and it is that fact which vitiates it. It refuses to take risks or follow ideals’ (Harton, Elements of the Spiritual Life 70). 7 Michelangelo was transformed by his love for Vittoria Colonna. Pound (Spirit of Romance 249) quotes one of Michelangelo’s poems to Vittoria Colonna in Symonds’s translation: ‘A Man within a woman, nay God / Speaks through her spoken word; / I therefore who have heard / Must suffer change, and shall be mine no more … Oh Lady who through fire / And water leadest souls to joy serene / Let me no more unto myself return.’

T. S. Eliot on metaphysical poetry  177 8 See note 6. 9 Stephen Spender wrote that Prufrock was a betrayer of truth like Guido da Montefeltro: ‘He has betrayed truth in that … he thinks he will not be held responsible for it’ (T. S. Eliot 36). 10 On the importance of idealist philosophy and of Underhill’s works on mysticism for interpreting Eliot’s poem The Waste Land, see Bugliani Knox, ‘Between Fire and Fire’.

Works cited Bugliani Knox, F. ‘Between Fire and Fire: T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land’. Heythrop Journal LVI (2015): 235–248. Eliot, T. S. ‘The Art of Poetry I: T. S. Eliot’. Interview by Donald Hall. Paris Review 21 (1959): 47–70. ——. ‘Contemporanea’. Egoist 5 (June–July 1918): 84–85. ——.‘Dante’. The Sacred Wood, 159–71. ——. ‘The Dry Salvages’. Four Quartets. The Complete Poems and Plays, 1909–1950. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1971. ——. The Frontiers of Criticism: A Lecture by T.S. Eliot delivered at the University of Minnesota Williams arena on April 30, 1956. University of Minnesota, Gideon Seymour Memorial Lecture Series. Republished in On Poetry and Poets. 112–131. ——. ‘The Function of Criticism’ (1923). Selected Essays (1972). 23–34. —— ‘Imperfect Critics’. The Sacred Wood. 17–46. ——. Inventions of the March Hare: Poems 1909–1917. Ed. Christopher Ricks. London: Faber and Faber, 1996. ——. Knowledge and Experience in the Philosophy of F. H. Bradley. London: Faber and Faber, 1964. ——. ‘The Metaphysical Poets’. Selected Essays. 281–291. ——. ‘A Note of Introduction’. In David Jones, In Parenthesis, vii–viii. ——. ‘Observations’. Egoist 5 (May 1918): 69–70. ——. On Poetry and Poets. New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1957. ——. ‘The Perfect Critic’. The Sacred Wood. 1–16. ——. Prufrock and Other Observations. London: The Egoist, 1917. ——. ‘Reflections on Contemporary Poetry I’. Egoist 4 (September 1917): 118–119. ——. ‘Reflections on Contemporary Poetry’. Egoist 4 (November 1917): 151. ——. ‘Reflections on Contemporary Poetry’. Egoist 6 (July 1919): 39–40. ——. The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism. 4th edition. London: Methuen, 1945. ——. Selected Essays. London: Faber and Faber, 1972 (1932). ——. ‘Studies in Contemporary Criticism II’. Egoist 5 (Nov–Dec. 1918): 131–133. ——. To Criticise the Critic and Other Writings. London: Faber and Faber, 1965. ——. ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’. Egoist 6 (September 1919): 54–55. Republished in Selected Essays (1972). 13–22. ——. ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent II’. Egoist 6 (December 1919): 72–73. Republished in Selected Essays (1972). 13–22. ——. The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1933. ——. The Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry. Ed. and introduced Ronald Schuchard. London: Faber and Faber, 1993.

178  Francesca Bugliani Knox Gourmont, Remy de. The Natural Philosophy of Love. Trans. with a postscript Ezra Pound. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1922. Harton, Frederic Percy. The Elements of the Spiritual Life: A Study in Ascetical Theology. New York: Macmillan, 1932. Jones, David. In Parenthesis. London: Faber and Faber, 1961. Laforgue, Jules. Oeuvres complètes de Jules Laforgue. Paris: Société du Mercure de France, 1903. Maritain, Jacques. ‘Poetry and Religion’. Trans. F. S. Flint. The New Criterion (Jan. 1927): 7–22. Michelangelo Buonarroti. The Sonnets of Michael Angelo Buonarroti. Trans. John Addington Symonds. London: Smith and Elder, 1904 [1878]. Pound, Ezra. The Spirit of Romance. London: Dent, 1910. Roeffaers, Hugo. Eliot’s Early Criticism: Philosophical Explorations into The Sacred Wood. New York: Peter Lang, 1988. Spender, Stephen. T. S. Eliot. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976. Symons, Arthur. The Symbolist Movement in Literature. London: Heinemann, 1899.

13 ‘The poem’s muscle, blood and lymph’ David Constantine’s poetic bodies Monika Szuba

Offering a reflection on embodied human existence, David Constantine’s poetry creates links between spirit and flesh: the duality of existence is a recurrent motif, and some of its main preoccupations include such dichotomies as spirituality and sensuality, corporeality and metaphysics, dream and reality. The states in-between prevail, suggesting not a split existence, a fissure, but rather a fluid, permeating penetration of spheres, like the transcendent beings that inhabit so many of Constantine’s poems where one finds occasional glimpses of angels and frequent appearances of ghosts. These are figures that keep their distance, neither protecting nor haunting us; rather, they suggest other worlds, other ways of being, other realms of perception. The natural world moored concretely in physicality is central to Constantine’s vision, but it is imbued with the insubstantial presence of other beings. Plants and animals intermingle with ghosts and angels, crossing one another. This study of such ‘poetic bodies’ examines how the material and the immaterial worlds interpenetrate in Constantine’s poetry, combining the corporeal with the incorporeal. I shall argue that one can distinguish three main kinds of poetic bodies in this work: immaterial beings, including souls, ghosts, angels; sensual, embodied existence foregrounding carnality, as in the case of the Muse; and, finally, the body of poetry itself, which is frequently a blend of the first two categories. Born in Salford in 1944, David Constantine is a British poet, critic and translator, and fellow of Queen’s College, Oxford. His first collection of poems, A Brightness to Cast Shadows, was published in 1980 and since then he has published seven collections of poems, including most recently Elder (2014). He is a distinguished translator of Hölderlin, Goethe and Brecht, his translation of Friedrich Hölderlin’s Selected Poems having received the European Poetry Translation Prize in 1997. He has published two novels, Davies and A Life Writer, a biography of Sir William Hamilton, and is the author of three short story collections: Under the Dam, The Shieling and Tea at Midland and Other Stories. The short story ‘Tea at Midland’ received a BBC National Story Award in 2010, and for the whole collection he won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award in 2013. Even though such prizes have been bestowed on him for his translation and prose work, Constantine insists that

180  Monika Szuba his main area of interest is poetry. ‘I think of myself chiefly as a poet who also writes prose’, he confessed (Bury). He is also the author of an academic study, In the Footsteps of the Gods: Travellers to Greece and the Quest for the Hellenic Ideal (2011), first published as Early Greek Travellers and the Hellenic Ideal (1984), a collection of essays on the discovery of Greece in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His fascination with Greek mythology and landscape is visible throughout his poetry. Forged on the crossroads of Hellenic and Christian cultures, Constantine’s poems are replete with biblical and mythological allusions as he draws upon classical and European traditions, employing mythical and biblical motifs. Ancient Greece intertwines with the modern state, embodied by the sea and islands, with the motif of water imbuing the poems to create a windy, salty climate, which suggests liquidity. It is this fluidity, this ‘fluctuality’, that remains the predominant feature of Constantine’s poems, a feature of his work that I explore in this chapter.

I Atmospheric and sensual, Constantine’s poems are imbued with a sense of liminality, often revealing the tension between the visible and the invisible. Critics stress Constantine’s preoccupation with ‘in-betweenness’. For instance, Michael Schmidt notices that ‘[t]he poems contain extremes: classical intention subverted by Romantic temperament, the poem of praise undermined by anxiety, the political vision run aground on social reality’ (1013). Schmidt’s words seem to capture the nature of Constantine’s poetry, spanning polar opposites, both thematically and technically. Sasha Dugdale argues that the poet’s ‘particular blessing is the ability to see through the thin flesh covering of earthly miseries and disappointments to the proliferation of the miraculous and wonderful’ (89). The poet himself rejects the idea of polarities: ‘I don’t like binary opposites: feeling/intellect, body/ spirit etc. They seem to me unreal (and dangerous) and I don’t live like that’ (‘Going Abroad’). The language of his poems is precise, appealing to known things and eschewing abstractions that lack concreteness. By paying attention to particular sounds and introducing interplay between them, Constantine’s poetry is illustrative of Paul Valéry’s famous definition of the poem as ‘a prolonged hesitation between sound and sense’. Time and again the poems draw attention to the aspects of embodied existence, grounded in the commonplace. The poet has highlighted on numerous occasions that he values stories which are ‘concrete, tangible and earthly’, stressing the importance of rhythm which frequently precedes words, ‘Before you write a poem, you sometimes get a kind of rhythm which is not actually worded at all, but there’s a certain feeling to it, a music, and you want to retain as much of that in the poem itself’ (Interview by Elise Paschen). He argues that the Shakespearean ‘“airy-nothing” that pre-exists the poem cannot be given shape and a habitation in abstractions … [I]t must pass from being unknown, airy, and nothing into being something substantially knowable by

David Constantine’s poetic bodies  181 the senses’ (Poetry 13). The appeal to the everyday returns in many poems, but here one also finds a marked presence of immaterial beings. Constantine repeatedly evokes the presence of insubstantial beings that exist in a parallel reality. Spiritual but not overtly religious, Constantine’s poems often touch upon the inner sphere of life. For instance, in ‘Now This’, he alludes to Hadrian’s poem, ‘Animula, vagula, blandula’ (‘Roving amiable little soul’) to evoke an encounter with a soul which is endowed with a body of its own. According to the Historia Augusta, Hadrian composed shortly before his death the following poem: Animula, vagula, blandula Hospes comesque corporis Quae nunc abibis in loca Pallidula, rigida, nudula, Nec, ut soles, dabis iocos… (Historia Augusta) In Constantine’s translation, the references to the inside and outside create a particular dialectic. There are hints of other beings appearing at the window, which forms the boundary of the real, separating them only by a translucent surface, making these visible and almost present. There is the repetitive appeal to anima/animula, which is inside the room, to provide protection, ‘a poor wisht thing all skin and bone’ and outside there are the unnamed ‘them’, appearing at the window. As a guardian angel, the soul resides outside the speaker’s body, who asks in apprehension: Not only furred Against the frost in them But brain-full also of the whisperings of them Despairingly cold and small Would you have dared To open to me and insert your hands Under my outer skin and feel the real And warm your breasts and belly against me And clear my eyes to see into Unclog my mouth and suck from me All the persuasive wordings I had listened to Night after night, my ear hard up against The hearth and very voice of them. (Nine Fathom Deep 18) The speaker seeks reassurance in the bodily presence of the soul, who becomes both guardian and Muse. The insubstantiality of ‘them’ is contrasted with the bodily presence of the soul, her hands, ‘breasts and belly’ providing comfort.

182  Monika Szuba The appeal to ghosts is a recurrent motif in Constantine’s poetry. In ‘Something for the Ghosts’, private ghosts are called up, given shape and form, and then allowed to be free, unchained from their autobiographical moorings. They are ‘poor gibbering ghosts’, who ‘flit like snowflakes, drift like mist’ in contrast to the tangible romantic experience the poem recollects. The ghosts are also words, language writing itself as the following lines from ‘Fulmars’ (from the same collection of poems, Something for the Ghosts) suggest: By lamplight in the early mornings I study my hands: Somewhere between them and the head And a sheet of ordinary paper There is an old invention Ghost wanting blood Memory wanting precipitation Thin air a shape As keen on the heart as an icy lightning. (Collected Poems 322–323) This is a body whose function is clearly stated: the reference to hands and head highlight its creative role. As in ‘Now This’, in ‘Fulmars’ ghosts play the role of the Muse, twinned with memory, forming a shape, conjuring up a presence. The antithetical expression ‘icy lightning’ foregrounds their paradoxical nature, their ability to appear out of thin air, out of nothing. Ghosts return in the poem ‘Prayer to the Ghosts’ (from Nine Fathom Deep), called forth by an invocation in which the poet conjures a presence: ‘Be definite, come with proofs, speak clearly, ghosts’. The verb ‘be’, which opens the line and the whole poem, stresses their paradoxical existence somewhere between being and non-being. In the first stanza Constantine returns to the image used in ‘Something for the Ghosts’, namely snow: ‘Though I know all your bodyweight is / Less than a snowflake’. The ‘in-betweenness’ of ghosts is further stressed by the ephemerality of snow, the hesitation between solid and liquid state. Melting, they vanish and enter the body, become invisible, absorbed by matter, transgressing its boundaries. The poem closes with the following words: Cross through the thin skin and enter the thin blood Of memory, thicken it, be a reminder Of how to remember, assemble around Her a lifetime, ghosts. (12) Ghosts embody memories, yet the line ‘Cross through the thin skin and enter the thin blood’ heightens the physicality of the experiences. The repetition of the word ‘thin’ further enhances the impression of fleetingness as well

David Constantine’s poetic bodies  183 as fluidity and fluctuation. The poem demonstrates a flowing, permeating penetration of spheres, the evanescence of memories embodied by fugitive ghosts. Ghosts ‘who are legion’ are homeless, searching for dwelling in the liminal world of the dead. The enumeration combined with the enjambment in the line ‘touching, melting, lasting / A while’ creates the effect of transience, the verbs advancing quickly one after another like the snowflakes which disappear on the skin surface. The enjambment here, separating the verb from its object by the short pause of a line break, creates the impression of a prolonged hesitation, and a particular intensification of such enjambment occurs in each line of the final stanza, as if the speaker is trying to defer the moment of parting from a loved one. Another poem whose preoccupation is the encounter with the invisible, immaterial world is ‘How will they view us, the receiving angels’, the first poem in the collection Elder (2014). As are many of Constantine’s poems, it is populated by the dead. Here, however, individual memory has been replaced by collective history. The poem opens with the following lines: How will they view us, the receiving angels Who perhaps find it easier when the dead are shipped in smoothly Headfirst, arms across the breastbone, smiling As if all along this is where they had wanted to be How will the angels receive our kind Who will be dragged in feet first, face down, hands Far outstretched, the broken nails Black with the dirt of some local habitation? (11) The bodies belong to the dead who have gone to heaven, welcomed by the angels who receive them as if they were parcels dispatched from this world. They are dead bodies which have gone to heaven, maltreated, manhandled, ‘dragged in feet first, face down, hands / Far outstretched, the broken nails/Black’. The physical presence is stressed by the enumeration of the body parts joined by one verb. The intersections of two worlds are stressed thanks to the connection between spirit and flesh, a disembodied existence and a bodily presence. What is not stated here, but has to be guessed, are the stories behind the bodies. Who were they? Why did they die such brutal deaths? The poem, ending in a question mark, only raises doubt and uncertainty. Here, people – ‘our kind’ – are represented as fractured, truncated bodies thanks to the device of synecdoche. The enjambment ‘the broken nails / Black with the dirt’ enhances the frail matter, with the repeated use of the labial plosive ‘b’ and the hard dental ‘d’ dramatizing the violent nature of their death. Angels take pity on the brittle bodies; they ‘perhaps find it easier’ when the dead meet their end more gently. At times these insubstantial beings take the shape of solid bodies on the cusp of appearing. The poem ‘Watching for Dolphins’ evokes acute absence,

184  Monika Szuba suggesting both the hope and failure of the miracle to materialize. The congregation of passengers gaze in the hope of seeing the dolphins, willing the landscape to yield a vision, but to no avail, ‘[p]raying the sky would clang and the abused Aegean / Reverberate with cymbal, gong and drum’, to announce their appearance (Watching for Dolphins). The sounds would signal the ‘climax of our longing’. Their presence is never realized. Even the imagination of the battered Aegean is unable to coax them into appearing. Yet, the words of poetry have the power to conjure the image of the dolphins, as Angela Leighton suggests: ‘In poetry, sounds become thought, words are flesh’ (162). Thus, even though the dolphins do not appear bodily for the passengers awaiting epiphany, they are created by the sounds of words in the poem, their shapes formed with language. Their presence is real, even if only as imagined in the reader’s mind. In the poem ‘The Wasps’, in The Pelt of Wasps, insects are substantial projections of insubstantial beings. They incarnate the speaker’s sudden realization, which occurs at the sight of them in their softness and the yellow hue. The sound comes at the end of the penultimate line with the verb ‘seethe’ and the expression ‘the glass sounded’, which close the long sentence spanning two stanzas. The presence of the bodies beating on the window is thus firmly established, their soft, rhythmic beating on the glass reinforced by the sounds of words in the last stanza: ‘Insect scribble: then saw the whole soft / Pelt of wasps’ and ‘Yellow with visitants, it seethed, the glass sounded’. Their presence is conjured by the use of these sibilants, which draw attention to them. Again, as Leighton argues, ‘the sound itself … becomes a new verbal object of attention’. The wasps ground the speaker at a moment of confusion when he experiences a sensation of strangeness and terror. The room suddenly becomes unfamiliar: ‘The strange room terrified the heart in me, / I could not place myself’. The wasps’ living, seething bodies, trying actively to get inside, incarnate the forgotten bits of our ordinary life wanting to be let in. Constantine’s poetry often explores an embodied presence in landscape, the natural world behaving like the human body and plants endowed with a life of their own akin to human existence. In the poem ‘Gorse’ the bush comes to life, desperate for ‘breathing space’, pining for another form, vibrating with yearning for passion in its ‘every stub’. The transformation occurs in the process of burning, the dead branches collected by the speaker, evoking Christian undertones: For nothing burns like the limbs of gorse So thoroughly dead Twisted for breathing space Drilled and cankered Host to the hungers of other kinds of life How they burn All without fat and flesh and blood

David Constantine’s poetic bodies  185 Without dribble or mewling So much flame in every stub of gorse The poem opens with the following words: Keeps with its dead Shows off by the bare facts of its dead How hard it was Living and how it triumphed and all winter Among its own dead grizzle Little moist lips of it go on muttering light. (Collected Poems 320) The expression ‘its dead’ is repeated three times, the first two hanging at the end of the line, foregrounding the theme. The abrupt beginnings of the first two lines, devoid of the subject, suggest the stub-like nature of ‘the limbs of gorse’. The positioning of the weightily accented verbs ‘keeps’ and ‘shows’ dramatizes the impact of monosyllabic words, thereby emphasizing the tenacity of life. The simultaneous presence of the dead and the living highlighted in these lines resembles the status of the necessary co-existence of memories of the dead with the living language of poetry. The phonetic contrast between the expression ‘dead grizzle’, which resounds with dentals and gutturals activating teeth, throat and tongue, with the expression ‘little moist lips’ filled with liquids and nasals is combined in the final words of the line: ‘muttering light’ (‘m’, ‘t’, ‘l’, ‘t’). The interplay of dentals and liquids, offering a peculiar combination of hard and soft sounds, reinforces a complex ‘phonosemantic’ pattern of the poem. A number of poems concern in-between states. For instance, in the poem ‘Crossing’, the speaker finds himself suspended somewhere between Chaos and an unknown territory. The sense of sight is of no help under the water: And even the daylight through myopic glass What landmarks will there be Or proof of any progress? It is the sound that provides salvation from confusion: Surely. That loud sign of life Must be my heart. or: Only the roaring Of engines underwater And in it me My thought bubbles

186  Monika Szuba And thudding heart Meanwhile. (Collected Poems 358) The sound of the beating heart is reassuring as it saves the speaker from utter disorientation. The short conjunctions and pronouns at the beginning of the lines intensify a peculiar rhythm, stressing the form of the poem. The final word with its long vowel and the diphthong, and the play between the nasal and the liquid engenders the impression of suspension, a combination which further dramatizes the interplay of elusive sounds. In such moments, Constantine uses rhythm not just for its own musical quality, but to emphasize key concepts and indicate how images and terms relate to each another.

II Another significant aspect of Constantine’s poetry is the nature of sensual, embodied existence found in these poems, a striking characteristic which foregrounds their carnality. In 2004 Constantine published a sonnet sequence titled A Poetry Primer: Love Poems. Love poems constitute an important part of Constantine’s writing as they highlight the necessary mooring in the corporeal world. In his essays, he writes about poetry being rooted in love, as exemplified in his essay, ‘“A grace it had, devouring…”: Apparitions of Beauty, Love and Terror in the Poetry of Robert Graves’. Here Constantine quotes Graves on the inextricability of poetry and carnality: ‘Indian mystics hold that to think with perfect clarity in a religious sense one must first eliminate all physical desire, even the desire to continue living; but this is not at all the case with poetic thinking, since poetry is rooted in love, and love in desire, and desire in hope of continued existence’ (Graves 409, cited in ‘A grace it had’ 78). Constantine highlights the significance of the Muse who, according to him, plays a primordial role in the creation of poetry, again quoting Graves: ‘No Muse-poet grows conscious of the Muse except by experience of a woman in whom the Goddess is to some degree resident’ (Graves 490, cited in ‘A grace it had’ 78). According to Constantine, love poetry plays an important role in the world today: The poem itself, and especially the love poem, is an act of opposition to that world of nowadays. And, to produce such a poem, the poet himself or herself must live that opposition …The function of poetry is religious invocation of the Muse. (Poetry 78) The idea of the Muse, Mnemosyne, ‘Mother of Nine, First Cause, Prime Mover’, constituting the embodiment of poetry, imbues the poems in A Poetry Primer, adding the corporeal aspect to the insubstantial elements of poetic craft.

