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C H A P T E R I The Christian Poet in His Times JUDGING from the kinds of poems he produced and from his attitudes and statements about poetry, Prudentius' self- consciousness as a poet is fundamentally Christian. By this I mean that he is not simply a poet professing and occasion­ ally expressing a religious point of view (as Claudian does), but one who in writing is primarily motivated by religious concerns. The purpose of this chapter is to define these religious concerns, especially in respect to their individual and social dimensions. Such


C O N T E N T S PREFACE xi CRITICAL INTRODUCTION 3 CHAPTER I: The Christian Poet in His Times 29 CHAPTER II: Psychic Warfare and Worship: The Form and Mode of Conversion 109 CHAPTER III: Salvation History and the Soul 168 CHAPTER IV: The Assault Upon Vergil 234 INDEX 301

morning I saw half a score of wild geese fly away in the crisp cool air; they were right overhead at first and then farther and farther away, and at last they sep- arated into two flocks, like two eyebrows over my eyes, which now gazed into the land of poetry. JN, vol. 1, Journal DD: 96[a], p. 243 As the poet’s song echoes with a sigh from his own un- happy love, so too will all my inspired talk about the ideal of being a Christian echo with a sigh: Alas! I am not a Christian, I am only a Christian poet and thinker. JN, vol. 5, NB10: 200, p. 379

Psyeho- machia,} Such reductive conclusions have continually been drawn.14 Even Charles Witke, who has written with fine sensitivity on Prudentius' lyrics and who is deeply informed about the history of Christian hexameters, vastly misjudges Prudentius' classicism: thus Prudentius "is a Christian poet because of his ability to write within a culture which was 12 Christianorum Maro et Flaccus—Richard Bentley, Horatius Flac- eus (Cambridge, 1711), on Carm. II. 2. 15. 13 For Horace in Prudentius, see Herrmann Breidt, De Aurelio Prudentio Clemente Horatii

complete sense only when viewed from the Christian perspective that Antony's allusion to the messianic psalms explicitly invites"59 seems at once unfounded, pretentious, and false. Bryant repeatedly finds unique advantages to being a Christian which I must confess that I fail to discover. Somehow, Mr. Bryant feels, the Christian poet has a poetic advantage over the non- Christian poet, though I cannot imagine what theological grounds could justify such an assumption. In the beautifully drawn pagan atmosphere of Antony and Cleopatra, one feels as far removed as

especially to the work of Hans Spanke. For a summary, see his Beziehungen zwischen romainischer und mittelalterlicher Lyrik (Berlin, 1936). Idem, "Aus der Formengeschichte des mittelalterlichen Liedes" (in the journal Geistige Arbeit [Sept. 5, 1938]). On the question of priority (southern France or St. Gall?), d. idem in HVift, XXVII, 381 and ZfdA (1934),1. 22 Alfred Weber, Kulturgeschichte ais Kultursoziologie (Leiden, 1935), 389. THE MUSES scruple as the question-may the Christian poet mention the Muses?- could not affect him. The Commedia is not an epic in the

. 35). In other poems a "friend" or messenger— or a better self—takes the divine part in directing or rebuking or aiding the speaker, providing thereby an analogue to the catechising which Herbert urged so forcefully as central to the duties of the country parson.35 In "Artillerie" a seeming shooting star rebukes the speaker for expelling good motions from his heart. In "Jordan (II)" a "friend" provides a directive to the would-be Christian poet struggling to divest his praises of artifice and self-display, to "Copie out" the sweetness love has already penned

, by entering the service of Christ, is freed from that most restrictive of all bondages, the bondage to himself, so the mind is freed from the strictest limits of its own nature. From these basic interpretations it is usually expected that further development will move in the general direction of systematic theology or of philosophy and logic, but that is not the direction in which we shall move. Our concern is primarily with the great Christian poets, who express a full vision of Christianity operating in the fullness of life. The poets with whom we shall

these views in Milton on Himself (New York: Oxford University Press, 1939). 2 Ben Jonson, "Prologue," Every Man in His Humour. 3 Comus, I460. 4 Vaughan, "Idle Verse," Silex Scintillans; Herbert, "Sonnet to his Mother"; Crashaw, "On a Treatise of Charity"; Marvell, "To Mr. Richard Lovelace." 5 Of Education, CPW, n, 404, 405. β The Reason of Church Government, CPW, 1, 812. l83 M I L T O N ' S E T H I C S study . . . joyn'd with the strong propensity of nature" he might be- come a serious Christian poet for his nation in all times.7 The time-honored concerns