David Constantine’s poetic bodies  187 Love poems offer the apology for the everyday, foregrounding its powerful source, anchoring the body in lived experience and thus in reality itself. As earlier mentioned, Constantine often states that he writes poetry that is ‘earthly, concrete, local, attentive to particulars’. In an interview with another poet, Maitreyabandhu, Constantine cites Bertolt Brecht, who had a motto pinned above his door, ‘Truth is concrete’. He returns to this concept in Poetry, where he recalls William Carlos Williams’s celebrated dictum from his poem ‘A Sort of Song’: ‘No ideas but in things’ (14). He underlines this avoidance of abstractions and corresponding emphasis on the concreteness of language in the poem ‘Res/Verba’: Think of a thing then think what it should wear, What words, the most becoming words, the best… (Collected Poems 329) The poem’s conceit presents language, which takes a form of dress for a given thing, changing the manner in which it is perceived. A number of questions follow: ‘Are things not visible until they’re dressed?’ and ‘How can you clad an unembodied thing?’ The word ‘res’ represents a mere idea, ‘A thing too immaterial to appear’ before it is given a name. The intensification of fricatives in the alliterative first line, ‘Think of a thing then think what it should wear’ draws attention to the elaborate costume of words. In a subversive manner the speaker encourages us to find the words in order to find the thing, and then undress it to ‘see the very thing and show it bare’. The rhyme bracketing the poem – ‘wear/bare’ – dramatizes the conceit, grounded as it is with ‘there’ in line six, which foregrounds the necessity to search for the sense concealed beneath the layers of language. In many of his poems, Constantine returns to embodied experience, exploring what hides in the folds of flesh in order to endow love with concreteness. This finds vivid expression in ‘Sunium’, where landscape heightens the carnal sensations experienced by the two lovers. The poet presents Sunium, a cape in Greece with a famous temple honoring Poseidon, as isolated Arcadia. The name of the promontory, enfolding the sun and present in this scene – ‘There the sun / Brought our perception of carnal life / To the burning point’ – reaches for culmination, transforming itself in the final stanza: Where promontories embrace an arena of sea At noon the bivalve opened The mollusc wings The lips. (Collected Poems 67) Earlier in the poem the reference to Persephone, the queen of the underworld, standing as a brief reminder of death, dims the idyllic impression. Yet this impression soon yields to the sensual representation of landscape

188  Monika Szuba in a female form. Similarly in ‘Miranda inland’, landscape takes the shape – and voice – of a woman. In the final stanza My white self stared at savagely I wriggled Free under the deep seae under the deep Fast back to his hilly scrap of terra firma In the wilds of salt and surfaced drinkable. (Elder 29) The anthropomorphized landscape is transformed in the process of selfrealization. Once more, the predilection for enjambments together with the intensification of liquid consonants creates the impression of fluidity, foregrounding the theme of the poem. In the poem ‘Metaphor’ Constantine explores the function of the literary device, employing it in a self-referential manner. The poem begins with a uniformity of rhythm that suggests the unobtrusiveness of the speaker: Gift of our own world of appearances To all that shivers in the throes of dream And ghosts along the edge of being seen And craves a demonstration, proof and sign And wants a free run of the five senses… (Collected Poems 327) The anaphora at the end creates the repetitive rhythm of incantation, with the last line open to be read differently depending where stress is placed – with ‘love’ playing the role of a noun or an adjective (‘make love’ or ‘love metaphors’). Such merging of sense creates the blurring of boundaries between love and poetry. The final stanza shows a shift from the world of ‘appearances’, ‘dream’, ‘ghosts’ in the first stanza to ‘flesh’ and ‘bodies’, foregrounding concrete presence: Veiled in flesh my love and your love Revealed by our unclothing bodily There present. What our loving bodies do Is make love metaphors to go into. (Collected Poems 327) In the first two lines of the final stanza the sound of the liquid consonant ‘l’ is reinforced by the diphthong in ‘veiled’ and the long ‘e’ in ‘revealed’, the first word echoed in the second, reflecting the repetition ‘my love and your love’. Liquids also appear in the expression ‘unclothing bodily’, prolonging the sound, the effect further heightened by the word endings. The two enjambed lines lead to the finale in the third, causing the two words to resound powerfully. The expression ‘there present’ reinforces its own sense,

David Constantine’s poetic bodies  189 the semantic patterns reenacted in the sounds. Angela Leighton’s remark that poetry ‘evok[es] presence inside, not outside, words’ (152) seems apt in the context of this poem, in which presence is once again highlighted as is the ability of poetry to create bodily forms from verbal matter. ‘Metaphor’ demonstrates a move from appearances and ghosts in the first stanza to an embodied world and flesh in the final one. The preoccupation with form inhabited by lively content returns in the poet’s essays. In ‘Poetry of the Present’ – the title alluding to an essay by D. H. Lawrence, published in 1919 – from the collection A Living Language, Constantine writes about the tension occurring between a fixed form and a free one. According to the poet, a struggle exists between the petrified syntactic form and the fluctuating rhythm of everyday speech. He points to the liveliness of the poetic form as an expression of its agility. Constantine voices his deep admiration for the manner in which Rainer Maria Rilke experiments with the sonnet form in Sonnets to Orpheus, thereby endowing it with new life: ‘they mutate in the liveliest manner in something fixed’ (Living Language 57). The body seems a perfect comparison to the poem as ‘the syntax remains a skeleton, life refuses to inhabit it’ (55). Elaborating on the distinction between mechanical and organic form in his essay ‘Poetry of the Present’, the poet argues that mechanical form means that ‘the total shape, metrical pattern and arrangement preexists the particular poem or poetic impulse’ (42). This is echoed in the poet’s definition of the poetry of the present: And that is really the continuous and necessary struggle in verse, between fixity and fluidity, between the way of death and the way of life. And in that struggle, in which the very life of the spirit is at stake, the letter is all, and may petrify or animate. I guess there would be agreement that liveliness, trueness to life in its movement and excess, is the heart and soul of the poem, that without which it cannot work. (55–56) Constantine gives expression to such claims in a great number of his poems, particularly those referring to poetic bodies that are characterized by their ever-renewing suppleness and rooted in the commonplace. Concrete presences constitute a major preoccupation in the love poems from A Poetry Primer. In his essay about the opening poem in this collection, Maitreyabandhu points out that Constantine’s understanding of pleasure is concrete, with a sense of delayed gratification shaping his poems through his tendency to name the verb only at the end of a sentence: ‘Constantine’s poem continues by giving a concrete example of the delayed gratification we experience when the main verb comes at or near the end of a sentence’. In this opening poem, ‘Pleasure’, the sensual experience of the body intertwines with the pleasure of language, giving it concreteness. Constantine presents the self-containment of carnal love again as akin to poetry:

190  Monika Szuba Take, for example, A wanted realization’s long postponement Over caesuras and line-endings, torment Of let and rallentando and reversal, Word upon word, staccato then eliding, A gathering rising final overriding They ask what the syntax of our pleasure does? Makes with a rush of sense something that is. (Collected Poems 326) The sound-sense relation is evident in the prolonged hesitation present in the enjambed lines, the sense hanging at the end of each line, in opposition to syntactical limitations. This hesitation or ‘long postponement’ proves a source of pleasure for the reader. As Leighton suggests, ‘poetry exploits hesitation, letting us hear the shifts of sound and sense, facts and language, flesh and word, which make up a poem’ (157). ‘Pleasure’ evokes the enhanced sense of embodied existence experienced in delayed gratification, dramatized in the interplay of sound and sense. It highlights the originary essence of subjectivity, demonstrating that flesh distills delight and joy. The succinctness and the directness of the final word strengthens the statement: the final ‘is’ signals that existence unadorned by any epithet is sufficient. Selfcontained, poetry, like love, does not need an attribute. It is its own reason. The poem, as Constantine understands it, is endowed with a body of its own, it is alive and ‘moves along under its own breath and determines its own shape’ (Interview by Elise Paschen). His use of rhetoric, combined with references to carnal love, underlines how it is that lovers experience sensuality in concrete and embodied ways. In ‘Form and Content’ the poet stresses this concreteness once again, foregrounding the physicality of the poem in the first two stanzas: Become one flesh, engender a little soul Colouring like a rainbow and as agile As Thetis, the everchanging slippy nymph. Without the poem’s muscle, blood and lymph, Where would she be? Where thought would be or fear Or bliss evicted from accommodation in the skull And brain and rib-caged heart and pubic hill. Outside the bony housing she is nowhere. (Collected Poems 328) Two bodies become merged, creating ‘a little soul’ in the effect, the repeated liquid consonants strengthening the connection. The poetic body thus formed, ‘the poem’s muscle, blood and lymph’ allows poetry to take a physical form, akin to the shape-shifting body of Thetis. The expression ‘the bony housing’ alludes to the Old English kenning ‘bone-house’ (bānhūs),

David Constantine’s poetic bodies  191 alluding to the human body. Here the body itself becomes a ‘house’ for a poem. Hesitations are heightened by the enjambments occurring in every line of the final stanza: Without a house and home in flesh and blood Will not impress the sky. But held in good Black lettering shaped on white may quicken Like trouble, like delight in lovers then. (Collected Poems 328) The power of the word in its concrete aural presence, as ‘flesh and blood’, is substantial. Thanks to the accommodation provided by the form of the Meredithian sonnet, the poetic ‘house and home’ becomes corporeally present. As Constantine argues, the form is of utmost importance: A poem is not there until it has shape. A poetic feeling, state, aspiration, disposition is, of itself, for anyone else in the world but the person feeling it, nothing. A state not shown, not bodied forth, not made palpable – that is, not given shape – is nothing so far as the outside world is concerned, it does not exist. It has to be realised. (Living Language 42) The form has the power to ‘quicken’, or revive and stimulate, the language of poetry. Its agility, represented by the figure of Thetis, ‘the everchanging slippy nymph’, makes its alive and adapted to the present. As Sasha Dugdale aptly suggests, Constantine’s main preoccupation in A Poetry Primer lies in demonstrating that ‘love and poetry, both assertions of the human spirit, are equal in their powers of warding off death and oblivion’ (89). This is particularly present in ‘Mnemosyne’, the final poem in A Poetry Primer. The first lines suggest that Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, an immaterial being, came first – ‘Even before there was spit and breath in the clay’ – echoing a biblical creation motif as the moment when Jesus heals a man born blind with spittle and clay (Jn. 9:6). The sea nymph, a mythical being, has a powerful role, which is that of growing the repertory of poetry – ‘the poem’s vast memory’ – retrieving language ‘from the seabed of memory’. She transgresses the borders of her world to seep into the poet’s body – ‘breathe / Love in my mouth again, gladden my lungs’ – and thus as present in all the elements, pervading all spheres, indispensable in the moment of creation. The penultimate poem from this collection, ‘Orphic’, employs a mythical persona in its title: poetry embodied in the figure of myth. It constitutes a recurrent mythical motif in Constantine’s poetry, finding expression in an early collection Madder (1987) and in the latest, Elder (2014). The sonnet in A Poetry Primer recreates the end of Orpheus who, enchanted with his music and poetry, was ripped to shreds, his remnants, torn and scattered,

192  Monika Szuba welcomed by stones, ‘here there and everywhere / In common things, in winds and wings of the air’, a vision of poetry ensconced in all elements. In the ancient myth, Orpheus’ head, still singing, floated down Hebrus to the Mediterranean shore where winds and waves carried it on to Lesbos. The speaker of this poem, however, highlights that his ‘blood and bone’ seeps through all the beings around, the substance of poetry thus imbuing creation with an all-encompassing unity. Constantine depicts his death as the dissipation of his powers: a central poet figure thus turned into an evocation of the power, the endlessness and the ubiquitous nature of poetry itself. The music of Orpheus, the first poet, could move both animate and inanimate beings, including a stone, ‘[i]n bits of language only those two know’, where the noun ‘bits’ suggests something physical, material. The second part of the line foregrounds a kind of intimacy formed like a presence between two people, a peculiar knowledge – these ‘glances’ and ‘glimpses’, elusive as their sound suggests – and one that only two lovers may share. The dismemberment of his body results in the dissemination of poetry, in its far-reaching effects, as seen in the lines that follow: Though all the rest of him was strewn all round the shop Went on and on, much as it always had, Rejoicing in the signs of her and him That lived and moved here, there and everywhere In common things, in winds and wings of the air, In the opening sea, the uneasy earth, the fire, Little tongues of life. (Collected Poems 334) The poet here foregrounds the power of the everyday, the commonplace, once more. As he puts it, ‘we want [poetry to be] commonplace, companionable, always there to be turned to, in our ordinary lives, customary and working wonders’ (Poetry 139). The poet’s persona is then revealed in the final part: Turn every poem I write, Whatever of, in our peculiar light Glances of you, glimpses of me will show. (Collected Poems 334) Run-on lines abound in the poems, with enjambments producing the effect of ambiguity, the sense hanging, carrying over to the next line. Constantine’s peculiar predilection for convoluted syntax constitutes an innovative element of his poetry, which insists on straddling different spheres, the structure of these poems serving to further highlight the crossings and transgressions they convey. It is interesting to note the metrical pattern of the poem, which varies considerably: the metre is fluid, traditional syntax disrupted. Expressive

David Constantine’s poetic bodies  193 attention to consonantal sound is evident in the play of liquids (‘l’ and ‘r’) and dentals (‘t’ and ‘n’), combining to evoke the effect of echoing. The dental consonant ‘t’ and the liquid ‘l’ are the tones that not only contrast but reinforce each other, while the poet’s use of liquid constants – ‘peculiar light’, ‘glances of you, glimpses of me will show’ – imitate smooth movement, thus reinforcing the effect of harmony in the poem. Similarly, in the line ‘little tongues of life’, the sound of the liquid consonant is reinforced by the short ‘i’ in the first word and the diphthong in ‘life’. The assonance in the second line, ‘on the Only One’, and in line eleven, ‘In common things, in winds and wings of the air’, enhances the poem’s internal cohesiveness. Poetry of this nature inhabits the present, as Constantine’s work frequently demonstrates. What is more, poetry invests in language ‘which conjures presence’, according to Leighton (150). The sound makes the sense appear, mooring it in this instant, to recall Constantine’s suggestion, as ‘[a]ny willing reader may incarnate the ever-present tense of poetry. The willing listener too’ (Poetry 52). The poet combines sound, sense and sensation, where individual sounds create the meaning of words, encouraging us to listen for that being-in-experience. The physical sense of the sounds is felt in the movement of the lips and the tongue, and their effect on the ear. Changing shapes, transgressing corporeal boundaries is one of the characteristics of Constantine’s poetry, akin to a body with its agility, variability and alertness. As the poet puts it, ‘Poetry must be agile, continually it must devise new ways to answer the changing circumstances and shapes of human life’ (Living Language 41), and its essential function is ‘to convey, without fixing it, the Heraclitean moving and flowing of life’ (Living Language 55). Inhabiting the spheres in-between, Constantine’s poetry combines material and immaterial worlds, flowing around and through them and fusing various forms of being. It is a shifting form, then, a living body, grounded in life.

Works cited Bury, Liz. ‘David Constantine Comes in from the Periphery to Win Frank O’Connor Award’. The Guardian, 1 July 2013. Web. 1 August 2013. Constantine, David. A Brightness to Cast Shadows. Tarset: Bloodaxe Books, 1980. ——. Collected Poems. Tarset: Bloodaxe Books, 2004. ——. Davies. Tarset: Bloodaxe Books, 1985. ——. Elder. Tarset: Bloodaxe Books, 2014. ——. ‘Going Abroad — Poet, Novelist, Translator and Editor David Constantine’. Interview by Joseph Hutchinson. Cerise Press 4.10 (Summer 2012). Web. 17 August 2014. ——. ‘“A grace it had, devouring…”: Apparitions of Beauty, Love and Terror in the Poetry of Robert Graves’. Poets of the Past: Poets of the Present. Ed. Monika Szuba and Tomasz Wiśniewski. Gdańsk/Sopot: University of Gdańsk Press, 2013. 75–90. ——. Interview by Elise Paschen. Oxford Poetry. Web. 17 August 2014. ——. In the Footsteps of the Gods. London: TTP, 2011.

194  Monika Szuba ——. A Living Language: Bloodaxe/Newcastle Poetry Lectures. Tarset: Bloodaxe Books, 2004. ——. Madder. Tarset: Bloodaxe Books, 1987. ——. Nine Fathom Deep. Tarset: Bloodaxe Books, 2007. ——. The Pelt of Wasps. Tarset: Bloodaxe Books, 1998. ——. Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. ——. A Poetry Primer. Birmingham: Delos Press, 2004. ——. The Shieling. Manchester: Comma Press, 2009. ——. Something for the Ghosts. Tarset: Bloodaxe Books, 2002. ——. Tea at the Midland and Other Stories. Manchester: Comma Press, 2012. ——. Under the Dam. Manchester: Comma Press, 2005. ——. Watching for Dolphins. Tarset: Bloodaxe Books, 1983. Dugdale, Sasha. Rev. of A Living Language by David Constantine. PN Review 163 31.5 (May–June 2005): 89. Graves, Robert. The White Goddess. London: Faber and Faber, 1961. Historia Augusta. ‘The Life of Hadrian. Part 2.’ LacusCurtius. Web. 24 March 2015. Maitreyabandhu. ‘The Provenance of Pleasure’. Poetry Review 101.1 (Spring 2011). Web. 10 January 2013. Schmidt, Michael. Lives of the Poets. London: Phoenix, 1998.

14 Divine eloquence R. S. Thomas and the matter of Logos Joanna Soćko

‘Here we must listen’ wrote Jacques Derrida in his momentous work on Husserl, pointing to what he claimed to be the core of the problem concerning language: namely, the strict interdependence between voice and presence (Speech and Phenomena 74). Of these, the voice, according to Derrida, denotes the ideal essence, the meaning and sense which for him belong to philosophical truth. Because of the apparent simultaneity inherent in speaking and hearing, voice and ideality seem to complement and complete each other: when the ‘signifier’ is alive, animated by the speaker’s breath, the supposed meaning is apparently ‘at hand’, as Derrida suggests. Voice, then, seems to be transcendent: since the ‘expressed’ is present in the expression, voice becomes the entry of revelation (Speech and Phenomena 70–77). And although Derrida, as a philosopher, searches for the origin of this dignity of voice in the thought of Plato, the power of speech already comes to the fore in Hebrew Scripture, according to which the voice was heard at the origins of creation. ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (Jn. 1:1), which points to the presence of the divine voice in the opening of Genesis.

I It might well be that Derrida is not the best thinker to introduce reflections on Incarnation, given his evident emphasis on texts to the exclusion of corporeal concerns: ‘There seems to be a gap between the nature of textuality and that of bodily experience’, John McCumber suggests in glossing Derrida’s writings (234). What Derrida does, however, is to accentuate the ‘opaque’ character of language, which is an only seemingly transparent medium that conveys the ‘pre-existent stratum of sense’ (Speech and Phenomena 74). Yet it is precisely this ‘stratum’, to recall Angela Leighton’s suggestion, which points to ‘something spiritual or inner’ (151), and when Derrida points out that the correlation between voice and presence is so strict that the word comes to be identified with the speaking person, he sheds light both on the easiness with which we accept the fourth evangelist’s strange assertion about the word being God and on the effortlessness

196  Joanna Soćko with which Christians came to associate this Logos with the divine presence. Again, Leighton directs our attention to this phenomenon in her discussion of Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine (151). And for Derrida, it is exactly the phōnē of the Logos that is so misleading; which is why he begins his supposed overturning of European philosophical logocentism by showing that the ‘transcendence’ of the voice is only ‘apparent’ (Speech and Phenomena 77). It is the phōnē, he argues, that is responsible for the ‘hocus-pocus’ of the Logos – the ‘“trick” of presence’. R. S. Thomas seems to share Derrida’s views. As a poet, he ceaselessly exposes the hazardous frolics of language and, as if to tear apart the curtain of the temple once again (Lk. 23:45), he deconstructs what we used to consider the ‘Christian’ Logos in order to show that it hides no God. In Thomas’s poetry, similarly, God withdraws into the realm of both silence and absence, as Thomas suggests in ‘Adjustments’: ‘Never known as anything / but absence, I dare not name him / as God’ (Collected Poems 345). And in another, ‘Via Negativa’, he admits: ‘I never thought other than / That God is that great absence / In our lives, the empty silence / Within’ (Collected Poems 220). But his most important discussion of this problem is to be found in Counterpoint, a collection of poems devoted to rephrasing the history of salvation in which the poet opens by calling into question the assertions found in the prologue to John’s gospel: No, in the beginning was silence that was broken by the word forbidding it to be broken. (Collected Later Poems 77) In these lines the poet challenges the conviction that the Logos constituted all things from the beginning. Here, Thomas not only deprives ‘the Word’ of its leading role in creation, but also questions its very divinity since this poem makes no mention of the Word distinguished with a capital letter. As the poet here claims, if anything was at the beginning of all things, it was silence, but he identifies neither the word nor silence with God. Rather, in these opening lines, there is no God, or at least his existence is not made explicit. What he does point to is the strange interplay in which the initial silence is broken by the word, but what this ‘word’ actually says leaves the silence intact – as if muteness and language exist simultaneously, neither destroying the other, or as if the word were somehow ‘uttered’ silently. Derrida reminds us here, however, that ‘here we must listen’, because in this strange entanglement of language and silence it is possible to hear very specific sounds: Hush: the sound of a bird landing on water; sound of a thought on time’s shore; practice of Ur-language

R. S. Thomas and the matter of Logos  197 by the first human. An echo in God’s mind of a conceived statement. The sound of a rib being removed out of the side of the androgynous hero. The mumbling of the Host by reptilian lips … (Collected Later Poems 77) The very first word of this part of the poem already suggests an important phenomenon: the silence of language – the absence of words – seems necessary in order to hear the sound of the world. The listener must remain mute because only then will he or she receive the auditory sensations that are an integral part of Creation. What is being heard, therefore, is not the Word. Admittedly, Thomas mentions ‘a conceived statement’ as echoing in God’s mind here, but this is not a statement that has been uttered: there is no language in which it was pronounced, and it gave no sound which would be recognized as a statement whose sense might be decoded by others. Moreover, we may read ‘a conceived statement’ as a reference to the act of conception, which points rather to the physical inception of life than to a speech act. The only utterance of God, then, is Creation itself. From the very beginning, the ‘word’ becomes ‘world’, and there is no other way by which we might hear the divine Logos than by means of the material creation. That Word, if such it is, is among us in the gentle, quiet movements of the earth’s first inhabitants, who have just been brought into being. There is no other language yet other than the sounds of human speech, broadly understood, as an ‘Ur-language’ they are practicing – which is to say, these are but awkward mutterings which do not yet resemble a linguistic system. In this poem, Thomas plainly suggests that what we are dealing with at the beginning of all things – what the creation really is – is Incarnation, the ‘exact’ incarnation, the ‘enfleshment’ of the Word, the ‘materialization’ of God. Thomas cumulates, then, the history of salvation in the poetic description of the world’s creation, showing that this ‘creational’ incarnation is the only one that has ever happened, since the Host – which is to say, the ‘real presence’ of the divine in and through the Eucharist – has already been given to the world. And the ‘Host’ is particularly important in this poetic fragment as it seems to be the first noun identified with God, because of the fact that it is written with a capital letter. This reference, of course, is a very ambiguous one, because the word Host denotes several things: first, the Host may relate to the Creator himself, here envisioned as a hospitable landlord who welcomes the new life which is being born; second, the Host may indicate that he is the one who provides nutrition, or – which is much more disturbing, but also much more Christian – who becomes nutrition; and third, the Host as a reference to the Eucharist, as an ‘incarnated’ word, has a linguistic character, underlined by the fact that it is ‘being mumbled’ by

198  Joanna Soćko ‘reptilian lips’ – which moves the focus from a narrow preoccupation with the human to the larger animal world. By representing God as the Host, which or who – both pronouns should probably be used here, to be faithful to Thomas’s views – is to be found in the ‘mumbling’ of an animal, Thomas indicates that God cannot be identified solely with the Word since Logos has not been given otherwise than through this form of incarnation. The word and matter always come together, an entanglement that is the way in which God becomes present. Thus, the only way in which we can ‘hear’ the divine Logos is to listen to its echoes resonating in the sounds of the world. That said, it becomes clear that, for this poet, these sounds do not resemble a linguistic system; they remain a mere mumbling, acoustic sensations which make no sense in terms of human understanding. Perhaps the most important and disturbing implication of Thomas’s poetic representation of this ‘genesis’ is the discrepancy between the divine, incarnated Logos and human language. In many of his poems, Thomas suggests that human speech is different from the way in which God communicates himself. No matter how much we would like to compare those two, there always remains a ‘gap’, as Thomas names it in a poem which provides a paraphrase of the Tower of Babel story: God woke, but the nightmare did not recede. Word by word the tower of speech grew … He measured the thin gap with his mind. No, no, no wider than that! (Complete Poems 324) In his reframing of this biblical narrative in these lines, Thomas compares the monumental tower described in this story to human speech itself, by means of which human beings are attempting to reach God. In the face of this danger, God becomes afraid and tries to avoid being ‘touched’ by human language. What he does, however, is not to break a single language apart, but rather to make people speak different dialects – which would suggest that there is still hope to ‘name’ God in at least one of them. Accordingly, the way in which God avoids being named by human vocabulary is by making his own sign, one that does not belong to any language and thus cannot be deciphered: … And the darkness that is a god’s blood swelled in him, and he let it to make the sign in the space on the page, that is in all languages and none; that is the grammarian’s

R. S. Thomas and the matter of Logos  199 torment and the mystery at the cell’s core (Collected Poems 324) In Thomas’s account, the nature of reality seems to invert traditional notions of Incarnation: God, who already has a body, turns his blood into a sign, but one that has become indecipherable, thus escaping the bounds of human language. He suggests here that the fleshy character of logos actually prevents humans from understanding its strange markings, which if these were solely linguistic would have been confined to the horizon of the comprehensible. A sign made with blood, however, does not become an abstract part of any language system, even if ‘written’ on the page, since it inscribes its reality simultaneously into cells as the basic unit of all living organisms. Thomas strengthens this point through his use of enjambment in the phrase ‘to make the sign in the space / on the page’, because written this way he points not only to the matter of (human) language but also and more broadly to the cosmic character of this divine sign. In this context, God’s marking becomes a mystery of the universe which can be fathomed neither by hermeneutists nor by scientists, for as he suggests in the same poem, it is ‘the equation that will not come out’. We cannot understand this sign. We are only able to ‘stare / over [it] into the eternal / silence that is the repose of God’. In the wider scope of his writings, Thomas consistently represents divine ‘language’ as inscribed into materiality, but he goes further than this in persistently ‘situating’ God in the realm of silence, and as a result points to the sense we have of divine absence. Yet this silence constitutes an inalienable part of this language-matter entanglement. Thus, in a poem earlier cited, ‘Via Negativa’, Thomas explicitly contends that God’s silence and absence are disturbing precisely because they haunt our inner life: ‘I never thought other than / That God is that great absence / In our lives, the empty silence / Within’ (Collected Poems 220; emphasis added). Elsewhere, he suggests that God is undetectable, not only through our hearing but also by means of our other senses: ‘There is an unseen / power, whose sphere is the cell and the electron. We never catch / him at work’ (Collected Poems 345). God, then, is not totally withdrawn; on the contrary, while he is imperceptible and escapes our understanding – and, thus, does not belong to ‘our’ ontology – he still acts in some manner in and through his creation. It is as if the great mystery of his incomprehensible Incarnation, in the material realm of the world itself, did not belong to the realm of metaphysics but rather to physics, which would give the divine Logos influence on even the minutest dimensions of our existence. Despite this claim, the discrepancy between the ‘language’ of God and human language remains a lamentable fact for Thomas, one he constantly returns to in his poems in pointing to the paradox of a Creator who remains beyond the possibilities of any direct form of communication. In the poem

200  Joanna Soćko ‘The Absence’, for example, Thomas writes forlornly: ‘It is this great absence / that is like a presence, that compels / me to address it without hope / of a reply’ (Collected Poems 361). In some poems this sadness seems to turn to anger, as in the poem ‘At It’: ‘And I would have / things to say to this God / at the judgment, storming at him, / as Job stormed, with the eloquence / of the abused heart” (Collected Poems 331). But this passion only confirms the depth of the human desire to ‘get in touch’ with God. This ‘eloquent’ passion also indicates that it is the wounded heart that drives us speak to God – as if the language with which we address the Creator should also be written with blood.

II The fact that Thomas apparently did not keep the letters he had received (Rogers 51) may suggest that the poet’s relation with the Creator resulted in the deep distrust he felt toward any kind of communication. However, one of Thomas’s biographers, Byron Rogers, having been granted access to what the poet and his wife had stored in the attic of their small cottage house in Sarn y Plas, did find some envelopes among the poet’s papers. Admittedly, many of them were empty, but some contained rather peculiar items: grey mullet scales, snow bunting feathers, an adder’s skin, a four-leaf clover and a dead prawn (17). There was also ‘a book of phone numbers – containing none’, Rogers writes. Such remnants suggest that the poet held such bits and pieces from the natural world as the only appropriate content of any messages, as if nature were the one mode of divine communication left to us. One may wonder at these strange findings and say ‘h’m’, repeating a sound which Thomas chose to entitle one of his most important volumes of poetry. Published in 1972, it also contains a poem by this title, ‘H’m’, portraying a preacher who, having been asked about God, found himself short of words. It is probably because ‘h’m’ may signify the impossibility of communicating with words on such a topic. Perhaps the uncommon contents of the envelopes found in Thomas’s attic confirm that the poet did not consider words the basis of communication with the Creator, but rather found this to be conveyed in and through creation itself. In point of fact, this is what Thomas suggests in the poem ‘Message’, in which he represents the whole process of receiving God’s Logos through nature: A message from God delivered by a bird at my window, offering friendship. Listen. Such language! Who said that God was without speech? Every word an injection to make me smile. Meet me, it says, tomorrow, here

R. S. Thomas and the matter of Logos  201 at the same time and you will remember how wonderful today was: no pain, no worry; irrelevant the mystery if unsolved. I gave you the X-ray eye for you to use, not to prospect, but to discover the unmalignancy of love’s growth. You were a patient, too, anaesthetized on truth’s table, with life operating on you with a green scalpel. Meet me tomorrow, I say, and I will sing it all over again for you, when you have come to. (Collected Poems 449) Here it bears repeating the poet’s insistence that it is we who ‘must listen’, because even if the only echo of divine speech we might hear is to be heard in a bird’s call, somehow this sound stands for us as a medium of God’s ‘word’, whose character thus remains ambiguous and correspondingly difficult for us to decode. The opening three lines of this poem seem to suggest that the creation is a perfect mode of communication between humanity and the Creator, going as far as offering us in an unexpected sense nothing less than ‘friendship’. In what the poet realizes on the basis of a phenomenological discovery, the person speaking in this poem easily perceives as the point of this divine message, which grounds our relationship with the divine. As if this is an instance of the Husserlian act of intuitive recognition, we receive the offer of God’s friendship through such natural phenomena as birdsong. Such perception implies that this ‘natural’ mode of communication is transparent and accessible to us, and thus the matter of the content of the message unimportant. But subsequent lines in the poem draw our attention to the nature of this mode of communication: ‘Listen. Such language!’ And the meaningful enjambment in the following line – ‘Who said that God was / without speech?’ – suggests to the reader that while there is a certain language in which God communicates with us, God is not without but rather must be found within the natural order of animals and things. Indeed, God is present at the level of speech itself, if in the sounds heard in the outer, material world – as if it were God who had constituted the contents of this message and established this peculiar form of ‘friendship’. What is this message? The poet explores precisely this question in the verses that follow, where we come to see that whatever it is, it is not an idea. It has a material and not an intellectual character since it seems to be a ‘substance’ given to us in our bodily experience. The givenness of this, as if it were an ‘injection’ into our consciousness, appears to be a ‘happy wound’

202  Joanna Soćko of divine eloquence, since being taken inside our body the message begins to speak somehow through us – as if only in this manner, from within the organism itself, could God’s speech be ‘heard’. This is not to suggest, however, that this meets our desire for the direct presence of the Creator; rather, what the message actually ‘does’ is to postpone this encounter for another day: ‘Meet me / it says, tomorrow’ is a proposal which, in a manner similar to Derrida’s différance, defers the divine sense, postpones the destined meaning. This movement of delaying turns out to be not without purpose, as the message suggests: ‘irrelevant the mystery if / unsolved’. What the postponement suggests, too, is that the ‘message’ will come again, depending for its reception on our ‘com[ing] to’, a marvelous double entendre that points both to our awakening from having been anaesthetized and to our need to bring ourselves to this divine language veiled in the natural world. All of this seems to imply that the deferred encounter remains the one possibility for the divine mystery being ‘solved’, and this all the way to the last. It is as if Thomas is pointing to an intractable dilemma in our experience, since for us to cease our quest for a solution would doom the mystery as irrelevant, but our attempt to ‘solve’ this mystery would also bring it to an end. The ‘thing in itself’ for which we have ‘a verbal hunger’, as Thomas suggests in the poem on the Tower of Babel explored earlier, remains beyond human reach. But it is precisely this necessary deferral which enables the ongoing and dynamic sense we come to have of the mysterious, divine speech within our experience. Importantly, the poem does not bring the matter of such speech to an end here, but shifts our attention to the nature of this gift – as an unusual even if utterly natural mode of divine communication. ‘The message’ thus suggests another level to be grasped within this form of divine/human communication: namely, the realm of materiality as understood in modern terms, which points to what might be ‘present’ within our experience even if imperceptible to our senses. What it would mean to have the kind of ‘sight’ that could grasp divine love – ‘the X-ray eye’, an allusion to Röntgen’s discoveries of radiation – suggests something other than scientific knowledge with a set purpose of ‘prospecting’. Rather, Thomas is pointing to our discovery of certain processes which are set in motion within us, and these have nothing to do with physical things or the source of an inner illness – his description points to the growth of cancer cells within the body, detectable by X-rays – but rather with the ‘unmalignancy of love’s growth’. Here, then, the incarnated Logos seems to have to do with the materiality of the body and at the same time with qualities of the soul. The ‘message’, therefore, is a process, one that operates through our senses but also in terms of our consciousness. As the poem progresses Thomas extends the medical analogy to suggest that the cuts that are made with a ‘green scalpel’ are the wounds of life, and not of death. Further, it seems that the ‘injuries’ this brings about are precisely what deepens this ‘friendship’, bringing God – the ‘I’ of this poem – to say, ‘Meet me, tomorrow / I say,

R. S. Thomas and the matter of Logos  203 and I will sing it all over / again for you’. It is as if the cut and penetration of the unaware (anaesthetized) person enables him to become an active participant in this divine communication and ‘friendship’. Thomas’s articulation of this theme regarding the unconscious reception of God’s presence raises an important problem which, despite the poet’s references to contemporary medical science, has a long theological tradition. It concerns the human perception of God, which while not limited to bodily senses has been consistently portrayed – both in the Scriptures and in theological texts – by means of sensory language. Angela Leighton points to this important phenomenon in her fascinating reflections on Augustine’s ‘inner ear’ and Hopkins’s ‘trusty ear’ as a mode of perception which ‘overcomes … the limitations of our senses’ (151). As she helpfully points out, Augustine ‘struggles with metaphors of translation’ from spirit to flesh (151), a common fate of theologians who must rely on bodily perception to speak of a communication between God and humanity. Paul Gavrilyuk and Sarah Coakley point to the same difficulty in their introduction to a book tracing the development of the so-called ‘spiritual senses’ in western Christianity, arguing that ‘the claim to have a special form of perception that makes direct human contact with God possible is both epistemologically and metaphysically problematic’ (1). The authors add, however, that while there is a general agreement concerning the physical senses, the same cannot be said of the spiritual mode of perception. They go further in claiming that no Christian doctrine exists that would regulate this theological intuition, and thus theologians in this tradition have treated the physical senses in various ways as ambiguous in terms of their relation to a divine ‘sense’ in the divine/ human encounter. Of course, one might assume that the notion of bodily perception remains merely metaphorical. But theologians within this long tradition have consistently denied using the physical senses as a simile, pointing instead to the specific status of these enigmatic but important spiritual sensations. Among modern theologians to take up this theme, Karl Rahner insists that one may speak of spiritual senses only when dealing with a non-metaphorical use of sensory language, and when all five senses are engaged in the perception of immaterial reality (82). Such an approach presumes not only that that humans have an ‘inner ear’ as a natural characteristic of their constituency, but also that we have a ‘spiritual body’ (1 Cor. 15:44) and thus our ‘being’ is amenable to God’s influence in the entirety of our ‘inner man’ such that we are somehow physically sensitive to the metaphysical existence of God. This strange ‘con-fusion’ of the spiritual and the fleshly suggests what Thomas points to as an ‘indefinable point’ (Collected Poems 340), whereby the fusion of the spiritual and the physical occurs, which ultimately is nothing less than the incarnation itself. And yet this ‘indefinable point’ remains beyond the scope of any direct form of consciousness. In this poem, of course, Thomas begins with the ear: ‘Listen. Such language!’, and we suspect at first reading that the voice of the bird is what

204  Joanna Soćko enables us to hear the divine speech. But as ‘the message’ unfolds, the poet points to a much more surprising idea of reception through a specific ‘reading’ which engages our whole body. That is, he here inscribes the spiritual sensation in physical processes which, while their occurrence is not registered in human consciousness, are decisive for our life. Such a representation of the ‘message’ from God and its possible perception – internal and irrational – changes our perception of God’s speech into an unspeakable union. Or rather, this insistence reveals what it means to say that divine communication necessarily involves a physical communion. For Thomas here, reading God’s message involves a mutual, physical infiltration of the world and of humanity; it is not ‘merely’ an intellectual, intentional ‘grasping’ of a divine idea, but rather an interaction of two material realities. This mode of perception recalls the concept of another post-Husserlian thinker, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, whose notion of la chair is usually translated into English as ‘flesh’. This enigmatic claim, whose further development was precluded by the philosopher’s sudden death, suggests that what is physically discernible – Merleau-Ponty puts a special emphasis on visibility – has its own opaque thickness which is connected with its fleshly character. Unfortunately, and this brings us back to the notion of the ‘spiritual senses’, it is not easy to provide an elucidating definition of the flesh, as such an explanation would bring with it problems that become evident in Merleau-Ponty’s puzzling attempts to describe this concept: ‘The flesh is not matter, is not mind, is not substance. To designate it, we should need the old term “element,” in the sense it was used to speak of water, air, earth, and fire, that is, in the sense of a general thing’ (400). What the flesh implies, then, is not something which is specifically material, but rather materiality as such, or rather the potency of what is material. Here MerleauPonty tries to combine in this notion both the material qualities and various potentialities they entail: When we speak of the flesh of the visible … we mean that carnal being, as being of depths, of several leaves or several faces, a being in latency, and a presentation of certain absence, is a prototype of Being, of which our body, the sensible sentient, is a very remarkable variant. (414) The philosopher seems to touch on the mystery which somehow lines Thomas’s poetry, if in an enigmatic way – and this might be the only way in which we can reflect on this matter in such a philosophical discourse. By indicating that there is an invisible depth in everything visible, MerleauPonty emphasizes that this realm of invisibility is inseparably connected with the material character of what is visible. Moreover, he suggests that the flesh implies a certain kind of absence and latency – a deferral, as it were – of Being whose outstanding and aboriginal character is underlined by his use of the capital letter in Being, a notion similar to Thomas’s sense that this

R. S. Thomas and the matter of Logos  205 presence is often located in the microscopic, and thus for the naked eye in an ‘invisible’ realm of materiality: ‘the cell’s core’ or ‘the electron’ (Collected Poems 324, 345). Understood in this way, materiality is for both MerleauPonty and Thomas a realm of communication: ‘It is that the thickness of flesh between the seer and the thing is constitutive for the thing of its visibility and for the seer of its corporeity’, the philosopher argues, going on to say that ‘it is not the obstacle between them, it is their means of communication’ (397; emphasis added). And this communication, in a manner similar to how Thomas describes it, is not based on encoding and deciphering of particular ideas, but rather on a communion, even a ‘friendship’ – just as the philosopher writes about ‘a participation in and kinship with the visible’ (399). For both poet and philosopher, such a participation is a mode of cognition, depending on what one might think of as the epistemological character of the surrounding world – and it is important to underline that for Thomas, ‘the surrounding world’ mostly means nature as the creation of God. Thomas addresses this point explicitly in one of his early poems, ‘Amen’: in lines that refer to this religious, ‘trusty’ consent, here God asks a human being about the way in which he gains knowledge, and the person addressed with this question does not answer – one wonders as a reader whether this is because the question was not asked in a direct, conversational way – but goes ‘into the fields’ to find the truth. In this poem we see again how the poet perceives ‘the truth’ in a way that involves the mingling or ‘con-fusion’ of language and the materiality of nature: And God said: How do you know? And I went out into the fields At morning and it was true … The cold landscape returned my stare; There was no answer. Accept; accept. And under the green capitals, The molecules and the blood’s virus (Collected Poems 150) What is striking in this poem is the surprising characteristic of the landscape as being so alive that it ‘returns my stare’. We may be tempted to read this in a pantheistic way, suggesting that God himself ‘becomes’ the landscape. But Thomas’s way of perceiving this encounter seems far more complex than this, a point that becomes even clearer if read through the lens of Merleau-Ponty’s reflections as when he suggests that ‘[m]y body as a visible thing is contained within the full spectacle’ – that is, my body shares the ‘fleshy’ character of the Creation because it is ‘a visible thing’. This ‘staring’ landscape reminds us that we also are seen and, thus, belong to the same realm of the ‘flesh’ which constitutes the ‘bodily continuity with the world we perceive’ (Carman, 133). Thomas, however, consistently conjoins

206  Joanna Soćko this physical communion with communication, and indicates that although the landscape itself gives no answer it constitutes a kind of a message itself, since it is denoted as ‘green capitals’. And these ‘green capitals’ imply both the letters and the potentiality of matter. They may even suggest that the landscape is a realm of somebody’s habitation (where does the blood within the landscape come from?). And the person is able to recognize the depth of this realm only after his or her ‘trusty’ acceptance – ‘Accept, accept’ – which might be the consent for such a way of communication with God. Such a reading would confirm that, for Thomas, the act of Incarnation is not limited to the union between humanity and God, but rather involves the entirety of creation which becomes a mode of communication inevitably connected with a physical participation of both the human and the divine within the created world.

III The poem ‘Message’ offers an example of a fortunate communication crowned with a communion with the Creator, ending with optimistic lines that speak of God’s response: ‘Meet me, tomorrow, / I say, and I will sing it all over / again for you, when you have come to’. The lines suggest that the person will be given what he or she desires, which is to receive the ‘speech’ of God, in this case by hearing again the song God will sing through the bird – once he or she ‘comes to’, which is to say, emerges from the stupor of incomprehension, suggested by the poet’s reference to our being ‘anaesthetized on truth’s table’. It looks as if the incarnation of Logos here, as a message ‘sung’ by the bird, offers hope for a ‘friendship’, a ‘communion’, being the promise of a shared presence. But readers of the wider corpus of Thomas’s writings know full well that his poems often – if not usually – indicate that the human condition is characterized by a protracted and apparently hopeless waiting, rather than encountering the gift of such fortunate encounters. We find him addressing this theme of the unavoidable necessity of this deferment, to the point of causing doubt within us and requiring us to wait patiently for any hope of encountering God, in the poem ‘Emerging’ from the volume Frequencies: ‘Well, I said, better to wait / for him on some peninsula / of the spirit. Surely for one / with patience he will happen by / once in a while. It was the heart / spoke. The mind, skeptical as always…’ (Collected Poems 355). This sense of waiting – as if ‘on some peninsula / of the spirit’ for those with patience enough, for whom God ‘will happen by / once in a while’ – crowds Thomas’s poems, suggesting that any promise of presence suggested in the image of the bird’s singing will turn out to be a long hope at the very least, with the ‘sound’ of the logos elusive if not usually entirely absent. And it is important to note that Thomas, an experienced birdwatcher, feels that one must honor the fickle nature of Being: ‘Ah, but a rare bird is / rare. It is when one is not looking, at times one is not there / that it comes’ (Collected Poems

R. S. Thomas and the matter of Logos  207 306). It is not always, then, that the miracle of incarnation happens in a way which entails an active participation on our side. Thomas suggests as well that the miracle of Incarnation does not always happen as incarnated in a poem (in ‘Message’, in the bird’s singing – today, and perhaps ‘tomorrow’) since the Incarnation is a dynamic process with unpredictable effects. These ‘unpredictable effects’, returning here to Derrida, belong to the nature of language itself – or, more precisely, to the material character of language as such. One of his arguments against the transparency of the linguistic ‘medium’, which for him by no means constitutes a lucid ‘package’ carrying direct meanings, is based on how he views the physical qualities of language whose unexpected ‘games’ may produce additional, unintended, collateral significations. Language brings unpredictable events, according to Derrida, such that any meaning implied by language is never ‘fixed’: ‘This depends, as they say, on the context; but a context is never determined enough to prohibit all possible random deviation. To speak in the manner of Epicurus or Lucretius, there is always a chance open to some parenklisis or clinamen’ (My Chances 4). This puzzling comparison between the mechanisms of language and the characteristics of matter, earlier described by Epicurus and Lucretius, turns out to be important in understanding the context of Thomas’s variations on language ‘incarnations’, but also suggests analogies within the atomic stratum of materiality. A closer look at Derrida’s argument points to important similarities between the philosopher’s and the poet’s approaches to the materiality of language. In a lecture entitled ‘My Chances/ Mes chances: A Rendezvous with Some Epicurean Stereophonies’, Derrida reflects on the chances of communication by comparing the usage of language to the downward movement from ‘the highest’ – that is, from the point in which there is ‘the other’, a something beyond our reach. ‘The alterity of the other – that which does not reduce itself to the economy of our horizon – always comes to us from above’, he suggests, and to emphasize this point goes on to add, ‘indeed, from the above’ (‘My Chances’ 6; emphasis added). Derrida compares using language to casting a dice, since the outcome of the latter falls upon the participants of the game like a destiny, one which is strictly connected with the problem of destination – that is, with the delivery of a message to its probable or improbable addressee. Interestingly, the philosopher inscribes this hazardous casting in such a ‘downward movement’ characterized as a descent, one that is connected – among others – with Incarnation: Destiny and destination are dispatches whose descending trajectories or projection can meet with perturbation, which, in this case, means interruption or deviation. Within the same register we find … the unforeseeable and inexplicable fall from grace into original sin, or … the disseminating fall of the soul in a body. (‘My Chances’ 7)

208  Joanna Soćko It is exactly this ‘fall into sin’ as a ‘fall in a body’ that makes Derrida refer to Democritus, Epicurus and Lucretius, each of whom had reflected in just this sense on the qualities of matter – as if it were matter itself that included the contents of the message after the ‘fall’. In the course of this lecture, Derrida suggests that language itself is divided as if in the atoms of matter, which these philosophers of antiquity characterized by means of unexpected moves: ‘In the course of their fall in the void, atoms are driven by a supplementary deviation, by the parenklisis or clinamen that … produce the concentration of material thus giving birth to the worlds and things they contain’ (‘My Chances’ 7). Following Democritus, Epicurus and Lucretius, Derrida underlines the creative power of this strange veer, reminding us that Democritus invented the notion of the ‘swerves’ in order to explain the productivity of nature. What the deviation implies, then, is inherent in the act of creation itself. This swerving, however, is not easily detected as Derrida goes on to notice: ‘The clinamen diverges from simple verticality, doing so, according to Lucretius, “at an indeterminate moment” and “in indeterminate places”’ (‘My Chances’ 7). It seems that this ‘hidden point’ of the swerving resembles Thomas’s ‘indefinable point’, which for the poet is ‘the incarnation of a concept’ and ‘the moment at which a little becomes a lot’ (Collected Poems 340). Derrida seems to agree, noting that ‘without this declension, nature would have never created anything’ (‘My Chances’ 7), and his use of the word ‘declension’ suggests that this ‘swerve’ may refer to both matter and language itself. It is probably no coincidence that Thomas so frequently intersperses his poetry with vocabulary related to the atomic level of materiality. Locating the paradoxical – that is, absent but also acting – Being of God in ‘the cell’s core’ and ‘an electron’ as well as in a sign which is ‘the grammarian’s torment’, the poet shifts our attention to the indiscernible level of reality, where language and matter become one, a level which is at the same time the realm of creative power and indeed the very source of creation. Thus, Thomas like Derrida conjoins matter and language in such a chiasm that it is difficult to say which elucidates which. In a poem with a telling title ‘Nuclear’, a word that seems to refer to the potency of matter, the poet reflects on the specificity of God’s eloquence, suggesting that the Creator probably speaks, but if so ‘in ways we have yet to recognize as speech’ (Collected Poems 317). Here the poet emphasizes that God’s word is ‘explosive’, confirming that the potential energy of the material should be considered nothing other than the divine Logos. However, it is difficult to say whether in this case the word becomes matter or matter becomes the word, since while the word has the quality which we usually associate with atoms, matter also bears a resemblance to speech – since Thomas here calls it ‘eloquent’. Thomas’s poetry explicitly suggests that if we want to commune with the Logos we cannot disentangle this ‘con-fusion’, this entanglement of linguistic matter and material language. What we can do is to try to repeat this fusion of incarnation and creation, and thereby discern the miracle of

R. S. Thomas and the matter of Logos  209 divine embodiment in the creative power of poetry. In the poem ‘Emerging’, whose opening lines we explored at the outset of this chapter, we meet the person who waits for God as if ‘on some peninsula of the spirit’, and in vain turns to another way of experiencing the divine, coming to recognize that ‘[w]e are beginning to see / now it is matter is the scaffolding / of spirit; that the poem emerges / from morpheme and phonemes…’. The poet suggests, then, that such a dimension of reality exists in which language may become matter, and matter may become speech, and this dimension of reality is poetry. For precisely this is the ‘indefinable point’ which becomes a place of revelation, combining as it does in its creative power to ‘make’ – that is, poïesis – the linguistic with the material. It is precisely because of the fact that physics becomes meta-language, in Thomas’s poems, that language may ‘become’ the realm of metaphysics.

Note I am grateful to acknowledge that this chapter was written with the support of Research Project No. 2013/11/N/HS2/03523, financed by the Polish National Science Centre.

Works cited Carman, Taylor. Merleau-Ponty. London and New York: Routledge, 2008. Derrida, Jacques. ‘My Chances/Mes chances: A Rendezvous with Some Epicurean Stereophonies’. Taking Chances: Derrida, Psychoanalysis, and Literature. Ed. Joseph H. Smith and William Kerrigan. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984. 1–32. ——. Speech and Phenomena: And Other Essays on Husserl’s Theory of Signs. Trans. David B. Allison and Newton Garver. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973. Gavrilyuk, Paul L. and Coakley, Sarah. The Spiritual Senses: Perceiving God in Western Christianity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. McCumber, John. ‘Derrida and the Closure of Vision’. Modernity and the Hegemony of Vision. Ed. David Michael Levin. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. 234–252. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. ‘The Intertwining – the Chiasm’. The Merlau-Ponty Reader. Ed. Ted Toadvine and Leonard Lawlor. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2007. Rahner, Karl. ‘The Spiritual Senses According to Origen’. Theological Investigations. Vol. 16. Trans. D. Morland. New York: Seabury, 1979. 81–103. Rogers, Byron. The Man Who Went into the West: The Life of R. S. Thomas. London: Aurum Press, 2006. Thomas, R. S. Collected Poems 1945–1990. London: Phoenix, 2000. —— . Collected Later Poems 1988–2000. Tarset: Bloodaxe Books, 2004.

15 Incarnation and the feminine in David Jones’s In Parenthesis Jean Ward

In her discussion in this book of poetic ‘incarnations in the ear’, Angela Leighton recalls a fragment of St Thomas Aquinas’s famous Eucharistic hymn Adoro te devote in Gerard Manley Hopkins’s translation: ‘Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived; / How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed’ (Hopkins 211). Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur, / Auditu solo tuto creditur: the idea that hearing might be superior to the other senses, Leighton says, is everywhere in Hopkins. If she is right in this, one might expect her comment also to apply to David Jones, the author of In Parenthesis, given the profound, if elusive, influence of Hopkins on his poetics (Dilworth, ‘David Jones and Gerard Manley Hopkins’) and the fact that both writers were converts to Roman Catholicism from an Anglican background whose concept of art was fundamentally shaped by a sacramental framework of belief. But Jones was in the first instance a visual artist and continued to cultivate this art after he had also become a writer. Even within his writings, the constant incorporation of graphic devices suggests the high value he placed on the visual. As with Les Murray, whose work forms the centre of Leighton’s study, it was above all the Mass that drew Jones to Catholicism, but the description that he gives in Dai Greatcoat of his first experience of its celebration, seen through a ‘small gap in the wall’ of a barn during his service at the Western Front during the First World War, seems primarily to have been an experience of the visual, even also of the tactile, rather than of the auditory: not the dim emptiness I had expected but the back of a sacerdos in a gilt-hued planeta, two points of flickering candlelight no doubt lent an extra sense of goldness to the vestment and a golden warmth seemed, by the same agency, to lend the white altar cloths and the white linen of the celebrant’s alb and amice and maniple. … You can imagine what a great marvel it was for me to see through that chink in the wall, and kneeling in the hay beneath the improvised mensa were a few huddled figures in khaki. (249)

David Jones’s In Parenthesis  211 As Leighton reminds us, when asked about his conversion Les Murray spoke of being ‘fascinated by the sacramental bridge between earth and heaven that Catholicism offered, by the doctrine of the real presence’ (154). The word ‘presence’ is the leitmotif that runs through all Leighton’s reflections, but as she finds an undertone of doubt in the ‘trustiness’ of hearing in Hopkins’s question (‘How says trusty hearing?’), her own is weighted towards a negation of the very concept that so fascinated both Jones and Murray. Asking ‘is the ear, the least provable of the senses, for that very reason the most faithful conveyor of presence?’, she casts doubt on both the trustworthiness of hearing and the possibility of ‘Real Presence’ (151). Indeed, it is the other senses that she seems to privilege here as being ‘more provable’. This, leaving aside the issue of whether it is a fair interpretation of Hopkins, is an odd way of understanding the Eucharistic theology expressed in Aquinas’s hymn, in which the experience of the senses of sight, touch and taste is neither disregarded nor considered ‘more provable’; instead, it is taken to be insufficient, incomplete, incapable of perceiving the presence of the Godhead truly ‘hidden’ in this sacrament (latens Deitas). ‘Hearing’, on the other hand, may be understood not necessarily as inherently superior to the other senses, but as privileged in being the means by which faith comes (fides ex auditu; see Rom. 10:17), as we see from the continuation of the lines referred to by Leighton: Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius; / Nil hoc verbo veritátis verius (‘I believe what the Son of God has spoken; nothing is truer than this word of truth’). All the senses participate in the experience of God in the Eucharist, yet at the same time it is not they but the ‘word of truth’ that is the assurance of this presence. Jones, whose concept of art is founded on the doctrine of real presence in this sacrament, would certainly take issue with Leighton’s manner of posing her question. Nevertheless, perhaps surprisingly given the valuing of the visual recalled above, he frequently makes efforts to emphasize the importance of what can be ‘heard’. Thus he insists in the Preface to The Anathemata that he intended what he had written to be said: while marks of punctuation, breaks of line, lengths of line, grouping of words or sentences and variations of spacing are visual contrivances, they have here an aural and oral intention. You can’t get the intended meaning unless you hear the sound, and you can’t get the sound unless you observe the score. (35) As Elizabeth Jennings writes in some little-regarded reflections on In Parenthesis which I have discussed elsewhere (Ward 93–113), Jones’s ear is ‘as flawless as his eye’ (Jennings 160), and an emphasis on the importance of the ‘aural and oral’ is equally to be found in his Preface to this first of his ‘writings’ (In Parenthesis xi). The notes to this work are full of instructions

212  Jean Ward about how things should be read so as to sound as intended. Remarking on the ‘canonical wiseness conserved in an old man’s mumbling, the validity of material things, and the resurrection of this flesh’ (118), Jones writes of the Church’s ‘instinctive’ sense of the ‘efficacy of bodily acts’, expressed among other things in its insistence that the Divine Office must be said with the lips; here, the ‘bodily act’ in question is speaking, pronouncing the words of the Mass aloud (215, note 25; cf. McInerney 135–136). Incidentally, also, as we may conclude, these words are utterly ‘provable’, since they find their grounding in the materiality of an old priest’s ‘mumbling’. The musical word ‘score’ used in the passage from the Preface to The Anathemata, quoted above, is therefore no accident, for Jones understood his writings as ‘scripts’ of an analogous kind. Words as sound and music – and even the rough music of swear words, to which, as Randall Stevenson points out, Jones imparts ‘an almost religious or artistic function’ (55) – make their appeal to the ear: this is the bodily organ which, perhaps more than any of the others, as implied by Aquinas’s hymn, links the fleshly with the spiritual. The ‘dignity’ of the ear is also implied in the remarks that Leighton invokes from St Augustine’s treatise On Christian Doctrine. But Augustine emphasizes this dignity, together with that of language itself, even more clearly in a passage from Book XI of his Confessions, in which he ponders the paradox by which the ‘Eternal Word’ of God is communicated in time, by ‘words sounding in time’, by the ‘sounding and passing words’ of human language. ‘This is my beloved Son’: words that ‘passed by and passed away, began and ended; the syllables sounded and passed away, the second after the first, the third after the second, and so forth in order, until the last after the rest, and silence after the last’ (258). In Jones’s ‘writings’, analogously, the ‘sounding’ of words, their physicality – though to appearances immateriality – ‘reaches the mind of the listener through the fleshly ears’ (On Christian Doctrine 14). It is this material-spiritual quality of hearing as indeed ‘trusty’ that underpins the emphasis of In Parenthesis on ‘the aural and oral’. In the Confessions, the ‘bodily ear’ reports, so to speak, to the ‘inward hearing’ (258), and while one would not wish to claim for In Parenthesis the power to speak directly to this ‘inward ear’, there is something analogous to the process described by Augustine in the requirement that Jones’s text makes of the reader. Whether or not it is read aloud, it must be ‘listened to’ intently, both with the ‘bodily ear’ and in the imagining mind. The main text of In Parenthesis, Jones’s semi-autobiographical account of a soldier’s life at the Western Front between December 1915 and July 1916, opens abruptly with a summons by a sergeant to a private soldier who is identified only by number and surname, ’49 Wyatt, 01549 Wyatt: ‘Pick ’em up, pick ’em up’. We must surely imagine these words as a raucous yell. But what of the phrase that follows, chiming so oddly with this soldier language: ‘I’ll stalk within yer chamber’ (1)? The obvious out-of-tuneness of this phrase, not only with the particular situation evoked, but with the modern idiom in general, alerts the reader/listener, as so often in Jones’s

David Jones’s In Parenthesis  213 work, to the possibility of allusion, and hence signals another apparently far-removed context: that of the early sixteenth-century court, in which the first of the English sonneteers, Sir Thomas Wyatt, wrote his bitter poem ‘Remembrance’. This is the lament of a man who once was sought by many women, ‘stalking in [his] chamber’ (Gardner 35), but from whom they all now flee. He recalls ‘in special’ one particular woman, whose exquisite love is now turned into ‘a strange fashion of forsaking’. The world of In Parenthesis is certainly very far removed from that of Wyatt’s poem, but in some important respects the mood of the one is in tune with the mood of the other: first, in the general sense of forsakenness and betrayal; second, in the particular sense of inhabiting a world from which, to borrow a phrase from T. S. Eliot’s depiction of another ‘waste land’, ‘the nymphs are departed’.1 The world of the trenches that David Jones himself knew and that he depicts with such power in In Parenthesis is par excellence a man’s world; Thomas Dilworth recounts the artist’s pleasure after the battle of Mametz Wood in hearing the voice of the nurse at the casualty clearing station, ‘the first female English voice he had heard in seven months’ (David Jones 117). In the shouting of orders, which is what we first hear in In Parenthesis, women and the voices of women appear to be entirely absent. Even the titles of the seven parts focus attention exclusively on the male, beginning with Part I, ‘The Many Men So Beautiful’, recalling the scene in Coleridge’s ‘The Ancient Mariner’ when the cursed hero is left alone, surrounded by the bodies of his dead comrades (Gardner 533). Jones’s later work, The Anathemata, has rightly been described by Jacek Gutorow as ‘a record of various voices’ (195). But one has only to examine any small fragment of In Parenthesis to find that the same is true of this earlier work, in spite of the assumption by some critics that it has only one speaker or narrative voice.2 To hear these different voices is part of the intense work of listening that Jones’s writing enjoins on us. In this opening passage, we have, evidently, the voice of the sergeant and the replies of a variety of different soldiers. But we also have a voice from the past and from the literary tradition, in this case from Wyatt’s poem ‘Remembrance’. For the purposes of the present discussion, it is important to note two things: first, that all these voices are male, but second, that one of them, though male, implies the female, if only by its absence and by the yearning for it of the male subject. The same principle applies to the whole of In Parenthesis: the overwhelmingly masculine world that it depicts is filled with the hidden presence of the feminine.3 And here, if the phrasing calls Aquinas’s hymn to mind, this is surely not accidental, for the theology of a real though hidden presence lies behind all Jones’s art: absconditus, hidden, not ‘absconded’ in the modern English sense of the word. When we attune our ears – which according to Jones’s neo-Thomist, sacramental art are organs of ‘trusty hearing’ – to respond to this hidden element in In Parenthesis, we find it everywhere present. For example, when animals appear, they are consistently given female sex, beginning with the simile

214  Jean Ward on the very first page: ‘as ineffectual as an ostrich in her sand’. Similarly, some unnamed animal’s hoof strikes ‘against her wooden stall’ (16), while we hear, of horses ridden by officers, ‘her groomed flanks’ (4), ‘her bridle rein’ (5); in all these cases, the added emphasis brings to the surface what is embedded in the text. The apocalyptic-sounding ‘four horsemen’ of Part Five are evidently riding mares (124), and even in the idiom ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’, ‘horse’ is replaced by ‘mare’ (130). Shrapnel kills ‘Alice’s best layer [hen] and the C.O.’s mare’ (111). ‘The dog Belle’ (90) is evidently female, and ‘the mastiff-bitch’ reappears several times (e.g. 120); once, at the sound of soldiers’ singing ‘O my I don’t wantter die’, she ‘growled dangerously, and lifted her great collar of iron, to see what might so disturb her mid-afternoon slumber’ (130–131). The animal presence throughout In Parenthesis is consistently female: ‘White Artois geese would squawk, and sway a wide-beamed femininity between the drying garments spreaded out’ (117). Stevenson comments on the way that ‘equations of man and beast’ in the military language of the First World War frequently ‘extended into equivalences of man and machine’ (66), but there is a ‘special tenderness’ in Jones’s depictions of animals, as Kathleen Raine remarks (153); and this feminizing of the animal world in In Parenthesis may be regarded as an aspect of that tenderness, presenting a kind of counter to the reductive insensitivity of military language. A similar rule as for animals seems to apply also to the flowers mentioned in the text, chosen in part, apparently, for the feminine associations of their names (‘meadow-sweet and lady-smock’ [165]; emphasis added). Trees are also described in feminine terms, as with the ‘silver queenery’ of birch (165). What goes for the animal and plant world goes also for the landscape: it is not neuter but gendered, and the gender is feminine (sea [87], star [98]). While some of this arises from tradition (mother earth, queen moon, etc.) Jones develops and insistently emphasizes this gendered identity, as, for example, in his exploitation of the name ‘Mother of Rivers’ given to a Welsh mountain (131), and significantly, as we shall later see, such references are regularly resonant with liturgical implications: ‘The first star tremored: her fragile ray as borne on quivering exsultet-reed’ (98; emphasis added). The time focus of this part of In Parenthesis, as darkness creeps over No Man’s Land, is Christmas, but the effect of the allusion is to suggest the whole Incarnation story: from Nativity to the first hint of Resurrection in the fragile yet beautiful sound of the exsultet, sung in the darkness of the Easter vigil. It is no accident that ‘across the rare atmosphere’ of this night ‘you could hear foreign men cough, and stamp with foreign feet’. Indeed, ‘things seen precisely just now lost exactness’. For within the parabola of Incarnation distinctions between nations fade to insignificance, while the simple sounds of shared human bodiliness, coughing and stamping feet, come to prominence. In 1946, the BBC broadcast a radio adaptation of In Parenthesis by Douglas Cleverdon in which David Jones himself took part. And, on

David Jones’s In Parenthesis  215 14 November 2004, to mark Remembrance Sunday and the 90th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, this adaptation was revived, with the original script but new music. It features the voice of Sian Phillips as narrator of the action and also assigns women to the narration of thought and memory. This is a significant departure from the casting of the original production, in which these as well as all the other named roles were all taken by men, and it flies in the face of the consistent identification of the narrator as male by critics such as Kathleen Henderson Staudt (52).4 Nevertheless, it seems to me incontestable that the voices encoded in the written text include ones of exquisite tenderness that fully justify the choice of women to read these parts. The lovingly precise description of the injured landscape, for example (164–165), is redolent with the feminine, among others in its subtle recalling of a traditionally female craft, weaving: ‘iron warp with bramble weft / with meadow-sweet and lady-smock / for a fair camouflage’ [of snares and wires]. The pity of these ‘wood-ways’, with ‘this season’s fertility gone unpruned’, is that no ‘Jacqueline’ has come ‘to fill a pinafore with maythorn’ (168), and in the imagery that describes the effect of battle on this beautiful and delicate landscape, there is a strong suggestion of the violation of a woman (‘the forcing of the groves’, 169). If we admit the association of the domestic with the feminine, then the lines, astonishing in their lyrical beauty, that convey the terrible fragility of the world in images of eggshell and porcelain are yet another indication of Jones’s ‘feminizing’ of the landscape: ‘The sky overhead looked crisp as eggshell, wide-domed of porcelain, that suddenly would fracture to innumerable stars’ (97). In Part Five, the feminine perspective is represented by the figure of Alice at the French estaminet, occupied with ‘her glass-wiping’, counting the soldiers as they go past her window on their way to the front line. Her oil-lamp represents safety and warmth inside; her thoughts (‘she had wondered for these newer ones’) are gentle and compassionate, even if she can quarrel over the validity of the currency with which her customers want to pay (109) and even if to counter her husband’s dislike of the English she tells him that the war is lucrative (104–106). There is a chilling contrast between her perspective and language and that of the military report of the raid following this scene: clipped, impersonal, emotionless, verbs passive in form or meaning: The raid had been quite successful; an identification had been secured of the regiment opposite, and one wounded prisoner, who died on his way down; ’75 Thomas, and another, were missing … Private Watcyn was recommended for a decoration … the Commanding Officer received a congratulatory message through the usual channels. (106) The submerged female element is present often by its apparent absence from the male-centred landscape of In Parenthesis: in the soldiers’

216  Jean Ward affectionate longings, for instance for the sweetheart (it is Jones’s chosen word) who knitted the subaltern’s comforter at his aunt’s house in Stretton and expressed her love (‘the precious’) by making it ‘of double warp’ (35); in the postcards they write to mothers and sweethearts (8); in their reminiscences of kindly aunts (Private Ball’s aunt in Norwood, who sends him a ‘satisfactory parcel’ [181], makes repeated appearances in the text); in their recollections and memories of home, in which a variety of women feature, including Mrs Chandler and her ‘tom’ (160), old Mrs Pennyfeather with her ‘ex-professional finger’ and opinions about Evelyn’s operation (117) and Mrs Callahan praying for the dead and at the same time considering the ladder in her stocking (122). The submerged feminine also appears in some of the songs included or alluded to in the text of In Parenthesis: ‘Oh dear, what can the matter be?’, for example, is a line from a song that reminds of a woman’s voice and consciousness, even though it is a soldier who sings it here (48), while ‘The Low Low Lands of Holland’ is a lament by a woman whose newly wedded husband has gone for a soldier (33). Very importantly, the song ‘Lully lully’, which ‘no one sings’ over the fallen soldiers in the battle at the end of In Parenthesis, is the refrain from the anonymous medieval Corpus Christi Carol (Gardner 17), in which Christ is presented as a wounded knight, lamented by his weeping ‘make’: a woman. The feminine, then, is not absent, at least from the text, but it is hidden, accessible to hearing when not to sight. For Jones’s ordinary soldier, however, whether Welsh or English, the absence of women whether as sweethearts or as mothers is an acutely felt lack. Phrases in the text such as ‘you go like a motherless child’ (34) or ‘with almost motherly concern’, describing the way orders are given during the march to embarkation (7), imply this lack, as does the reference to the song a soldier’s mother sang to him as a lullaby (161).5 Yet as I have suggested, in the text as opposed to the soldiers’ experience, the figures of mother and sweetheart are very far from lacking. On the very title page, with its Welsh sub-title taken from Welsh bardic lore, translating (as explained by Jones himself in the notes) as ‘His sword rang in mothers’ heads’, the figure of the mother, absent from the soldier’s experience, is ‘made present’ – an appropriate phrase to describe the operations of Jones’s art – in the text. The Preface confirms the presence of this figure, and of the equally longed-for sweetheart, by recalling the apparently minor female figures in Shakespeare’s Henry V: the English are described as ‘the children of Doll Tearsheet’ (x), and Bardolph has a ‘marching kiss for Pistol’s “quondam Quickly”’ (xv). The Latin passage that opens Part 7 returns to the theme of these absent participants in the experience of their sons: ‘They said to their mothers: Where is corn and wine? when they fainted away as the wounded … when they breathed out their souls in the bosoms of their mothers’ (Lam. 2:12, Douay Bible6). In Part 7, the earth is frequently referred to as ‘mother’ (154), and more pointedly as ‘mother earth / she’s kind’ (176), as if to emphasize the painful lack of any other.

David Jones’s In Parenthesis  217 To understand how Jones makes the feminine as sweetheart present in the text though absent from the world depicted, we need to turn to the concluding quotations, where we find that two of the six – and, importantly, the one that concludes the whole work – are part of a woman-to-woman exchange: ‘What is thy beloved more than another beloved?’ ask the ‘daughters of Jerusalem’ in the Song of Songs (in the King James Bible quoted by Jones here), of that ‘fairest among women’ (5:9) who seeks him. The final quotation is this woman’s reply, a woman’s words to women, declaring the radiant beauty of her beloved: ‘THIS IS MY BELOVED AND THIS IS MY FRIEND’ (5:16).7 It is worth remarking here that while the origin of these words in ancient song points to their auditory quality, the capitalization, as one of the many graphic devices at work in the text, also gives the quotation a kind of non-verbal materiality, a visual as well as auditory kind of ‘presence’ that is analogous to the sacramental. The soldier’s longed-for sweetheart then inhabits the text in what we might call a kind of Thomist poetic of hidden presence, a matter to which we shall return. In addition to the concluding quotations, other reminders of the Song of Songs appear in In Parenthesis, such as the phrase ‘a little sister / whose breasts will be as towers’ (157), alluding directly to 8:8, 10, and the related reference to the moon, ‘and the calm breasts of her’ (51), which seems to link this symbol (whose associations for Jones we shall shortly discuss) with the feminine as both lover and mother. Very frequently, however, the representations that allude to the woman-lover aspect of the feminine involve distortion and travesty. Guinevere is a disturbing presence in the Malorian layer of the text, with the reminder of Lancelot ‘run[ning] want-wit in a shirt for the queen’s unreason’ (66). There are many hints of prostitution: ‘Good night Bess’ (29), for instance; ‘Von Kluck’s fancy lady’ – his mistress, presumably – and ‘the Armentieres lady’ of whom the soldier called Fatty sings (108). And, beside the distortion of the feminine evident in the soldiers’ disdainful nickname for the General, ‘Aunty Bembridge’, there are the more chilling references by the sergeant-major to each soldier’s rifle as ‘she’: ‘Cherish her, she’s your very own … You know her … by the deep scar at the small’ (183–184). This deeply disquieting element goes together with the unusual personification of death, not as male but as female: ‘sweet sister death’ suggests an allusion to St Francis of Assisi (Staudt 199–200), but this gentle figure modifies disturbingly into one who, like Hamlet’s Fortune, is a ‘strumpet’, who ‘makes no coy veiling of her appetite but leers from you to me with all her parts discovered’; who holds the hapless soldiers, ‘how-/ soever they may howl for their virginity’. The language of the concluding part of In Parenthesis frequently pictures the battle (and likelihood of death) as a distorted kind of marriage: ‘Wastebottom married a wife on his Draft-leave’, but is made impotent by a ‘whinnying splinter’; meanwhile, the nervously waiting John Ball, hoping the attack may be cancelled, asks ‘Won’t someone forbid the banns’ (157–158). As Jones supplies no question mark, the status of these words,

218  Jean Ward as question or desperate aspiration, is piteously unclear. The irony in the incongruous instruction ‘in all your bridal clobber’ (104) is picked up in this part, with a reference to the way that eventually, if you wait long enough, the ‘bridal-arranged paraphernalia gets tumbled’ and the relatives go home (159). It is worth noting in this context that Part 7 begins with a phrase from Psalm 131 in the Latin Vulgate, translated in the Douay Bible as ‘we have found it in the fields of the wood’, followed by a phrase in English: ‘and under every green tree’. This phrase occurs repeatedly in the Old Testament, often in combination with variants of ‘on the hills’, notably in the Book of Deuteronomy (‘Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree’, 12:2, KJV). One finds it also in the prophets, here alluding to the ‘adultery’ of Israel, who has ‘played the harlot’ after other gods: thus in the Book of Isaiah we hear the voice of the prophet’s protest: ‘Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks’ (57:5, KJV). And in Jeremiah it is powerfully present in the imagined remonstrance of a God whose love is ignored: ‘For of old time I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot’ (2:20, KJV). Later in Part 7 of In Parenthesis, the phrase ‘on the high hills’ (163) is slipped into a lament over fallen soldiers, as if suggesting the idea that war is an adulterous and unnatural rebellion. We may also consider here the prediction concerning the encounter with the so-called enemy: ‘in one another you will hate your own flesh’ (121). In its most obvious sense, this indicates the common humanity of soldiers on both sides. But it also brings yet another voice into the ‘script’, making a complex allusion, by way of St Paul’s advice on marriage, to suggest among other things the unnaturalness of war. In the apostle’s instructions to husbands on the way they should love their wives, the idea that a man might hate his own flesh is presented as an impossibility (Eph. 5:29). By referring to the pre-lapsarian order (‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh’, Gen. 2:24 KJV), St Paul also implies that a marriage in which a husband loves his wife as his own flesh is a re-creation of the paradisal order, a kind of redemption from the consequences of the Fall. The world of In Parenthesis, in which ‘in one another you will hate your own flesh’, shows what those consequences are: an absurd, impossible distortion of human nature. In all the ways in which In Parenthesis alludes to erotic love, however travestied or degraded, we feel the undercurrent of the bridal mysticism derived from the Christian tradition of interpretation of the Song of Songs, as exemplified pre-eminently by St John of the Cross, in the light of the relation between the soul and the Bridegroom Christ. Jones’s frequent invocations of this text clearly relate it to this tradition, for example, notably also by reference to song, in the quotation from ‘Quia amore langueo’ (‘Apples ben ripe

David Jones’s In Parenthesis  219 in my gardayne’, 83), in which the suffering Christ appeals to ‘My sister, man’s soul’ as ‘My fair love and my spouse bright!’ Most pointedly of all, we find an allusion to this tradition in Jones’s reference to a song we have already mentioned: none other than the Corpus Christi Carol. I suggested earlier that the soldier’s missing sweetheart inhabits the text in a kind of Thomist poetic of hidden presence. Evidently, though, there is a highly specific, even more obviously sacramental framework within which to interpret the submerged feminine element in the narrative of In Parenthesis, for here we are clearly within the circle of the longings expressed in Aquinas’s hymn, to taste the sweetness of Christ in the Eucharist: THIS IS MY BELOVED AND THIS IS MY FRIEND. This is a matter of such importance that we shall need to return to it, but before we can do so, we need to go deeper in our consideration of the other major aspect of the hidden feminine in In Parenthesis, that is the role of the woman as mother. This involves taking account of a figure who is ubiquitous in the text, but whose ‘hidden presence’ is hardly noticed by critics. While many commentaries on Jones’s later work, The Anathemata, such as Neil Corcoran’s The Song of Deeds, draw attention to the Marian element, Kathleen Raine is something of an exception in noting, first, that ‘no aspect of David’s work is more rich than his depictions of the feminine’, and in implying, second, the presence of the figure of the Blessed Virgin specifically in In Parenthesis (155). Mary is suggested in the most obvious way by the prevalence of her name, which appears repeatedly, sometimes but by no means always in a religious context (e.g. ‘Mary-Helps’, 149), and sometimes with reference to a person (‘Royal Mary’, 142) or as a place name (Ste. Marie Cappel, 93; Mary-Cray, 161). For the soldiers wounded in the battle at the end of In Parenthesis, there are no ‘weeping Maries bringing anointments’ (174), a phrase that recalls the particular ‘Marys’ of the gospels who come to the tomb to anoint Christ’s body for burial, as well as suggesting the absence of the last rites for these hapless soldiers at their own Golgotha. The figure of Mary is suggested not only by repetitions of her name, however, but also by language that recalls the vocabulary of the Annunciation or points more broadly to Marian theology. Yet if the reader does not ‘listen’ to such echoes of biblical, liturgical and theological language in the text, this presence can easily pass unnoticed. This seems to be the case with Staudt’s account of the feminine element in In Parenthesis, in which the Virgin Mary is listed variously alongside other ‘mourning … female deit[ies]’ (89) or ‘goddess[es] associated with nurture and the cycles of nature’ (95; emphases added). Jones would undoubtedly object to these terms, and Staudt does not seem to hear the echoes of liturgical language that pervade the text with Marian theology. No doubt she is right to see in the Queen of the Woods ‘the fullest embodiment of the feminine principle in In Parenthesis’ (99), but I would argue that this is as much as to say that the figure of Mary is this embodiment. For a reader prepared to ‘listen’ mentally, the inner ear – even if closer to what Angela Leighton in another context calls ‘the mind’s ear’ (On Form

220  Jean Ward 198–219) than it is to the spiritual ear of St Augustine’s City of God, which she also invokes, or to the ‘inward hearing’ of the passage from the Confessions referred to above – must surely register both the intense poetry of this passage and its emphasis both on bodiliness and on the physical discomfort of the soldier: Intermittent gun flashing had ceased; nothing at all was visible; it still rained in a settled fashion, acutely aslant, drenching the body; they passed other bodies, flapping, clinking, sodden; moving west, moving invisible, never known, no word said, no salutation. (33) What is less noticeable at first is the concluding phrase, ‘no salutation’ by troops passing one another on the road (33): it is not necessarily an inappropriate word in the context, and the Marian association might therefore seem merely coincidental, but not when we consider that the news of the birth of twins to one of the soldiers is described later as ‘his annunciation’ (130), or when we note the prevalence in the text of other phrases familiar from St Luke’s account of the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary, such as ‘troubled in their minds’ (27), ‘and in what manner it should be’ (138). Similarly, the choice of the Marian word ‘visitations’ (93) to describe the safe visits by politicians to the trenches ‘in quiet areas’ might seem to have no special significance – that is, until we read of these visitors that ‘[s]ometimes … they do appear – immaculate, bright-greaved ambassadors, to the spirits in prison’. In the account of the battle in Part 7, the damaged landscape includes ‘birch whose silver queenery is draggled and ungraced’ (164), while of the common soldier Jones writes: ‘you move forward in your private bright cloud like / one assumed / who is borne up by an exterior volition’ (164). In all cases, of course, the emphasis is added, but even without it the line division would make it impossible not to notice the word ‘assumed’, so apparently out of place in this context. Astonishingly, we find a Marian reference even in a comment on the injured Mr Donne, evidently a recruit to the army from the leisured classes: ‘What brought him to this type of place, why his immaculate legs should carry him, jodhpurs and all, so far from his proper sphere, you simply can’t conceive’ (87). ‘Immaculate’ alone might seem a merely jocular reference to Mr Donne’s incongruously clean and neat attire, but combined with the word ‘conceive’, it places him in an even more incongruous religious context. Equally remarkable is the Marian word in the phrase ‘immaculate Abdullas’ (72), in a passage which links the name of a then fashionable brand of cigarette with a reminiscence both of biblical language (Jones himself points to Numbers 20:10 in his notes to this passage, 206) and, perhaps most significantly, of the Eucharistic liturgy (the corporal ‘dispenses’ cigarettes as a priest might ‘minister’ to the faithful with ‘the precious’ elements at communion, 73).

David Jones’s In Parenthesis  221 Indeed, whatever the ostensible subject, the language of In Parenthesis constantly calls to mind the figure of Mary: in the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Assumption, suggesting that there is no ‘proper sphere’ to which she does not belong. In the context of these reflections on the language of In Parenthesis, it is worth examining the way in which Jones exploits the already mentioned symbol of the moon. Of course this symbol is associated in tradition and literature with the feminine, but Jones takes this beyond tradition to point unequivocally to the figure of Mary, who, we recall, was ‘troubled’ at the angel Gabriel’s announcement, ‘blessed art thou among women’, and ‘cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be’ (Lk. 1:29, KJV). As ‘cloud shielded her [the moon’s] bright disc-rising’, the soldiers are ‘troubled in their minds’. In the meantime, John Ball senses in this night ‘a kind of blessedness … a whole unlovely order this night would transubstantiate, lend some grace to’ (27), where the word ‘transubstantiate’ – as with the ministrations of the corporal dispensing cigarettes referred to above – hints at Mary’s silent presence wherever there is a reminiscence of the Eucharist. When the rain stops, ‘[s]he [the moon] drives swift and immaculate out over’; her ‘silver beams … grace this mauled earth – / transfigure our infirmity – / shine on us’ (35; emphasis added) – and the indicatives become indistinguishable from imperatives, seeming to turn into pleas or prayers. As John Ball looks up at ‘the journeying moon’, he reflects that, even if it was ‘a bugger of a time ago’, ‘[i]n the cleft of the rock they served Her in anticipation – and over the hill-country that per-bright Shiner stood for Her rod-budding’ (39, cf. Blamires 100). The ‘hill-country’, the home of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, is no accidental phrase, and the capitalization of the pronoun makes clear the association of the moon with Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, even without the elucidation in Jones’s note of how the Incarnation is prefigured in ancient forms of worship (196). The figure of Helen Camulodunum with ‘her ample bosom’ (Jones in the notes calls her ‘a majestic figure out of the shadows of the last ages in Roman Britain’, 209) is another of the prefigurings of Mary, the Mother of God: she is ‘commemorated’ in unmistakable terms that recall the medieval Marian hymn Salve Regina (‘she’s clement and loving’, ‘O dulcis’), Marian theology (‘our Mediatrix’) and even the consecration of England to the Blessed Virgin by the young Richard II (‘the island which is her dower’) (80–81). The motif of the feminine in its erotic aspect, as I have already implied, may be seen as culminating in the redemptive bridal mysticism, with its profound Eucharistic associations, that is found in In Parenthesis’s concluding quotation, ‘THIS IS MY BELOVED AND THIS IS MY FRIEND’. But as the work draws to a close, the maternal aspects of the feminine also reach a culmination, and as I hope to show, these two strands, apparently parallel, are finally woven together into an astonishing unity. First, however, let us look closely at one of the final scenes, in which we find the following climactic passage:

222  Jean Ward … mother earth she’s kind: Pray her hide you in her deeps she’s only refuge against this ferocious pursuer terribly questing. Maiden of the digged places let our cry come unto thee.   Mam, moder, mother of me Mother of Christ under the tree. (176–177) In this passage, a prayer to ‘mother earth’ (‘Pray her hide you in her deeps’) turns by way of the allusive word ‘refuge’ (one of the titles of the Mother of God in the Litany of Loreto is ‘Refuge of sinners’) into a plea that is also reminiscent of some Marian litany (‘Maiden of the digged places / let our cry come unto thee’), only to become a desperate childlike cry to one particular Welsh mother, ‘Mam’, which then, via the Middle English ‘moder’, modulates into a cry to all mothers. The reminiscence of one of Hopkins’s ‘terrible sonnets’ in the phrase ‘mother of me’ – in ‘No worst, there is none’, the desperate speaker calls out, ‘Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?’ (100) – leads in turn to the concluding address made to the ‘Mother of Christ under the tree’. Here the hidden presence of the feminine in the text becomes an utterly visible one in the summoning of the image of Mary at the foot of the Cross – silent but not hidden; Mary in her most bitter moment, Our Lady of Sorrows, as her Incarnate Son is the ‘Man of Sorrows’ (Isa. 53:3). The prayer quoted above precedes the ‘screaming passage’ of a shell on which ‘their numbers writ’ (177), a shell that explodes and kills both the fearfully maimed Dai and his stretcher-bearers in apparently hideous mockery of the soldier’s desperate supplication. Perversely parodying the liturgy of the Mass, Jones describes these ‘fields of holocaust’ as a sacrifice ‘neither approved nor ratified not made acceptable but lighted to everlasting partition’ (162). But the soldier’s prayer is made to the one who stands at the foot of the Cross; it surely can lead to no other conclusion. The Cross is where the annunciation of Incarnation leads her, but it is also the place where, as the words of Christ from the Cross in St John’s Gospel (‘When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!’ [19:26]) are traditionally interpreted to mean, she is appointed by her Son to be Mother of all. The Cross, accordingly, is the place where, in Jones’s vision, not only the soldier of the First World War but also all of more or less innocently suffering humanity meet, including the ordinary Welsh mother whom the dying soldier calls ‘Mam’. The world of the trenches that the author himself knew is rendered in this ‘writing’ in poetic prose or prose poetry whose beauty is the appalling beauty of the Stations of the Cross, in which the central

David Jones’s In Parenthesis  223 figure is the suffering and dying Christ. The common soldier for Jones, as also frequently for Wilfred Owen – though with a sacramental rather than symbolic underpinning (Martin Dubois) – is identified in In Parenthesis, following the visual hint offered by the original frontispiece and tailpiece, with the Crucified, whose torn body is the Good Friday consequence of the Incarnation. But Christ cannot come into the world without the mediation of a woman, and in Christian tradition it is this woman, Mary, who also stands at the foot of the Cross, sharing in her son’s death as she shared in his birth. In In Parenthesis, it is she, the ‘Mother of Christ under the tree’, to whom the dying soldier cries out. Without the feminine, incarnation cannot take place, and without it, too, the author’s metaphor of the war as an (illusory) bracket reflecting the whole nature of ‘our curious type of existence’ in the world would have no meaning (Preface xv). The reminder of the Annunciation at the beginning of Part 3 follows on from a quotation from the rubrics of the Good Friday Office, thus endorsing the link between Mary at the Annunciation and Mary at the foot of the Cross. Pope John Paul II referred to this link in an encyclical of 1987 issued, significantly, on the Feast of the Annunciation, in which he spoke of a ‘second Annunciation’ made by Simeon to Mary at the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, telling her of the actual historical situation in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely, in misunderstanding and sorrow. While this announcement on the one hand confirms her faith in the accomplishment of the divine promises of salvation, on the other hand it also reveals to her that she will have to live her obedience of faith in suffering, at the side of the suffering Saviour, and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful. (Redemptoris Mater 16) A similar link between Mary at the Annunciation and Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, is made in Part 7 of In Parenthesis, with its references – one of several in this part of the text8 – to the ‘Little Hours’ (153), the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to the soldiers waiting at dawn, all ‘in a like condemnation / to the place of a skull’, Private Ball with only ‘the whitechalk womb [of the earth] to mother him’ (154). Other references to the earth as womb also occur in the text, as, for example, the phrase ‘wombed of earth’ to describe men dug in to ‘small … concavities’ (75). Elsewhere, too, the earth is depicted as (damaged) female: ‘Her fractured contours dun where soon his [the sun’s] ray would show more clear her dereliction’ (59). Evidently, Jones mocks the understandable but foolish travesty of the Salve Regina that ‘all the old women in Bavaria’ are imagined to make: O clemens, O pia and turn all out of alignment the English guns amen. (149)

224  Jean Ward For in In Parenthesis, all – Welsh, English, French, German, no matter – are ‘in a like condemnation / to the place of a skull’. And Mary, the Mother of God, the Holy Virgin, Queen of Heaven, stands there with them at the foot of the Cross, for all time and all people. There are no distinctions of race. ‘The other one’, the German soldier wounded by Private Ball, ‘cries out from the breaking buck-thorn … for Elsa, for Manuela’ and for his parish priest, just as the wounded Welsh soldier calls out for his own ‘Mam’ and the Mother of Christ; and the Queen of the Woods brings garlands of flowers to each of the dead, regardless of rank or race. Jon Silkin points out that in Jones, ‘Unlike society, which honours its dead soldiers collectively, nature honours each individually’ (331) and makes no distinctions in virtue of rank or class. There are indications, however, that the Queen of the Woods who honours the dead at the close of In Parenthesis represents not only Nature but also ‘Mary Queen’, who in ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, for example, reveals her power over the natural world: ‘She sent the gentle sleep from Heaven, / That slid into my soul’ (Gardner 534). Significantly, Jones alludes to this poem – yet another of the voices of this ‘writing’ – in the title of the very first part of In Parenthesis, as already remarked, and returns to it in Part 7 when the wounded John Ball’s rifle is described as hanging at his neck ‘like the Mariner’s white oblation’ (184). Furthermore, the phrase ‘he will reign with her for a thousand years’, applied with such gentle incongruity to the dead soldier called Fatty, to whom the Queen of the Woods brings ‘sweet-briar’, merges an allusion to Christ’s reign in heaven from the Book of Revelation with the image of Mary as Queen of Heaven (‘Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years’, Rev. 20:6). In his Preface, Jones recalls the Welsh courtly procedure in which ‘the Bard of the Household is instructed to sing to the Queen when she goes to her chamber to rest’ and the first song that he must sing is ‘a song in honour of God’. In the Litany of Loreto, the Virgin Mary is hailed as Queen in a long list of titles, beginning with ‘Queen of Angels’. Given the discreet but powerful presence of the feminine in the text of In Parenthesis, and the way in which this presence consistently though unobtrusively points towards the figure of Mary as its essence and culmination, we are surely justified in putting a Marian interpretation on the declaration that follows this account in the Preface: ‘I have tried, to so make this writing for anyone who would care to play Welsh Queen’ (xiii). The Welsh Queen is merely the first of many prefigurings in In Parenthesis of ‘Mary Queen’, and In Parenthesis itself is an expression of Marian devotion: it is in praise of Mary, the Mother of God and Mother of humanity, Our Lady of Sorrows, Comforter of the afflicted, the condition of Incarnation and the pledge of Redemption, that Jones writes. Amid all the carnage – it is the word that springs most easily, even tritely, to mind, yet, with its root in the same word as ‘incarnation’,

David Jones’s In Parenthesis  225 it has a startling appropriateness here – and never taking its eye from this carnage, in which ‘flesh’ and ‘mortality’ come to recognition of themselves and officer and private soldiers are ‘distinguished only in their variant mutilation’ (172), In Parenthesis nevertheless, astoundingly, prays the same prayer as begins the Little Office of Sext in the Roman breviary, to which Jones directs attention in his notes to the concluding sequence (223): Remember, O Creator Lord! That in the Virgin’s sacred womb Thou wast conceived, and of her flesh Didst our mortality assume. Mother of grace, O Mary blest! To thee, sweet fount of love, we fly: Shield us through life, and take us hence To thy dear bosom when we die. O Jesu! born of Virgin bright Immortal glory be to Thee; Praise to the Father infinite, And Holy Ghost eternally. Amen. I have claimed in this chapter that the whole world of In Parenthesis is suffused with the feminine. It is hidden in every aspect of the natural world, in the soldiers’ longings, in the figures evoked in song and cultural allusions of every kind. In Dai Greatcoat, Jones wrote of ‘the whole desire for feminine thing embodied in this flesh’ (240); he made of In Parenthesis an expression of this desire. But this is not all. In the essay ‘Art and Sacrament’, he dignifies ‘this flesh’, describing the body as ‘not an infirmity but a unique benefit and splendour; a thing denied to angels and unconscious in animals’; it is the ‘unique good’ without which there would be no sacrament (Epoch and Artist 165, 167). In the intense incarnational emphasis, in the passage quoted above, of the phrase ‘distinguished … in their variant mutilation’, there is not only a suggestion of the taking up of all suffering into the suffering of Christ, but also a hint of another kind of ‘distinction’: this allusion leads us to think of the ‘glorious wounds’ of Christ who ‘became flesh’, and of the Eucharist, which is always, as in Aquinas’s hymn, memoria mortis Domini (in Hopkins’s translation, ‘our reminder of Christ crucified’). As it is, in the terms of Jones’s ‘Art and Sacrament’, an anamnesis and making present, so it is also a ‘making present’ of Mary, the silent witness at the foot of the Cross, the ‘Mediatrix’ of God’s Incarnate presence, the help of Christians even in the ‘digged places’ and – yes – the model of the soul’s union with Christ the Bridegroom: THIS IS MY BELOVED AND THIS IS MY FRIEND. ‘Mary Queen’, as Coleridge put it: the embodiment of the longings of ‘this flesh’, in whom the created world is seen as transfigured; the ‘hidden presence’ of In Parenthesis.

226  Jean Ward

Notes 1 The association with Eliot that I imply here is justified by several allusions in the text of In Parenthesis. Jones describes him as ‘the greatest English poet of our own time’ (note 42 to Part 4, 212), and makes use of the same legend as gives shape to The Waste Land, particularly in Part 4, entitled after Malory ‘King Pellam’s Launde’. 2 Kathleen Henderson Staudt, for example, refers to the ‘maker, the surviving poet – the speaker of In Parenthesis’ (64). 3 Given this emphasis on the feminine in In Parenthesis, it is worth noting Jones’s complaint about Oswald Spengler, whose writings he in many ways greatly admired, that ‘he has liquidated Juno. It is a male thought-world entirely’ (letter to Harman Grisewood, Dai Greatcoat 115). Similarly, in another letter to the same friend, he concurs with Grisewood’s view that ‘Dante fails to convey “this flesh” or the whole desire for feminine thing embodied in this flesh’ (240). 4 The names appearing in the cast list for the 1946 production are all male; they include, incidentally, Dylan Thomas and Richard Burton. However, Douglas Cleverdon quotes a passage from the script for this production in which a ‘woman’s voice’, appropriately, answers the wounded soldier’s terrified call, ‘Mam, don’t let it’, with the words ‘There, there, it can’t, won’t hurt – nothing shall harm my beautiful’ (Word and Image IV 52). Although the name of the actress is not listed, the original production thus admits the presence of a female voice at least at this crucial point in the narrative. 5 In the note to this passage, Jones recalls his own mother, saying that this is the first song he can remember her singing to him. 6 I have used this translation here as it is the one to which Jones refers in his notes to this part of the text (220). Elsewhere I refer to the King James Version as being the other translation with which Jones was deeply familiar (see Dai Greatcoat, 190). 7 In the 2004 recording, however, it is a male voice that sings these final words – not, though, at the end, but just after the voice of the author, reading the final paragraph of the Preface. 8 For example, in note 29 to Part 7 (223).

Works cited Augustine, St. Confessions. Trans. R. S. Pine-Coffin. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1961. ——. On Christian Doctrine. Trans. D. W. Robertson, Jr. New York: The Library of Liberal Arts, 1958. Blamires, David. David Jones: Artist and Writer. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1978. Cleverdon, Douglas. ‘Introduction to the Exhibition of Paintings, Engravings and Writings of David Jones’ at the National Book League, 1972; also in Word and Image IV. Chatham: National Book League, 1972. Corcoran, Neil. The Song of Deeds: A Study of The Anathemata of David Jones. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1982. Dilworth, Thomas. ‘David Jones and Gerard Manley Hopkins’. Hopkins Among the Poets: Studies in Modern Responses to Gerard Manley Hopkins. Ed. Richard F. Giles. Hamilton, ON: International Hopkins Association, 1985. 53–57. ——. David Jones in the Great War. London: Enitharmon Press, 2012. Dubois, Martin. ‘Siegfried Sassoon’s Release, David Jones’ Formation’. Literature and Theology 24.1 (2011): 79–91.

David Jones’s In Parenthesis  227 Gardner, Helen, Ed. The New Oxford Book of English Verse. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972. Gutorow, Jacek. ‘Światło w ruinach. O dwóch reakcjach na koniec pewnego świata’ [Light in the Ruins: On Two Reactions to the End of a Certain World]. Literatura na Świecie 5/6 (2001): 192–199. Hopkins, Gerard Manley. Poems. Ed. W. H. Gardner and N. H. MacKenzie. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970. Jennings, Elizabeth. Seven Men of Vision. London: Vision Press, 1976. Jones, David. The Anathemata. London: Faber and Faber, 1972. ——. Dai Greatcoat. A Self-Portrait of David Jones in his Letters. Ed. René Hague. London: Faber and Faber, 2008. ——. Epoch and Artist. Ed. Harman Grisewood. New York: Chilmark Press, 1959. ——. In Parenthesis. London: Faber and Faber, 1963. ——. In Parenthesis. Adapted for radio and produced by Douglas Cleverdon. The Third Programme: 19.11.1946. Programme notes. BBC Written Archive Centre. ——. In Parenthesis. Adapted for radio by Douglas Cleverdon. Radio 3. Sunday, 14 November 2004, 20:00–21:30. Radio. Leighton, Angela. On Form. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. McInerney, Stephen. The Enclosure of an Open Mystery: Sacrament and Incarnation in the Writings of Gerard Manley Hopkins, David Jones and Les Murray. Bern: Peter Lang, 2012. Pope John Paul II. Redemptoris Mater. Papal Encyclical. Rome. 25 March 1987. Web. Raine, Kathleen. ‘David Jones’. Agenda 35.1 (1997): 148–157. Silkin, John. Out of Battle: The Poetry of the Great War. London and New York: Ark Paperbacks, 1987. Staudt, Kathleen Henderson. At the Turn of a Civilization: David Jones and Modern Poetics. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994. Stevenson, Randall. Literature and the Great War 1914–1918. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Ward, Jean. ‘Visiting an Artist: Elizabeth Jennings Contemplates the “Assiduous Craft” of David Jones’. Poets of the Past: Poets of the Present. Ed. Monika Szuba and Tomasz Wiśniewski. Gdańsk/Sopot: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Gdańskiego, 2013.

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Epilogue Poetry as vehicle of divine presence David Brown

In this concluding chapter of the volume I begin by setting the preceding reflections in a wider frame, by exploring the way in which contemporary philosophical and theological assumptions differ from patterns of thought that once dominated Christian self-understanding. Subsequently, I consider what implications such changes might have for our reception of poetry. Although the three key changes that I here sketch might well seem to set us inevitably at a much greater distance from God, I contend that this is not necessarily so, not least once sufficient heed is given to the incarnational theme that has pre-occupied so much of the earlier discussion. As I here suggest, the Incarnation proclaims the linking of material and immaterial worlds and that is what is achieved more generally according to Christianity in the world’s sacramental character, and in the corresponding ability of the symbolic to draw us from one world into another. Having indicated something of the general character of that possibility in the first part of the chapter, in the second part I then explore what poetry might specifically contribute as a response to these three modern challenges. In particular, I want to examine how it might function as a vehicle of divine presence, by opening readers to the possibility of experiencing the divine for themselves.

The changed intellectual climate: three key changes The collapse of theistic arguments When precisely the need for proofs of God’s existence came to dominate philosophical discussion and what were the main impulses for such a way of seeing things is a matter of some contention among intellectual historians. Three significant books in this connection are Michael Buckley’s At the Origin of Modern Atheism (1987), Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age (2007) and Michael Gillespie’s The Theological Origins of Modernity (2008). Although they differ greatly over when precisely change set in, their common contention is that the problem begins when religious belief comes to be seen as an inference from something else rather than itself directly experienced as part of the air we breathe, as it were. Charles Taylor wants to

230  David Brown blame the Reformation when there ceased to be a common culture, but one might equally well go back as far as Aquinas with his five proofs for God’s existence. Although modern attempts to disengage Thomas from later NeoThomism of the kind typified by Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange are largely successful (see, e.g., Kerr), the new influence from Aristotle that Aquinas made possible did after all have considerable impact in generating demands for a rational structure whereby God in effect became an inference rather than part of immediate human experience. Surprisingly, such a view even became part of the official teaching of the Catholic Church in the nineteenth century (Denzinger and Schönmetzer 3026). Yet most contemporary Christian philosophers would now concede that such contentions were considerably overblown. Bridging the gap between the empirical world and the divine in this way (by argument) was simply not the right way of going about things. Despite modern attacks on the other-worldly character of the Platonism that Aquinas’s use of Aristotle began to supplant, Platonism did have one obvious advantage over the newcomer. Its primary metaphors of participation and imitation (as in Plato’s theory of Forms) did suggest nature and humanity already in some sense bridging the two domains of earthly and heavenly realities, and it is precisely this same aim that talk of the sacramentality of the world was intended to reflect in more explicitly theological terms. Platonic and sacramental language had in fact run hand in hand in much theological reflection of the first millennium. Although the second millennium was to see considerable decline in both, French Nouvelle Théologie (see Boersma) and the Second Vatican Council at least represented a return to that wider sense of sacramentality, if not to Platonism. To illustrate what might be meant by sacramental participation of this kind, let me remind the reader of the opening lines of a familiar poem, Gerard Manley Hopkins’s ‘God’s Grandeur’: The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil Crushed. (66) The suggestion is of an immediate experience, and as such contrasted with the effect of trade, Hopkins’s point being that with trade, trees and so forth come to be valued only for their timber and not in their own right. So nature comes to be viewed purely instrumentally (i.e. with some further purpose) and not intrinsically, just as it is in itself, as a divine creation. One writer who pursued that insight extensively was Britain’s greatest art critic of the nineteenth century, John Ruskin. In his view human art was at its best when imitating nature, principally because nature as a divine creation itself brought us closer to the ultimate source of all creativity. Indeed, despite his Calvinist roots Ruskin insists that nature does not merely point

Poetry as vehicle of divine presence  231 to God but can itself provide experience of the divine nature (II.3 v–x). So, for example, a seascape stretching to infinity is said not just to point to the possibility of a similar infinity in God, but also to allow us the actual possibility to experience such infinity as one of the divine’s own distinctive attributes. In Ruskin’s own words, ‘light receding in the distance is of all visible things the least material, the least finite, the farthest withdrawn from the earth … the most typical of the nature of God, the most suggestive of the glory of his dwelling place’ (II.3, v, 45). While that makes Ruskin sound very similar to many of his predecessors writing on the sublime, in fact he distinguishes six different ‘types’ of beauty, each of which has the capacity, he suggests, to mediate a particular divine attribute: infinity or incomprehensibility, unity or comprehensiveness, repose or permanence, symmetry or justice, purity or energy, and moderation or restraint. In these ideas he was almost certainly influenced by Wordsworth, even his favoured term, ‘types’, being one such borrowing. It is often said that such attitudes towards nature could not survive the discoveries of Darwin. But even though the strength of Ruskin’s certainty of such an intimate connection between nature and God was severely tested by Darwin’s new theories, it is by no means clear why this should have been so. Strange creatures that had anticipated human beings were already known to the biblical authors in the form of Behemoth and Leviathan, and so far from finding them repulsive, an author like Job can detect God’s delight in such variety of forms (Job 40:15–41:34). More recently, a poetic writer like Annie Dillard in her profound meditation Pilgrim at Tinker Creek well illustrates how even direct confrontation with ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ need not undermine such a sense of divine presence within nature. While frankly confessing her perplexity at nature at its most brutal and wasteful, as with the giant water bug and praying mantis (18–20, 60–67), she insists on refusing such encounters decisive sway. Instead, they are held in creative tension with how nature appears elsewhere, with its author a ‘spendthrift genius’ also displaying ‘extravagance of care’ (70, 117). In other words, argument remains, in her view, the wrong category in which to view the symbols of creation. We can experience God in nature, even if at times our encounters are quite the reverse. And of course it is not only nature that can be experienced sacramentally in this way. Much of human experience can similarly function so, as, for example, when human love acts as a cipher for divine love. The collapse of dualism A second major problem that modern philosophical reflection poses for any attempt to bridge the gap between God and ourselves is the fact that few intellectuals now believe in the conception of humankind – inherited from Platonism – that dominated most of Christian history, which presumes that we inhabit two worlds. Technically known as dualism, this conception spoke of human beings as consisting of two substances, mortal bodies and

232  David Brown immortal souls, and thus of inhabiting both the visible earth as the home of matter and an invisible reality that is the home of minds, ours and God’s. Today we have been returned instead to what is also the more common biblical picture of human beings as psychosomatic unities, mind and body entirely interdependent, with our surviving death only thanks to divine action and not because of anything inherent in the way we have been made. If such a conclusion excludes any sense of our being innately linked to heaven (the invisible world that is God’s), the question then of course becomes acute as to whether there might be any alternative way of making the connection. I would suggest that there is, through appeal to the sacramental imagination – that is, an appeal no longer to the fundamental nature of our minds but rather to how those minds work. Human beings learn the use of words in application to the sensible world. So clearly, if the jump to the divine is to be made, language will need to be stretched in analogies, images and metaphors, what are in effect the common tools of the imagination. Perhaps the relevance of all the imaginative arts can be expressed most clearly by making explicit the parallel between symbol in action, metaphor in writing and image in the visual arts, and revealing how the theological notion of sacramentality is based on a similar structure. Consider, first, the traditional sacraments. Each involves an action that by doing one thing intends another: the consecration of bread and wine to become the body and blood of Christ; the exchange of rings to establish a permanent relation between two individuals; the anointing of a dying person’s body to prepare for life in another world, and so on. Works of the imagination, irrespective of the medium, appear similarly founded. The metaphors of the poet are intended to take us from one sphere of discourse to another, the images of the artist from one visual image to another (suitably refocused), while a medium like ballet is full of symbolic acts under which gestures of the body are intended to imply acts performed quite differently in ordinary life. Even prior to his conversion to Anglo-Catholicism in 1927, T. S. Eliot had already detected the importance of metaphor in helping to interconnect what might otherwise seem an unintegrated, uncreated world. Thus in a famous essay on ‘The Metaphysical Poets’ he observes: When a poet’s mind is perfectly equipped for its work, it is constantly amalgamating disparate experiences; the ordinary man’s experience is chaotic, irregular, fragmentary. The latter fails in love, or reads Spinoza, and these two experiences have nothing to do with each other, or with the noise of the typewriter or the smell of cooking; in the mind of the poet these experiences are always forming new wholes. (59–67, esp. 64) In other words, as symbol is to action, metaphor to language and image to art, so sacrament is to religion. Each is trying to move us analogically, to

Poetry as vehicle of divine presence  233 take us to a different place and so establish new wholes. Of course in most uses of the imagination, that other ‘place’ remains firmly in our present world. Nonetheless, the imagination has already accepted the principle of a move elsewhere, and so it may well be asked, why not then to a vastly different world? As Jesus’ use of parables, as well as some of the extraordinary imagery and word play found in the prophets, illustrates, similes and metaphors when well used can draw us from the material world into quite a different order of existence. As already noted, this is not at all to claim that every exercise of the imagination even implicitly evokes God, but it is to observe that the imagination is deploying precisely the same kinds of tools that make talk of God possible. So, however hostile to faith individual artists may be, they are at least moving humanity onto the same terrain that legitimates talk of God. The sacramental can thus be seen to build upon the symbolic and metaphorical inasmuch as, though the latter are not sacramental as such, it is not hard to see how the process which they utilize might extend to the more explicitly sacramental participation of one thing in another where too there is both similarity and difference, as in earthly light and heavenly light, running water and Living Water, and so on. Indeed, that very fact of difference that is opened up in analogical language and action helps identify another key contribution that the imagination can make towards an encounter with the divine, and that is in the essentially open-ended character of all imagery and symbol. That is to say, the interpretation of such devices can be pulled in quite a number of different directions, and so the question of an alternative religious world can be raised even when such a thought was far removed from the intention of artist or speaker. This is because once we move beyond the literal, the multivalent character of possible comparative allusions cannot be strictly controlled, and indeed one might argue that it is the mark of a great poet or artist to welcome such allusive richness. So the transition to the immaterial can sometimes be imaginatively made even where such thoughts were far from the creator’s mind, and perhaps even from most of his or her audience or viewers (a point to which I will return towards the end of this chapter). Social conditioning and communication through images Finally, there is the whole issue of cultural conditioning, of the way in which even despite ourselves we are caught up in the cultural assumptions of our time, with this notion now quite commonly applied also to Jesus himself. The dominant response from many of the twentieth century’s most important theologians was strongly hostile to such a claim, insisting on the radical otherness of biblical revelation, as in the language of the early Karl Barth, for whom revelation through Scripture came ‘like a flash of lightning … as the dissolution of all relativity’ (331). It was a position Barth modified in later life with his talk of ‘secular parables’, but even then he was cautious, as his correspondence with the writer Carl Zuckmayer indicates (Zuckmayer

234  David Brown and Barth, esp. 17; see also Kuschel 12–14). But the problem with such an answer in any case is twofold. First, it flies in the face of the facts. We are now all too aware of the wider cultural influences upon ourselves, and of a similar pattern holding in Scripture. But, second, unless the Incarnation builds on the way human beings are actually situated, it is hard to see why its message should be relevant to socially conditioned beings like ourselves. From that concession it would be all too easy to draw a purely negative inference: that we are thereby bound to adopt some form of determinism, and with it the relativism of all ideas. But conditioning emphatically does not mean that human beings cannot take any steps beyond the times in which they live (otherwise how would new ideas be possible?). What it does mean is that any such overstepping must bear some relation to where the society as a whole has already reached in its reflections. And it is here once more that I think the role of images and metaphors becomes pertinent. Although he was born into a particular culture and time, a whole host of imaginative ideas was available to Jesus as he was growing up that would not have been present or not present to the same degree in earlier generations and in other parts of the world, among them, for example, the suffering servant, the kingdom of God, the Passover lamb and so on. One theologian who made much of this fact was the Anglican writer Austin Farrer in what is perhaps his best work, The Glass of Vision (for commentary, see MacSwain), for whom such imagery became the primary vehicle of revelation, with Jesus creatively shaping the imagery he had inherited to his own unique sense of mission. If Farrer’s conception is right, then to talk of Christ as sacrament involves rather more than just indicating him as the source of the Christian sacraments, it is to speak of him drawing on the images and metaphors of his time to help bridge the two worlds (human and divine) in a way that allowed not only his own real creative participation in both but also a similar participation to those who came after him as the images acquired new resonances and meaning.

Divine presence through poetic metaphor In what follows I now explore what contribution poets might make in this changed situation, with each section corresponding to the three sections in the first part of the chapter. Poetry and religious experience Some philosophers, rather than rejecting altogether the role of argument, have in fact simply turned the appeal to religious experience itself into an argument (most notably, Richard Swinburne), but that is scarcely how matters work in poetry. The nearest one gets to such an argument is where poetic imagery is used to sketch an alternative vision, one in which religious experience becomes a real possibility. Robert Browning is a particularly

Poetry as vehicle of divine presence  235 interesting example to consider because his huge appeal in the nineteenth and earlier part of the twentieth century is best explained by the way in which his poetry took Victorian doubt seriously, but at the same time worked it into a pattern where pain could be seen as part of the purposes of love. From such a vantage point, even Darwin’s teachings could be understood as compatible with a God who is providentially directing the complex whole. It is an issue Browning addressed long before publication of The Origin of Species, as his poem ‘Paracelsus’ of 1835 well illustrates. Yet that poem does not appeal to religious experience as such. To see such an implicit appeal we must turn to some of his later poems, for example ‘Bishop Blougram’s Apology’ where Browning observes that no sooner might one settle down into unbelief than doubts on the other side occur: Just when we are safest, there’s a sunset-touch, A fancy from a flower-bell, some one’s death, A chorus ending from Euripides, – And that’s enough for fifty hopes and fears As old and new at once as nature’s self. (183–187) All these reflections conclude in what he calls ‘the grand Perhaps’. Such a summary of course presupposes a deeper meaning to the poem than is assumed within it by the journalist Gigadibs, who takes his interlocutor Blougram’s apparent hypocritical non-belief at its face value. In effect, Blougram is speaking for the poet himself but through a veil. In support one might note similar sentiments elsewhere (e.g. in ‘Cristina’), as in Browning’s response to Ruskin’s complaint about the inherent difficulty in identifying the poet’s intentions: ‘I know that I don’t make out my conception by my language: all poetry being a putting of the infinite within the finite. You would have me paint it all plain out, which can’t be’ (Martin 9). In effect, though, Browning would still only be offering us allusions to the relevant experiences; he would not be attempting to re-create the experiences as such for us. For that we would need to turn to others. Two examples from the nineteenth century mentioned earlier, Wordsworth and Hopkins, well illustrate what is probably its most common form, mediation through nature. Ironically, William Blake described Wordsworth in his notes on Wordsworth’s own poetry as ‘a heathen philosopher’ (782), precisely because of his failure to proceed immediately beyond the veil, whereas for Wordsworth our encounter with nature was already to experience God: ‘Nature’s self, which is the breath of God’, as he puts it in The Prelude (Poetical Works V, 220), with each of its various forms seen as A type, for finite natures, of the one Supreme existence, the surpassing life. (VI, 133–134)

236  David Brown Not that such experience is constant. Instead, Wordsworth speaks of ‘spots of time’, decisive experiential moments that help shape our lives as a whole (XII, 208–218; see also Bishop). Equally, he stressed the distancing that adulthood brings, expressed most famously in his poem ‘Intimations of Immortality’. Yet it is arguable that our modern world is in fact now quite different, that with the rise of ecology the instrumental worries of Wordsworth and Hopkins are much less pertinent, inasmuch as many of our contemporaries are already inclined to value nature fully in its own right. The difficulty is thus not to try to persuade them in that direction in the first place but rather to deepen their conviction by observing how such value could be transformed still further in the light of nature’s valuing by God. That is perhaps why more recent nature poets now approach the matter somewhat differently. Take the case of the Catholic convert George Mackay Brown. For Brown the role of the poet is ‘to keep in repair the sacred web of creation – that cosmic harmony of God and beast and man and star and planet’ (Ferguson xxxiv). So despite his Catholicism he finds a Pentecostal baptism in the sea as one powerful way of indicating such transformed attitudes, suggesting in a poem entitled ‘Saint’ that it could be said of such a man, recalling a morning spent on the beach, that: He heard the rocks cry out GLORY TO GOD! Each wave had a trumpet on its lips. The caves were strewn with weeds and shells of praise. (From ‘Saint’ in Orcadians: Seven Impromptus) (13–14) Admittedly, in the last thing he ever published nature is seen through a distinctively Catholic lens. Spring daffodils are transfigured when, in a mixed metaphor, they become both ‘chalices of light’ and ‘vernal tapers’ (quoted in Ferguson 344). Yet for the poet there seems to have been no sharp distinction between God mediated through nature and God seen through the specifics of the Christian religion. Thus, to return to daffodils once more, they can of themselves conjure the message of the Resurrection, as he suggests in the poem ‘Daffodil Time’: The yellow hosts Were cheering and dancing all the way to the inn. (352) So while sometimes experience of nature is transfigured by Christian belief, at other times nature seems to have the power of itself to yield a distinctively Christian message and experience. Yet to my mind the surprise is how seldom even self-confessed Christian poets of the twentieth century and beyond show willingness to expose

Poetry as vehicle of divine presence  237 directly their own personal experience of God in their poetry. Take Edwin Muir and W. H Auden. Both have recounted key moments in their own religious experience, and yet this has not necessarily found its way into their poetry. We know for example that Muir’s decisive turn to Christianity came when quite unexpectedly one evening, as he was undressing, he found himself repeating the Lord’s Prayer again and again, each time finding deeper and deeper layers of meaning. In his own words, ‘I had believed for many years in God and the immortality of the soul; I had clung to the belief even when, in horrifying glimpses, I saw animals peeping through human eyes. … Now I realised that, quite without knowing it, I was a Christian, no matter how bad a one’ (Muir, Autobiography 238–242). Yet what was for him the most significant moment in his life did not appear at all in his religious poetry. Instead, ironically, much of it is concerned with the inadequacy of any religion whose primary focus is words, as in his fierce attacks on Scottish Calvinism in the poem ‘The Incarnate One’: The Word made flesh is made word again, A word made word in flourish and arrogant crook, See there King Calvin with his iron pen, And God three angry letters in a book. (Muir, Collected Poems 228) By contrast, Auden’s experience does occasionally find expression in his poetry. Writing in 1964 he recalled an experience of three decades earlier in which one summer evening, in 1933, he was consumed for a full two hours by an intense sense of intimacy and union with three colleagues at the school at which he was then teaching that suggested to him their infinite value and that of all humanity. This had been given poetic expression at the time in a poem entitled ‘A Summer Night’, one of whose verses runs: … later we, though parted then, May still recall these evenings when Fear gave his watch no look; The lion griefs loped from the shade And on our knees their muzzles laid, And Death put down his book. (117) Yet the poem hardly makes clear the profound sense of significance the event had engendered in him (Kirsch 10–14) nor, despite the power of the Christian vision in so many of his poems, did he attempt to augment that power with further accounts of more personal experiences of God. Instead, as with his fellow Anglo-Catholic Eliot or the earlier Congregationalist Browning, his real concern is to develop a particular vision, in his case of course much influenced by Kierkegaard.

238  David Brown It is intriguing to reflect why, not least given the power of personal visionary experience in so much of the poetry of earlier centuries, from names like William Blake to particular poems like Vaughan’s ‘I Saw Eternity the Other Night’ (‘The World (I)’ Complete Poems 227). Is the moment now regarded as too sacred to be shared? Is there some fear of exposure to ridicule in an environment now less friendly to religion? Or should we look for some other explanation? While the causes are no doubt complex, part of the explanation may lie in the second theme to which I now turn: consciousness of the greater distance that now exists between our world and God’s, for to bridge the gap the poet’s metaphors have far more work to do than was once thought. Embodied beings and open metaphors I turn now to the second of the main changes I outlined, and the way in which we must see ourselves as more fully embedded in the material order than we once thought. This entails a heavier duty for poetry’s metaphors. They will need to carry us much further, if contact with the divine is to be effected through them. So the question poses itself: how is this to be achieved? Self-evidently, the more alike two things are, the more shared elements there can be in some image or metaphor. In Burns’s ‘my love is like a red, red rose’, for example, there is still an obvious shared physical beauty. But with God any possible shared element can very quickly elude our grasp. That is no doubt why philosophers sometimes retreat entirely into apophatic language. But in the process the option of experience is precluded since one cannot experience the entirely negative, which is no doubt why poets prefer the open and the allusive. Yet quite a different course is being pursued by the contemporary Church’s official poets, its hymn writers. Here caution and literalism seem almost the norm, especially among American editorial committees. Influential among them is the English-born hymn writer Brian Wren. Wren has expressed reservations about continued use of the term ‘Lord’ because of its male authority overtones (247–249), while even John Newton’s ‘Amazing Grace’ comes under suspicion because of what Wren regards as its negative image of the gospel removing blindness. By way of contrast he quotes with approval an image of Thomas reading Christ’s wounds ‘like Braille’ (179–180). The fault here is not political correctness – assertions of male authority and contempt for blindness deserve critique. It is rather the very inadequate attitude to metaphor that is in error. However rich and illuminating the original comparison may be, it will inevitably break down or fail at some point, and nowhere should this be more so than when language learnt for application in ordinary human contexts is applied to a being as radically different from ourselves as God. It is a point that earlier generations of hymn writers fully acknowledged. John Mason, in the final verse of his hymn ‘How shall I sing that majesty?’, declares of God: ‘Thou art a sea without

Poetry as vehicle of divine presence  239 a shore, / A sun without a sphere’ (see Church Hymnary no. 128). Again, in ‘Come, Holy Ghost, all quickening fire’ Charles Wesley talks of being ‘Plunged in the Godhead’s deepest sea, / And lost in thine immensity’ (see Wesleyan Methodist Hymnal d88). So it is only to be expected that images will reflect some aspects of meaning of which we may well not approve. It is into such a context that I think modern poetic hesitations with respect to explicit belief ought to be set. It is not necessarily the case that the poets concerned have more doubts than previous generations, but rather that they recognize better the need to provide the sort of wider openness that allows readers gradually to inhabit particular spaces rather than find them artificially imposed on their reading. At any rate that might be one way of making sense of someone like the Anglican priest-poet R. S. Thomas. On the one hand he asserts that ‘the presentation of religious experience in the most inspired language is poetry’ (Penguin Book of Religious Verse 9), yet on the other he simultaneously refuses to develop possible descriptions but instead commonly retreats into what has quite often been taken as their complete denial. Admittedly, outside his last parish charge of Aberdaron a great affirmation was inscribed in stone, his short poem ‘The Other’, in which he reflects on ‘that other being who is awake, too’, and who lets our prayers ‘break’ on him, not for a mere ‘few hours’, but ‘for days, years, for eternity’ (Collected Poems 457) Yet more characteristic is the opening declaration of ‘Via Negativa’ that ‘I never thought other than / That God is the great absence / In our lives’ (220). On first hearing, the two sentiments appear flatly contradictory, indeed irreconcilable, but by ‘absence’ Thomas means not no presence at all but rather the mere hint of something more, as in the analogy he offers with his own favoured pursuit of birdwatching towards the end of his poem ‘Sea-watching’. Here, he speaks of days ‘so beautiful’ that ‘the emptiness / it might have filled’ turn an absence into a presence (306). Nor is this an experience confined to religious believers. Just as Thomas’s experience of the bird was in some sense of its being present, though absent, so more famously Sartre opens his best-known work with a description of finding his friend Pierre absent from the café yet in some sense ‘haunting’ it (9–10). In other words, for Thomas there could never be any final cashing of the metaphors, so to speak. The experience he had and he believed Jesus had was always on the edge of something more, rather than definitively providing it. The contradiction is, therefore, not in himself but between his own perception of what religious experience is like and those who believe that it yields rather more definite content about the nature of God. But perhaps even here contradiction is not quite the right word, since even those who use more explicit metaphors would surely still accept that their assertions about God also need always to be circumscribed with an element of caution and restraint, given how different that being is, of whom the metaphors are seeking to speak.

240  David Brown So a better way of expressing Thomas’s overall position might be to say that he lies at some midpoint on the continuum of belief. On the one hand, drawing him away from full-blooded Christian orthodoxy is his insistence that ‘ultimate reality’ can only be described ‘through metaphor or symbol’ and so Jesus can only be understood as ‘God’s metaphor’ (quoted in Davies 7). He treats the meaning of the Resurrection in similar terms: ‘the resurrection to me … is metaphor, it’s an attempt to convey an experience of a kind of new life, an eruption of the deity into ordinary life, a lifting up of ordinary life into a higher level’. Yet on the other hand, in that same passage he insists that such poetic expression is profoundly evangelical in its aim: ‘to open readers’ eyes and minds to the extraordinary nature of God’ (‘R. S. Thomas in Conversation’ 97–99). Particularly impressive in this connection is the image he presents in ‘Tidal’ (one of the poems in Mass for Hard Times) in which, implicitly rejecting Matthew Arnold’s image in ‘Dover Beach’ of the ‘melancholy, long, withdrawing roar’ of ‘the Sea of Faith’, he offers in its place the repeated assault of the waves on the rocks that are ‘the approaches of God’. And so the final message of Thomas’s poem is unqualifiedly positive:    Let despair be known as my ebb-tide; but let prayer have its springs, too, brimming, disarming him; discovering somewhere among his fissures deposits of mercy where trust may take root and grow. (Collected Later Poems 167) The apparently relentlessly negative poems thus need to be read with great care. ‘The Absence’ is one such, for if one perseveres to the final line, there Thomas speaks of the human heart as ‘a vacuum he [God] may not abhor’ (Collected Poems 361). Admittedly, the context continues the questioning mode of the rest of the poem but the language is almost certainly framed in this manner to remind us of a familiar carol (‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’) that speaks of the God who ‘abhors not the Virgin’s womb’ and thus searches for us, no less than we for him (Ward 128). So, while there seems to be greater reticence among recent poets to describe more personal religious experience, the images and metaphors employed still retain their power of drawing us across the veil, as even the apparently negative R. S. Thomas so well illustrates. Innovation within a socially conditioned world Finally, let me say something further about the implications of acknowledging humanity caught (but not trapped) in a socially conditioned world. So far from this being something for Christians to lament, it actually contains

Poetry as vehicle of divine presence  241 the possibility for giving the gospel added power, since it is often precisely by being embedded in a tradition that further progress in understanding can be made. The Christian poet thus never starts totally anew but always with much there already to build on, just as Christ’s own message was built on the metaphors and images of the covenant with Israel. But to talk of building is already to acknowledge that the imagery cannot always remain precisely the same. To quote a famous phrase of John Henry Newman’s, ‘in a higher world, it is otherwise; but here below to live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often’ (100). To give a comical example, however strong the biblical precedent (e.g. Col. 3:12; I Jn. 3:17), even in the eighteenth century John Wesley was attempting the impossible when he began one of his hymns with the line, ‘How blessed are those whose bowels are moved’ – a sudden rush to the bathroom in modern English! Change is in fact integral to the strength of metaphors. A good example to take might be John Donne’s image of rape in his famous sonnet ‘Batter my heart, three person’d God’. Here the poet goes well beyond the imagery of bride and groom that had already enjoyed a long history in Christian poetry and spirituality ever since the adoption of the Song of Songs for describing the relationship between Christ and his Church or the individual Christian. Indeed, for many today the poem goes altogether too far in the endorsement of metaphors of violence. Yet it is surely precisely because Christians are so frighteningly aware of their inability to achieve goodness and holiness on their own that his image of a violent rape generating true freedom is such an effective one: Except you enthrall me, never shall be free, Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me. (299) God must first gain total control over the believer’s life before real change is possible. Even then, it will be a reluctant change because alternatives only gradually lose their attractiveness. Yet, that conceded, the poem need not just function in this way, as an aid to understanding past experience. It could also initiate just such an experience in someone sympathetic to religious belief, through such a metaphor enabling them to appreciate for the first time what degree of receptivity is necessary if God is effectively to act upon their lives. But note that it achieves this effect by innovating within the tradition of bride and groom, not simply by repeating it. However, it is not only the poet who can be original within the setting of tradition, it is possible for readers as well since metaphors are sufficiently open for them to be given meanings other than those intended by the original authors and for them still to make good sense because of that already existing tradition. Let me give first a Christian example, that of the Anglican poet George Herbert, considering in particular the famous lines from ‘The Invitation’:

242  David Brown Come ye hither all, whom wine   Doth define, Naming you not to your good: Weep what ye have drunk amiss,    And drink this, Which before ye drink is blood. (224) Some commentators are quick to presume that Herbert must have had a high doctrine of the Eucharist to write such lines. Others, however, observe how the equally vivid winepress imagery that concludes his poem ‘Bunch of Grapes’ actually alerts us in the previous line to the presence of a metaphor: Who of the law’s sour juice sweet wine did make, Even God himself, being pressèd for my sake. (164) Yet even with the warning of metaphor, it is scarcely enough to allay the violence and shock of the following line. Might it thus not be the case that both schools of interpretation are in fact wrong? Under the sway of traditional imagery such as that found in John 6, Herbert has simply pursued the power of that imagery wherever it might lead, and thus left it open for readers to experience the text in ways not necessarily congruent with his own particular position, of which in fact we remain uncertain. But let me end with two more startling examples of this phenomenon, both from non-Christian contexts, and first of all A. E. Housman’s ‘Easter Hymn’ (‘If in that Syrian garden…’, see, e.g., Gardner 294). Reflecting the author’s atheism, the first verse assumes that Christ remains in his grave, while the second ends with the injunction that, if he has risen, he needs to ‘bow hither out of heaven and see and save’. Yet it is now sometimes set in England as part of the liturgy for Holy Saturday, with believers entering into the same doubts as the first disciples had but which, unlike Housman, they have overcome – and indeed overcome anew in the context of this service. In other words, the openness of the language allows the possibility for the poem to be experienced quite differently from the undermining of belief that the poet intended. Yet the poem only succeeds in this by being set within a socially conditioned tradition, that of Holy Saturday and its anxious expectations. The second example comes from the writings of Rimbaud. Again, while no one doubts that he was a great poet, opinion remains divided as to whether his final major work Une Saison en enfer was intended to represent his final submission to religious faith or its continued rejection. But what cannot be denied is his profound influence on the sacramental and redemptive poetry of Paul Claudel. Claudel’s mystical conversion may have been at an early age while listening to Vespers in Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral,

Poetry as vehicle of divine presence  243 but it is the Symbolist tradition and Rimbaud’s work in particular that gave precise shape to his sensuous adaptation of biblical imagery and poetic forms in his own distinctive type of verse. Yet suppose the advocates of Rimbaud’s continuing atheism are right? Surely that need not stop us from acknowledging that God worked through Rimbaud to produce the kind of experiences that gave shape and sense to Claudel’s own poetry? That is why it seems to me a mistake to confine Claudel’s reflections on Rimbaud by regarding him as looking on his fellow poet from the outside, as it were, as a committed Catholic over against the non-believer (e.g. Nichols 81–83). The poetic, Catholic and Christian traditions in fact all weave a much more complicated dynamic, with debts to non-believers in their use of metaphor being sometimes no less profound than to professing members of the same tradition. Indeed, it is salutary to record that Christianity’s two principal metaphors of water and blood are both drawn from a more inclusive tradition, with their symbolic meaning already established across competing cultures.

Conclusion We live in a different world from our ancestors in the faith, one no longer confident of arguments for God’s existence or of the soul’s immortality, one, too, in which social conditioning is all but universally accepted. Yet, so far from this weakening faith and the poetry to which it gives rise, it can actually strengthen that faith by a new emphasis on experience, on the openness of metaphor and on the richness of tradition.

Note While the greater part of this essay is entirely new, the opening sections draw heavily (but in a much abbreviated form) on another essay of mine, ‘A Sacramental World: Why It Matters’ in H. Boersma and M. Levering, eds, Oxford Handbook of Sacramental Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). I am immensely grateful to the organizers of the Gdansk conference for providing me with the necessary impetus to reflect further on what implications the conclusions of that essay might have for poetry more generally.

Works cited Auden, W. H. Collected Poems. Ed. Edward Mendelson. New York: Vintage Books, 1991. Barth, Karl. The Epistle to the Romans. Trans. Edwin C. Hoskyns. London: Oxford University Press, 1933. Bishop, Jonathan. ‘Wordsworth and “the spots of time”’. English Literary History 26.1 (1959): 45–65. Blake, William. ‘On Wordsworth’. The Complete Writings of William Blake. Ed. Geoffrey Keynes. New York: Random House, 1957. Boersma, Hans. Nouvelle Théologie and Sacramental Ontology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

244  David Brown Brown, George Mackay. The Collected Poems of George Mackay Brown. Ed. Archie Bevan and Brian Murray. London: George Murray, 2005. Browning, Robert. Selected Poems. Ed. John Woolford, Daniel Karlin and Joseph Phelan. London: Routledge, 2013. Buckley, Michael J. At the Origins of Modern Atheism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987. Church Hymnary Trust. Church Hymnary. 4th edition. Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2005. Davies, William V. R. S. Thomas: Poetry and Theology. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2007. Denzinger, H. and Schönmetzer, A. Enchiridion symbolorum. 36th edition. Freiburg: Herder, 1976. Dillard, Annie. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. London: Picador, 1976. Donne, John. Poetical Works. Ed. Herbert Grierson. London, New York and Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1933. Eliot, T. S. ‘Metaphysical Poets’. T. S. Eliot, Selected Prose. Ed. Frank Kermode. London: Faber and Faber, 1975. Farrer, Austin. The Glass of Vision. London: Dacre Press, 1948. Ferguson, Ron. George Mackay Brown: The Wound and the Gift. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew’s Press, 2011. Gardner, Helen, Ed. The Faber Book of Religious Verse. London: Faber and Faber, 1972. Gillespie, Michael A. The Theological Origins of Modernity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008. Herbert, George. Poetical Works. London: George Bell, 1886. Hopkins, Gerard Manley. The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Ed. W. H. Gardner and N. H. Mackenzie. London, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1970. Kerr, Fergus. After Aquinas: Versions of Thomism. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002. Kirsch, Arthur. Auden and Christianity. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005. Kuschel, Karl-Josef. The Poet as Mirror: Human Nature, God and Jesus in Twentieth Century Literature. Trans. John Bowden. London: SCM, 1999. MacSwain, Robert. Scripture, Metaphysics and Poetry: Austin Farrer’s The Glass of Vision with Critical Commentary. Farnham: Ashgate, 2013. Martin, Hugh. The Faith of Robert Browning. London: SCM, 1963. Muir, Edwin. An Autobiography. London: Hogarth Press, 1954. ——. Collected Poems. Ed. J. C. Hall and Will Muir. London: Faber and Faber, 1960. Newman, John Henry. Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. 1845 edition. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973. Nichols, Aidan. The Poet as Believer: A Theological Study of Paul Claudel. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011. Ruskin, John. Modern Painters. London: George Allen, 1906. Sartre, Jean-Paul. Being and Nothingness. Trans. Hazel E. Barnes. London: Methuen, 1958. Taylor, Charles. A Secular Age. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2007. Thomas, R. S. Collected Poems 1945–1990. London: Orion Books, 2000. ——. Collected Later Poems 1988–2000. Tarset: Bloodaxe Books, 2004. ——. Ed. The Penguin Book of Religious Verse. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963.

Poetry as vehicle of divine presence  245 ——. ‘R. S. Thomas in Conversation: Interview with Molly Price-Owen’. David Jones Journal (2001): 93–102. Vaughan, Henry. The Complete Poems. Ed. Alan Rudman. Rev. edition. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983. Ward, Jean. Christian Poetry in the Post-Christian Day: Geoffrey Hill, R. S. Thomas, Elizabeth Jennings. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2009. Wesleyan Methodist Hymnal. New York: Wesleyan Methodist Publishing Association, 1910. Web. 9 May 2016. http://www.hymnary.org/hymnal/WMH1910. Wordsworth, William. Poetical Works of William Wordsworth. Ed. Thomas Hutchinson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1906. Wren, Brian. The Music and Words of Congregational Song. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000. Zuckmayer, Carl and Barth, Karl. Späte Freundschaft. Carl Zuckmayer – Karl Barth in Briefen. Zurich: TVZ Theologischer Verlag, 1977.

Index of scriptural references

OLD TESTAMENT Genesis 1.2, p. 27 1.26, p. 20 2.7, p. 138 2.23, p. 63 2.24, p. 218 Exodus 3.2–6, p. 91 3.2–7, p. 76 13.21, p. 91 19.4, p. 63 31.18, p. 19 Deuteronomy 4.24, p. 26 12.2, p. 218 Judges 6.21–24, p. 91 1 Samuel 3.10–11, p. 91 1 Kings 19.12, p. 91 19.13, p. 91 Job 7.6, p. 133 40.15, p. 231 41.34, p. 231 Psalms 12.19, p. 20 19.2, p. 19 21[22], pp. 32–34, 36 21[22].1, p. 29

21.17–19, p. 37 22.1, p. 20 30[31], pp. 32–33, 35–38 31.5, p. 20 34.20, p. 20 35.5, p. 133 37[38], p. 40 38[39], p. 30 38[39].7, p. 39 42.2, p. 20 61[62], p. 30 76[77], p. 30 102.11, p. 133 118[119].153–156, p. 38 Ecclesiastes 1.2, p. 133 Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) 5.9, p. 217 5.16, p. 217 8.8, p. 217 Wisdom of Solomon 2.1–4, p. 133 Isaiah 35.8, p. 62 49.15, p. 63 53.12, p. 20 53.3, p. 222 57.5, p. 218 65.13, p. 144 65.17, p. 27 66.12, p. 63 Jeremiah 2.20, p. 218

Index of scriptural references  247 Hosea 11.1–4, p. 63 Zechariah 12.10, p. 20 NEW TESTAMENT Matthew 2.1–12, p. 77 3.11, p. 26 6.12, p. 39 12.38–40, p. 140 16.17–18, p. 65 17.1–9, p. 71 17.2, p. 26 25.40, p. 39 27.35, p. 20 27.46, p. 20 Mark 1.10, p. 91 9.2–8, p. 71 9.3, p. 26 15.28, p. 20 Luke 1.29, p. 221 1.35, p. 27 2.7, p. 136 9.28–26, p. 71 9.29, p. 26 22.53, p. 136 23.44, p. 136 23.45, p. 196 23.46, p. 37 23.47, p. 20 John 1.1, p. 195 1.1–14, p. 89 1.4–5, p. 25 1.14, p. 3, 69 4.19, pp. 55, 62 8.37, p. 141 19.13, p. 48 19.26, p. 222 19.28, p. 20 19.30, p. 37 19.36, p. 20 19.37, p. 20

Acts 2.3–4, p. 91 9.4, pp. 35, 37 9.5, p. 35 Romans 10.17, pp. 140, 211 1 Corinthians 1.18, p. 119 1.18–20, p. 129 2.1–5, p. 130 2.7, p. 130 5.21, p. 138 12.12, p. 34 15.44, pp. 21, 204 Galatians 3.20, p. 30 4.4, p. 54 Ephesians 5.29, p. 218 5.30, p. 23 Philippians 2.6, p. 55 2.7, p. 55 2.8, p. 55 2.9, p. 90 3.21, p. 21 3.4, p. 40 Colossians 3.3, pp. 49–50 3.12, p. 241 2 Thessalonians 1.8, p. 26 1 Timothy 2.5, p. 30 2 Timothy 3.16, p. 24 2 Peter 3.13, p. 21 1 John 3.17, p. 241 Revelation 13.8, p. 19 20.6, p. 224 21.1, p. 21

Index of persons

Agamben, Giorgio 156, 162 Akhmatova, Anna 10, 95 Alexander, Peter F. 155, 162 Alter, Robert 24 Andrewes, Lancelot 134–5, 139–40, 145 Aquinas, Thomas, St. 14, 61, 92, 150, 175, 210–13, 219, 225, 230, 244 Aristotle 118–20, 131, 230 Arnold, Matthew 240 Asals, Heather A. R. 46, 52 Assisi, Francis see Francis of Assisi Auden, W. H. 15, 237, 243–4 Augustine, of Hippo, St. 3, 5–9, 14, 29–43, 48, 53, 79–80, 113, 116, 151–3, 162, 196, 203, 212, 220, 226 Babcock, William 41 Bachelard, Gaston 11, 109–13, 115–16 Balthasar, Hans Urs von see von Balthasar, Hans Urs Barth, Karl 5, 233–4, 243, 245 Baudelaire, Charles 20, 28 Beckett, Samuel 149, 153, 162 Bettenson, Henry Scowcroft 137, 146 Bishop, Jonathan 236, 243 Blake, William 15, 166, 235, 238, 243 Blamires, David 221, 226 Bloch, Chana 49, 52 Bloom, Harold 145–6 Boersma, Hans 230, 243 Bradley, F. H. 164, 175, 177 Brecht, Bertolt 179, 187 Brémond, Henri 175 Brown, David 8, 14–15

Brown, George Mackay 15, 236, 244 Browning, Robert 15, 234–5, 237, 244 Buckley, Michael J. 229, 244 Bugliani Knox, Francesca 13, 177 Burns, Robert 238 Burton, Richard 226 Bury, Liz 180, 193 Butler, Dom Cuthbert 84 Byassee, Jason 30, 41 Cameron, Michael 30, 32–5, 41 Caputo, John D. 61, 68 Carman, Taylor 205, 209 Chrétien, Jean-Louis 114, 116 Cicero 33 Claudel, Paul 242–4 Cleverdon, Douglas 214, 226–7 Coakley, Sarah 203, 209 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor 213, 225 Colie, Rosalie L. 46, 53 Constantine, David 13, 179–94 Corcoran, Neil 219, 226 Crashaw, Richard 9, 54–68 da Montefeltro, Guido 170, 172, 174, 177 Daniel, Arnaut 170–3 Dante, Alighieri 13, 95–6, 164–5, 167, 170–1, 173–7, 226 Darwin, Charles 15, 231, 235 Davies, William V. 240, 244 Democritus 208 Denzinger, H. 230, 244 Derrida, Jacques 13–14, 68, 135–6, 195–6, 202, 207–9

Index of persons  249 Desmond, William 11–12, 118–31 Dillard, Annie 231, 244 Dilworth, Thomas 210, 213, 226 Domański, Juliusz 48, 53 Donne, John 56, 68, 145–6, 164–5, 168, 172–5, 220, 241, 244 Donnelly, Veronica 145–6 Dubois, Martin 223, 226 Duffy, Carol Ann 152, 162 Dugdale, Sasha, Rev. 180, 191, 194 Edwards, Michael 9–10, 15, 40–1, 43, 54, 56, 60, 62–3, 66, 69–71, 73, 76, 78–80, 84 Eliot, T. S. 8, 11–13, 23–4, 28, 69, 71–2, 77, 79, 85, 110, 116–17, 119–20, 128–37, 139–46, 164–78, 213, 226, 232, 237, 244 Eriugena, Johannes Scotus 4, 16 Falque, Emmanuel 136, 138, 146 Farrer, Austin 234, 244 Ferguson, Ron 236, 244 Finn, Richard 40–1 Francis of Assisi 217 Frost, Robert 2, 8, 15 Gardner, Helen 213, 216, 224, 227, 242, 244 Garrigou-Lagrange, Réginald 230 Gavrilyuk, Paul L. 203, 209 Gillespie, Michael A. 228, 244 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang 97, 179 Gourmont, Remy de 171, 178 Grass, Günter 149–50, 162 Graves, Robert 13, 186, 193–4 Gregory of Nyssa 137–8 Grierson, Herbert 166–7, 244 Guinizzelli, Guido 171–4 Gutorow, Jacek 213, 227 Hadrian 181, 194 Hamilton, William 179 Harris, Ann Sutherland 55, 68 Harton, Frederic Percy 176, 178 Healy, F. Thomas 55, 68 Heaney, Seamus 1–2, 4–5, 7, 15 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich 94 Heidegger, Martin 110, 134

Herbert, George 9, 27, 43–7, 49–53, 77, 152, 162, 166, 241–2, 244 Hill, Geoffrey 85, 245 Hirshfield, Jane 5, 7–8, 16 Hölderlin, Friedrich 179 Homer vii Hopkins, Gerard Manley 14, 27, 96, 146, 150–2, 155–6, 163, 203, 209–11, 222, 225–7, 230, 235–6, 244 Housman, A. E. 15, 242 Huber, Carlo 44, 53 Hughes, Richard E. 46, 53 Husserl, Edmund 195, 209 Ingarden, Roman 99–100, 105 Jackson, Paul John 65, 68 Jennings, Elizabeth 10, 69–85, 211 John of the Cross, St. 73–5, 77, 218 Jones, David 13–14, 82, 176–8, 210–27, 245 Jung, C. G. 107–9, 113 Kafka, Franz 158, 163 Karpiński, Adam 46, 53 Keats, John 21, 28, 145 Kerr, Fergus 230, 244 Kierkegaard, Søren 237 Kirsch, Arthur 237, 244 Knox, Francesca Bugliani 13, 177 Kuschel, Karl-Josef 234, 244 Laforgue, Jules 164–5, 170–6, 178 Lawrence, D. H. 189 Leighton, Angela 12–14, 164, 184, 189–90, 193, 195–6, 203, 210–12 Levering, M. 243 Limon, Jerzy 99, 102, 105–6 Lowth, Robert 24 Lubomirski, Stanisław Herakliusz 9, 43–53 Lucretius 165, 207–8 Luther, Martin 10 MacSwain, Robert 234, 244 Maitreyabandhu 187, 189, 194 Malory, Thomas 226

250  Index of persons Marion, Jean-Luc 11, 61–2, 68, 100–6, 133, 146 Maritain, Jacques 168, 178 Markowski, Michał Paweł 62, 68 Marrevee, William H. 34, 42 Martin, Hugh 235, 244 Mason, Emma 80, 84–5 Mason, John 238 McConville, J. Gordon 30, 41 McInerney, Stephen 212, 227 Meconi, David 35, 42 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice 204–5, 209 Michelangelo Buonarroti 171–2, 176, 178 Muir, Edwin 15, 163, 237, 244 Murray, Les 12, 14, 151–63, 210–11 Newman, John Henry 241, 244 Nichols, Aidan, 137, 146, 243–4 Osborne, Eric 138, 144, 146 Owen, Wilfred 223 Pahlka, William H. 43, 46, 49, 53 Pasternak, Boris 96 Paul, Jean 143 Peirce, Charles Sanders 106 Peters, John Durham 151, 163 Phillips, Sian 215 Pine, Red 97 Plato, 195, 230 Pope, Alexander 167 Pope Pius IX, 5 Possidius 29, 42 Potkay, Adam 134, 140, 146 Pound, Ezra 13, 170–1, 174, 176, 178 Quintilian 33 Rahner, Karl 53, 94, 203, 209 Raine, Kathleen 214, 219, 227 Read, Herbert 166 Ricks, Christopher 170, 177 Rilke, Rainer Maria 10–11, 84, 92–4, 96–7, 99, 101, 107–16 Rimbaud, Arthur 15, 242–3 Roeffaers, Hugo 165, 176, 178 Rogers, Byron 200, 209 Rozik, Eli 100, 106

Ruskin, John 230–1, 235, 244 Ryan, Judith 115–16 Sartre, Jean-Paul 239, 244 Saunders, William 61, 68 Schmidt, Michael 180, 194 Schönmetzer, Adolf 230, 244 Shakespeare, William 11, 98, 100, 102, 105–6, 124, 145, 159, 165, 167, 216 Sherwood, Terry G. 46, 53 Shuger, Debora Kuller 134–5, 146 Sidney, Philip 33, 42 Silesius, Angelus 53 Silkin, John 224, 227 Sloan, Barry 72, 85 Soskice, Janet 35, 42 Spender, Stephen 177–8 Spengler, Oswald 226 Statius, Publius Papinius 174 Staudt, Kathleen Henderson 215, 217, 219, 226–7 Steiner, George 152, 163 Stevens, Wallace 6, 16, 75, 84 Stevenson, Randall 212, 214, 227 Stürzl, Erwin 71, 84–5 Swinburne, Richard 234 Symons, Arthur 171–4, 176, 178 Taylor, Charles 229, 244 Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre 94, 97 Teresa of Avila, St. 57–9, 63–4, 68, 73–5, 77, 81 Tertullian 137–8, 146 Thomas, Dylan 226 Thomas, R. S. 13–15, 152–3, 163, 195–209, 239–40 Tolstoy, Leo 115 Trilling, Lionel 145–6 Underhill, Evelyn 175, 177 Valéry, Paul 23, 156, 180 van Bavel, Tarsicius 30, 36, 42 Vaughan, Henry 53, 238 Verdenal, Jean 176 Viladesau, Richard Fr., 10–12, 105, 108–9, 115, 117–18, 128–9 Virgil 170, 174 von Balthasar, Hans Urs 137–8, 142–6

Index of persons  251 Wall, John N. 46, 53 Ward, Jean 14, 52, 84–5, 240 Weidemann, Clemens 31, 42 Wesley, Charles 239 Wesley, John 241 Whitehead, Alfred North 96–7 Williams, William Carlos 187 Wiman, Christian 1, 16

Winterson, Jeanette 6, 16 Wojtyła, Karol (Pope John Paul II), 223, 227 Wordsworth, William 15, 231, 235–6 Wren, Brian 238 Wyatt, Thomas 213 Zuckmayer, Carl 233

Subject index

Adam: naming the animals 21 admiratio 109 adoptionism 90 adoration of the Blessed Sacrament 61 Adoro te devote, Eucharistic hymn by Thomas Aquinas 210 aesthetic meaning in the arts 152 Akhmatova, Anna, paean to inspiration 95 ‘Amazing Grace’, hymn by John Newton 238 anamnesis 31 Andrewes, Lancelot, and the Nativity sermons 134 Angels: appearances of ghosts 179; glimpses of 179 anima: and the experience of creativity 109; as the secret to the art of poetry 109 Annunciation 219, 221, 223 anthropology, Christian 29; and the resurrection of the body 22 anti-Modernist movement 5 Apocalypse, and the white horse 139 Aquinas, Thomas: Eucharistic hymn, Adoro te devote 210; five proofs for God’s existence 230; memoria mortis domini 225; new influence from Aristotle 230; the philosophy of 175; theology of a real though hidden presence in 213 Aristotle: and logoi 118; relation to Thomas Aquinas 230 Arnold, Matthew: and ‘Dover Beach’ 240; art as carrier of transcendent realities 8; concept of 210; and the

increase of ‘reach’ 5; in strange bodies 21; and the doctrine of real presence in Eucharist 211; poetry and the metaphysical foundations of 81; shaped by a sacramental framework of belief 210 artist, aesthetic mindfulness of 125 Ascension, doctrine of 32, 35, 136, 137 Ash Wednesday 141 askesis 119, 130 Assumption, doctrine of 221 Atonement, doctrine of 61 Auden, W. H.: influence of Kierkegaard on 237 Augustine 29–42; City of God 151, 220; conversion of 29; on the crucifixion 34; Expositions of the Psalms 29; imitating Christ 29; metaphors of translation in 203; mystical resources 80; On Christian Doctrine 151; and Possidius 29; preaching of 35; rhetorical skills 33; theological hermeneutic of 31; and the spiritual ear 151 avatars, Hindu notion of 10 Bachelard, Gaston: on dreaming 109; phenomenology of the dream 11 Barth, Karl: on the radical otherness of biblical revelation 233; ‘secular parables’ of 233 Bashō: Zen-influenced haiku of 96 ‘beatific vision’: criticism of 169 beauty: the strange and new 80; world 80 Beckett, Samuel: Endgame 149

Subject index  253 Behemoth 231 being, porosity of 126 belief, origins of 76 Bernini, and ‘the Ecstasy of St Teresa’ 58 Bhagavad-Gītā 91 Bhagavata Purana 91 Blake, William 235, 238 blood 60 bodily acts, the efficacy of 212 body: poetic 84; divine and human are unified components of the 84; hidden depths of God and 137; resurrection of 22 bond, mystical: between God’s Word and human words 69 Brémond, Henri: Prayer and Poetry 175 Brown, George Mackay: on the poet’s role 236 Browning, Robert 234; anticipations of Darwin in 235 Buckley, Michael: At the Origin of Modern Atheism 229 burning bush, and Moses 26 carnal metaphor 59 carnality and poetry 185 Catholicism, and sacramental bridge between earth and heaven 154, 211 Chalcedon, Council of 90 Chrétien, Jean-Louis: on excess and intensities of experience 114 Christ: birth of, as voluntary act of obedience 138; blood of 64; the Cross of 46; the garden of delight 59; heart of 48; human abandonment 33; as mediator of divinity and humanity 33; pelican 61; prayer in the garden of Gethsemane 49; and Psalms 29; rehabilitates the imagination 72; speaking in the Psalms 37; ‘wonderful exchange’ 30 Christology: ‘adoptionist’ 90; in Augustine 32; ‘from below’ 92 Church, as the body of Christ 22 Claudel, Paul: on mystical conversion 242 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor and ‘The Ancient Mariner’ 213, 224

concentration: the principle of 73; poetry and mysticism 73 Confirmation, Rites of 79 consciousness, stream of 77; and modernist psychological prose 77 Constantine, David 179–94; the duality of existence 179 contemplation: of the Christian mystery of God 72; poetry 168; of truth 168; as validation of the imagination 72 contradiction, law of 120 controversy, Arian 89 corporeality, as gift from God 54 ‘Corpus Christi Carol’ 216, 219 covenant: of the rainbow 25; with all living creatures 25 Crashaw, Richard: and Teresa of Avila 58, 64 Crashaw’s poetry: child-rearing and parenting 60–64; erotic imagery, 56–60; God’s bountiful name 64–67 Creation: communication between humanity and the Creator 201; divine ‘self-uttering’ 54; in the Genesis account 66; God’s act 98; the harmonious order of 145; Incarnation 27; and Logos 44; mystery of God 71; new 27; in speech 9; the only utterance of God 197; through the word 19; through words 66 creationism, naïve conceptions of 95 creativity: artistic 77; attention and 112; and gratitude 83; and the threshold of the mystery 176; and prayer 77 criticism: ‘beatific vision’ 169; and the correction of taste 169 Cross 222; the death of the Word on 136; the Incarnation, and God on 60; night of the 132; of Christ 46, 47; and presence beyond words 62; the silence of the 145; Stations of 222; suffering 129; theological reality of 129 crucifixion, in Augustine 34 Danae, myth of 57 Daniel, Arnaut, in Dante’s Purgatorio 170

254  Subject index Dante: Purgatorio 170; the muse of 96 Darwin, Charles: discoveries 231; teachings 235 death 56; darkness and 127; extreme singularity of 124; silence of 132 deification 137; theology of 35 dereliction, cry of 33, 34 Derrida, Jacques: and différance 202; interdependence between voice and presence 13, 195; on language and its opaque character 195; language is never ‘fixed’ 207; logocentism 196; strange entanglement of language and silence 196; the ‘trick’ of presence 196 desire, and the Eucharist 62 Desmond, William 118–31; the logic of the guess 118 desperation, as condition for the logic of guessing 119 Deus absconditus 135 différance, in Derrida 141 Dillard, Annie: on creation 231; perplexity at nature 231; Pilgrim at Tinker Creek 231 dissemination, in Derrida 135 divine illumination 80; echoes in a bird’s call 201; the impenetrable depth of 135; and language 80; and speech 135, 201; vestiges of 5 ‘divinization’ 137 Docetism 90 Donne, John: ‘Batter my heart, three person’d God’ 241; on identifying souls in sexual love 168 drama: as a work of theatrical art 98; debates on the nature of 98 ‘Dry Salvages’, by Eliot 23 dualism: collapse of 231–33; in Platonism 231 ear, as bodily organ linking fleshly with spiritual 212 ecclesial theology 29 ecstasies, of human love toward God 58 Einsamkeit, in Rilke 107 Eliot, T. S. 164–78; dissociation between object and thought 165; on knowledge and experience in the

philosophy of F. H. Bradley 164; and mysticism 174–76 enchantment, and poetry 109 epiphany, through poetry 105 equivocity 119–21; and the idiotic 124; as stress for the intellect 120 Eriugena, John Scotus 4 erotic: as fusion of the physical and metaphysical 67; the human and divine 67; poetry and 56; the sexual and the spiritual 67 Eternal Feminine 96 ethics, of hearing 134 Eucharist 61, 76, 152, 154, 197, 242 (see also Communion, Holy); ‘brilliance of the visible’ 62; and desire 62; and excess 61; experience of God in 211; feeds the soul 63; Love’s banquet 51; the mystery of the hidden God in 150; ‘mysticall repast’ 51; Real Presence 157; ‘saturated phenomenon’ 61; taking metaphor to its endpoint in presence 155; transubstantiation 59; and the Word 67 Eucharistic hymn, Adoro te devote by Thomas Aquinas 210 Eucharistic theology: the Godhead hidden in the Eucharist 211 Euripides 235 Eutychianism 90, 91 excess, and poetic images 113 exegesis, figurative 30 existence, and human vanity 132 expectancy: incommunicability of experience 79; of words 79 experience: aesthetic and imaginative dimensions 82; expectancy of words 79; incommunicability of 79; relation to language to 109 Expositions of the Psalms: as records of Augustine’s preaching 29, 31 faith, the leap of 140 Fall 20 fertility: of the earth 56; and innocence 63; and passion 63; and women 63 figurative exegesis 30 fire, and the Spirit (Holy Ghost) 26

Subject index  255 flesh: the locus where divine and human love meet 9; as means of communication 205; and poetics 55; and redemption of 139; Francis of Assisi 217 Franciscan movement 90 Gabriel, the angel 220 Garuda Purana 91 Genesis, and creation story 69 ‘Gerontion’ 132 Gillespie, Michael and The Theological Origins of Modernity 229 God: ‘code of love’ 67; experienced in nature 231; fertility of 59; as the ‘great absence’ (R. S. Thomas) 239; as gardener 57; as gift 61; grandeur of 230; hidden in every act of love 95; as immanent causality within creatures 95–96; implicit knowledge of, in Aquinas 95; as inference rather than part of immediate human experience 230; Kingdom of 234; light, God’s, which dazzles and blinds 77; as mother 63; as ‘Muse’ of the world 96; the name of 64–67, 162; and nature, experienced in 231; nature as mediation of 236; as nursing and caring for others 63; Old Testament images of 63; as a parental figure 66; perception of, in sensory language 203; as the greatest Poet 25; protection for the soul 61; seen through the specifics of the Christian religion 236; and the realm of silence 199; speaking the world into existence 27; vestiges of 5 Golgotha 219 Good Friday 223 Gospel of John: and Logos-idea 44; Prologue of 44, 98 Gospels, synoptic 63 Grace as the sense of God’s presence 27 Grass, Günter, and The Tin Drum 149 ‘Great Exchange’ 41 Gregory of Nyssa: on the Incarnation 137; on the transformation of the flesh 137

guessing 128–30; as approach to the divine 117; as equivocal mode of knowing 119; as equivocal hermeneutic 129; as humble form of knowing 129; as new mode of knowing 130; as stressful form of knowing 120; the secret of 130 Hamlet 60 healing, Christ’s gift of 139 heart, receiving the Word of the Spirit (in George Herbert) 50 heart-work (Herz-Werk) 115 Heaven 59 Heidegger, Martin: on calculative and meditative thinking 110; ‘phenomenology of the ear’ 134 Herbert, George 43–53; and ‘The Invitation’ 241; use of quotations by 49 hermeneutic: equivocal and univocal 119; transfigurative 31 Hindu notion of avatars 10 Holy Communion (see Eucharist) 61 Holy Saturday, and the liturgy for 242 Holy Spirit: entering the human heart 50; inspired the authors of the Bible 44; the poetry of the real 26 Houseman, A. E. and ‘Easter Hymn’ 242 human experience: psychosomatic unities 232; in a socially conditioned world 240; and speech, in vulnerability and ‘woundedness’ 132 humility 73 hymn writers as contemporary Church´s official poets 238 incorporation in Christ 137 Idealism, German 94 illumination: divine, and language 80; journeying into God 51 imagery, open-ended character of 233 imagination: artist’s creative act of 77; images for transformation 108; Incarnation 72, 81; poetic faculty of 81; poetry and 6; and Real Presence 77; and thought 165; visual 165

256  Subject index Incarnation 6, 69; and Annunciation 222; ascending understanding of 90, 136 (at the heart of western mysticism 72); incites to poetry 27; in Augustine 33; and creation, entirety of 206; creational 197; and Derrida 195; double role of 60; dynamic process with unpredictable effects 207; in Eliot, and exsultet 214; as ‘the hint half guessed, the gift half understood’ 24; enfleshment of the Word 197; and equivocal subject matter 120; as enfleshment of divine revelation 89; God on the cross 60; and Greek statues 82; in Gregory of Nyssa 137; and the guess 117; human weakness and 55; hypostatic union 91; and poetic imagination 72, 81; as informing principle, in Eliot 132; material and immaterial world, linked 229; materialization of God 197; memory of, in Eliot 132; metaphysical poetry as 176; mystery of 140 (in poetic and hermeneutic process 175); new Word, new creation 27; potentia obedientialis 90; prefigured in ancient forms of worship 221; of poetic word as ‘deferred miracle’ 132; and resurrection 90; self-humiliation of 3; sung in the darkness of the Easter vigil 214; as theology of the ‘descent’ of the Word 90; ‘transactional’ character of 144; and unselfish love 55; and weakness 3 infinity as divine attribute 231 Ingarden, Roman: on aesthetics 99; on ontology 99; on phenomenology 99 innocence, and fertility, passion, women 63 inspiration: poetic and religious 129; and revelation 89; theological concept of 95 Israel, covenant with 241 Jennings, Elizabeth 69–86; art and sacrament in 83; imagination in 75; on John of the Cross 74, 218; as philologist 70; repudiation of abstraction by 81; and defense of the

sensuous 81; on Teresa of Avila’s spiritual autobiography 74 Jesuit motto, ‘to the glory of God’ 152 Jesus: double role of 60; imaginative ideas of 234; as lover and warrior 57; as Man of Sorrows 222; parables of 233; passion of 61; as poet 150; as shelter-giver 61; as spouse 58; one who ‘woos and enwombs’ 63 Job, on God’s delight in variety of forms 231 John of the Cross, in Elizabeth Jennings 74 Jones, David 210–28; on the hidden presence of the feminine 213 ‘Journey of the Magi’ by Eliot, 77, 139 journeying into God: and illumination 51; and purgation 51; union through love 51 Jung, C. G.: on animus and anima 108–9; archetypical images in 107 Kafka, Franz, and Metamorphosis 158 Kalki 91 Keats, John: ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ 21; view of beauty and truth 72 Klimbim 150 knowledge, spiritual 130 Kundera, Milan, on ‘the unbearable lightness of being’ 132 Laforgue, Jules, importance of for Eliot 170 lamb: paschal 62; and the Passover 234; sacrificial 139 language: analogical 233; apophatic, retreat into 238; casting a dice 207; ‘imaginative fiction’ 5; incarnational paradox 155; instrumentality of this ascent 3; loss of, in old age 133; mechanisms of, and characteristics of matter 207; metaphor as tool of the imagination 232; metaphysical potential of 75; porous 4; silence of 197; soundscape 161; stretched in analogies, images and metaphors 232; ‘Ur-language’ 197 Last Things: death, dooms-day and judgement, in George Herbert 51

Subject index  257 Lazarus, the silence of 78 Lent 48, 141 Leviathan 231 light: appearing in darkness 25; as equivocal 128 liturgy as sacred poetry 96 logocentism, in Derrida 196 Logos: assumption of audibility 151; Christian 151, 196; echoes resonating in world’s sounds 198; Gospel of John 44; and guess 11, 117–30; hearing, by means of material creation 197; locked within imperfection of speech 135; materiality of the body and qualities of the soul 202; mystical agency and 51; and Platonist traditions 43; and Stoic reason 44; theological idea of 43; Word of God and 46; worded principle which creates 69 love: erotic, in bridal mysticism of Song of Songs 126, 218; human, as cipher for divine love 231; importance of singularity 125 Lubormirski, Stanisław Herakliusz 43–53; and Teomuza 44 Macbeth 98–105 Manichees 33 manna 62 Marcion, and the appearance of a mortal man 137 Marian litany litany 222; theology 219, 221 Marion, Jean-Luc: on the body 100; on the ‘flesh’ as the ‘essence of self’ 11 Maritain, Jacques, and Eliot’s ideas of metaphysical poetry 168 marriage: as re-creation of the paradisal order 218; and St Paul’s advice on 218 martyrs 58 Mary: as female version of the Savior 63; as Holy Virgin 224; as Our Lady of Sorrows 222, 223; as Queen of Heaven 224; at the foot of the Cross 223; embodiment of mortal perfection 63; figure of, in David Jones 221; Little Office of the Blessed

Virgin 223; motherhood, mysterious and sorrowful 223; as the mother of God 221, 224 Mary Magdalene, as ‘The Weeper’ 64 Mason, John 238 Mass, the liturgy of 222 materiality, as a realm of communication 205 maya, as creative energy and illusion 91 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, emphasis on visibility 204 metaphor: change integral to the strength of 241; takes from one sphere of discourse to another 232; transformative power of 112 metaphysics, Neoplatonic 3 miraculous exchange 144 monophysitism 91 Montefeltro, Guido da, in Dante’s Inferno 170 Moses, and the burning bush 26; encounter with God 76 Mount Tabor 71 Muir, Edwin, decisive turn to Christianity 237 Murray, Les 152–63; ‘Poetry and Religion’ 153; poetry of 152–62 mystery: and the guess 117; paschal 32; ‘sound’ and 160 mystical experience: as a form of illumination 73; in the light of 71; and poetry 71 mysticism, incarnation and poetry 72 mystics, as visionaries in Jenning’s poems 73 name: bestowing a newborn child 65; of God 65; of Jesus 66; in Hebrew culture 65 Narasimha 91 Nativity 136, 221; Eliot’s poetic accounts of 139 Nature, viewed purely instrumentally 230 ‘Neoorthodoxy’ and revelation 5 Neoplatonic thought: and the continuum 7; pattern of descent and ascent in 8

258  Subject index Neoplatonism: and the approach to beauty 49; Christian form of 3; and metaphysics 7 Neo-Thomism 230 Newman, John Henry, on change 241 nihilism, despair of 127 Nouvelle Théologie: and return to that wider sense of sacramentality 230; and Second Vatican Council 230 numinous, as listening device 27 ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ 240 Orpheus, in Constantine’s poetry 191 Palm Sunday 141 parables, secular, in Karl Barth Paradise 56 paschal lamb 62 paschal mystery 32 Passion of Christ 46, 50, 141 passion of Jesus 61 ‘pathetic fallacy’ 96 Paul, the apostle, conversion of 35 pelican, as symbol of Jesus Christ 61 Pentecostal: and baptism in the sea 236; and tongues of fire, in Eliot 143 permeability of the world 29 Peter, the apostle 65 Platonism: and beauty 171; inhabiting two worlds 231; metaphors of participation and imitation 230; other-worldly character of 30; Plato’s theory of Forms 230 pneumatology 129 poem: as concrete and limited linguistic body 71; as special kind of body 21, 25; and a ‘spiritual body’ 21; affinity to the limitless divine Word 71; appeal to emotions and aesthetic sense 168; biblical, as truly spiritual body 24; and corporeality 60; and Greek mythology, in David Constantine 180; and liminality 180; as ‘oneiric’ 109; liminality 180; the mind of 23; reading as a spiritual experience 23; the uncommon body of 23; uncanny body of 24 poet: as eremitic 107; catalyst between sense and thought 165; French

symbolism 165; metaphysical 175; mysticism and philosophy 175; Nature of 236; as prophet 27; as seeker of images 107; and silence 78; as solitary 115; as vates 27; as visionary 76; vocation of, and the creative deflections of metaphor 114 poetic: art, metaphysical foundation of 81; ‘body’, divine and human as unified components of 84; discourse as ‘two-layered’ reality 70; experience, and passage from the outer to inner 108; image, inner work of 112; imagination, as expression of mysticism 72; approach to Incarnation 72; language, as determination of change 107; dynamic 107; hocus-pocus of 159; recreating the beauty of the world 72; as sacramental bridge 154; metaphor, divine presence through 234–38; words and (a density of ‘speaking pictures’ 55; the mystical potential of 72; the semblance of a sacrament 82; transformation into performance 98) poetics of the flesh 55 poetry: and ‘appreciative mind’ 166; and Aristotle 73; aspiring after the Word beyond all words 73; awakening of love in the heart 51; biblical poetry 24 (as ‘the poetry of the real’ 62; beauty and miracle of 25); and carnality 185; challenges social and doctrinal correctness 153; Chinese ideograph for 96; the code of love 60; as construction of story 4; contemplation and 168; corporeality of language 21; as a different way of seeing (Winterson) 6; as divination 4; embodied language 4; embodied presence in landscape 184; of the English Renaissance 165; and the enlargement of being 7; enlargement of immediate experience 167; and epiphany 105; and the erotic 56; as essential kind of knowledge 6; as expanded knowing 7; human experience and 55; fixity and fluidity in 189; fusion of sense and thought 167;

Subject index  259 as imaginative fiction 4; as equivalent to the Incarnation 153; Herbert’s, as Eucharistic 46; the imagination of life in 6; Incarnation, Christian idea of, and 176; the inextricability of 185; infinite within the finite in 235; as inspired 22; as a kind of ‘thinking’ 153; love poems of David Constantine 185; as a ‘making’ (poïesis) 23; mediating images 107; merging of the verbal level with the imaginative 75; metaphysical 164; metaphysical character of 69; as ‘more complex real’ 7; the Muse and 185; musicalizes the mind 153; mystical bridge between the human and the divine in 71; and mystical experience 71; and mysticism, as experience of transcendence 73; and perception 166; true philosophical 166; poetic bodies 179; praise and lament in 30; as prayer 152; as preparing the heart to respond to the Word of God 50; precedence over the language of theology 153; Provençal 171; reading, as a Eucharistic experience 47; re-making the image of the world 73; reveals through the emotions 168; revelatory nature of 2, 56, 73; reverie 109; sacred 43, 50; sensual, embodied existence and 185; as sensuous thought 164; in 17th century 43; sound, sense and sensation combined in 193; sounds become thought in 152; thinking at the heart of words 159; as translation of presence 155; transfigurative power of 71; transformation of 112; truths hidden in human words 56; Tuscan love poetry of the 13th century 171; verbal games of presence 157; visionary quality of 72; vocabulary related to the atomic level of materiality 208; wooing of 56; words are flesh in 152; Word-made-flesh again in 43 poïesis: the linguistic and material in 209; as world-making 115 post-structuralism, attack on ‘presence’ 152

potentia obedientialis, in the Incarnation 90 prayer: and artistic creativity 77; Hebrew forms of 30; and the Psalms 30 presence, imagination and real 77 Presentation of Christ in the Temple 223 prophets, imagery and word play in 233 Prosopopeia 33 Psalmist, as model for the congregation 40 Psalms 29–42; as speech of the heart 40; as a way of becoming Christ 30; and Christ 29, 30; Christological cornerstone 30; poetry of 29, 40; praying the poetry of 40; spiritual formation in Christ 30; and transfigured social relations 39 Purgation: as journeying into God 51; of human words 52 purification, and reading 45–46 Queen of the Woods 219, 224 Rahner, Karl: on the non-metaphorical use of sensory language 203; theology of revelation in 94 Ramayana 91 ransom 62 rapture, joyous 73 reading, as experience of transcendence 43 Real Presence 77, 211; in the Catholic sacramental tradition 152; doctrine of 154; and Eucharist 157; and Imagination 77; and the Word 62 redemption: of all things, in Eucharist 159; mystery of incarnational 32 Reformation, Protestant 230 rehabilitation, of the sensuous 81 religion as poetry 96 religious belief and poetic imagination 160 repentance and purification 47 Resurrection 136, 137; and the Crucified 137; meaning of 240; as metaphor 240

260  Subject index revelation: an evolutionary and historical theology of 94; general 94; of God 94; in Karl Barth 233; Karl Rahner’s theology of 94 reverie, and poetry 109 Rilke, Rainer Maria 107–16; Duino Elegies 10; and Einsamkeit 107; evolutionary view of humanity 92; experiments with the sonnet form 189; and the use of imagination 108; poet as the solitary one 115; and the transformations of poetry 112; and the unconscious 113 Rimbaud, Arthur, Une Saison en enfer 242 Roman breviary, Little Office of Sext 225 Romanticism 94 Röntgen, Wilhelm Conrad, and the discovery of radiation 202 Rose, mystical 144 Rumi, poetry with mystical analogies and symbols 96 Ruskin, John: on human art 230; six types of beauty 231; and the sublime 231 Sacrament 232; adoration of 61; anointing of a dying person’s body 232; Christ as 234; consecration of bread and wine 232; exchange of rings 232 Sacramental: imagination 232; metaphor 157; theology 29 sacramentality: and Nouvelle Théologie 230; and the Second Vatican Council 230; theological notion of 232 sacrifice 62; Eucharist and transubstantiation 64; Jesus 64 Salve Regina 223 Sartre, Jean Paul: on presence in absence 239 saturated phenomenon, and the Eucharist 61 Saul’s conversion 34 science, and evolution 89 Scottish Calvinism, Edwin Muir’s attack on 237

Second Vatican Council: and Nouvelle Théologie 230; sacramentality 230 semen 60 sensual images, Baroque influence 55 Sext, Little Office of, in the Roman breviary 225 sexual intercourse, the wound and joys of 58 Shakespeare 98–106; poetry of 100 silence: and the dark epiphany of sense 132; and the gift of tongues 79; idiotic 124; of Lazarus 78; mystical value of poetry and 78; and the poet 78; in Prufrock (Eliot) 172; of self 78; of words 54 Simeon 223 Socinianism 90 solitude, in Rilke 107 Song of Songs, as allegory of divine/ human love 25, 56 sonnets, of Michelangelo’s 171 soul: as a bird 66; as an active agent 59; delighting in novelty 66; desiring freedom 66; intoxicated and impregnated with love 59; protected by God 61; re-birth through faith 67; searching for true happiness 66; the bodily presence of 181 sound: imagery of 160; mystery and 160; in poetry 160 speech, the power of, in Hebrew Scripture 195 spheres, music of 70 spiritual body 203; as oxymoron 70 spiritual senses: in western Christianity 203 spiritualizing the sexual: love image found in 56 Steiner, George, and Real Presences 152 still life painting 145 sublime, in Ruskin 231 suffering: and its nothing 125–28; and the equivocal 123–25; the Suffering Servant 234; the logos of the guess and 123 surrender, the intellectual poise of 78

Subject index  261 sweat 60 symbol, pen-ended character of 233 synecdoche, in Augustine 35 Taylor, Charles, A Secular Age 229 tears, and purification 45 Teilhard de Chardin, on a poeticmetaphysical interpretation of evolution 94 Tertullian, and the concept of Word made flesh 137 Thalamus, and gathering of images 113 The Theatre´s Fifth Wall 99 theologians, transcendental 129 theology: ecclesial 29; as in a certain sense poetry 4; of deification 35; sacramental 29; Spirit-centered 90 Theomuse, or Theomuza, and Lubomirski 44 Thomas, R. S. 195–209; on the hazardous frolics of language 196 Thomism, as a poetic of hidden presence 217, 219 Thomism, transcendental 94 Thomist-Aristotelian thought, on the soul 167 tongues, the gift of, and silence 79 totus Christus 36; a uniquely Augustinian innovation 36; and Transfiguration 38 Tower of Babel story 198 tradition: importance of, for Eliot 166; Symbolist 243 transfiguration, doctrine of 9, 26, 35, 70, 71; by prayer into Christ! 38; the doctrine of 72; the epitome of a mystical experience 71; totus Christus 38 transfigurative hermeneutic 31 transubstantiation, and Eucharist 59 Trinity, doctrine of 44, 71 unconscious, the darknesses of, and plenitude of visual images 113 Underhill, Evelyn, on Christian mysticism 175

union with God, in Aquinas 92 univocity 121–23 Valéry, Paul: poetry as ‘a prolonged hesitation between sound and sense’ 156, 180 Victorines, mysticism of 175 Vishnu, and avatars 10, 91 visitation, the doctrine of 221 war, the unnaturalness of 218 wealth, and anxiety 39 Wei, Wang, poetry expressing the wonder of being 96 Welsh bardic lore and courtly procedure 216, 224 Wesley, Charles 239 Wesley, John 241 Whitehead, Alfred North, on God as ‘the poet of the world 96 Williams, William Carlos, on ‘no ideas but in things’ 187 wind, breath and spirit 26 womb, as a shelter-giver 61 women, and fertility, innocence, and passion 63 wonderful exchange, doctrine of 33 wonderment 109 Word: absolute creativity of the 176; creates the world 67; ecstatic encounter 59; encompasses worlds 67; enfleshed 54; and Eucharist 67; makes himself physically real 67; presence beyond words 62; Real Presence 62; and silence 145, 176; the source of all words and 57; timelessness of 176; transubstantiated 62; as ‘visibly absent’ 62 Word of God: as Jesus 22; cooperation between the poetic word and 46; enfleshment of 136; human words and 44; Logos 46; purification of human words 47; sacramental value of the 83; woven into poetry 46 words: capacities and grandeur of 54; containing a richness of meaning 135; corporeality of 136;

262  Subject index crossing borders between the physical and transcendence 79; dreaming power 110; as flesh 155; gift-giving of 77; ladder of 76; metaphysical potential of 70; mysticism of 76, 83; physicality of 212; the sounding of 212; the stillness of 142 Wordsworth, William, encounter with Nature as experience of God 235 world: and beauty 80; deep structure of the word in 135; natural, beyond

redemption and outside metaphor 155; sacramental character of 229, 230; the permeability of 27 Wren, Brian: use of masculine language in hymns 238; and metaphor 238 writing, as a tribute to the Word 54 Yahweh, versions of, in Crashaw’s poetry 64–65 Zeus 57 Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak 96