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The Country of the Spirit
Poems

of plays which seemed incompatible with his earlier achievements. While The Roc^ and Murder in the Cathedral could properly be considered the work of a religious poet, the plays which followed hardly seemed to be written by the same hand. Eliot's use of modern drawing-room settings and a verse which could scarcely be distinguished from prose caused discomfort both to advocates of poetic drama and to de- fenders of the realistic theater. The plays seemed on the surface to be within the boundaries of realism, but there were clear evidences of cryptic

YITZHAQ HASNIRI (c. 1170/75–after 1229) While the Spanish liturgical canon left little room for new material, it seems that greater opportunity for expression was offered by the tradition of sacred verse in Provence, where links were maintained to other Jewish communities in France and Ashkenaz. Yitzhaq HaSniri was the first Provençal religious poet who, in the eyes of the period’s leading scholars, bears comparison to the Spanish liturgi- cal poets, and he is perhaps the most important of the Provençal paytanim. He was active during the turbulent years of the

preserves the then six-hundred-year-old Eastern tradition that went back to the work of Yan- nai, Qallir, and especially Sa‘adia Gaon. An archaizing religious poet of what Fleischer calls “titanic powers,” Ibn Avitor was prolific and ambitious. Some four hundred of his poems have survived (most still in manuscript), and he seems to have attempted almost every sort of pre-Andalusian liturgical mode. According to Ibn Daud’s Book of Tradition, the twenty-year-old Ibn Avitor also composed an Arabic commentary—probably an abstract—of the Talmud for the library of the

originality of Islam or of its prophet. Whether its source was God or, equally wondrously, the startlingly prophetic insight of a religious poet- genius, the foundation of Islam, its Scripture, was laid down by a single individual. The Bible and the New Testament are clearly community projects elaborated over decades or centuries by indi- viduals with only an uncertain connection with their subject or subjects. The Quran, in contrast, proceeded from the mouth of Muhammad, and his alone, over a rather precisely measured inter- val of twenty-two years. Even on the Muslim

in Islam

issues involved in pseudonymity, in the ten- sion between poetic ideality and personal actuality, in the concept and practice of the "religious poet. " On the one hand, Kierkegaard thought that what was needed was "a detach- ment of poets; almost sinking under the demands of the ideal, with the glow of a certain unhappy love they set forth the ideal .... These religious poets must have the particular abil- ity to do the kind of writing which helps people out into the current. "37 On the other hand, the "wrong way is much too close: wanting to reform, to arouse

, 153; in Deaths and Entrances, 169; in In Country Sleep, 198; vs. referential and allusive imagery, 63, 90 theme, literary, definition of, 54-55 Thomas, Caitlin, 140, 146-147, 165 Thomas, David John, 189, 191-192 THOMAS, DYLAN, as religious poet, critical statements about, 3n; influence of Bible on, 42-43; influence of Freud on, 72n; religious upbringing, 36-37 230 INDEX POETRY ambiguity in, 16, Chapter II passim, 47, 79-80, 87-89; as active endeavor, 11-13; as praise, 13, 16, 41-42,114, 128, 162, 183, 195, 202; "aural valve" in, 95n

claim for Crane the role of the religious poet par excellence in his generation, it is because such a combination of love and vision seems to me to partake indisputably of the religious imagination. "And so it was," Crane wrote in "The Broken Tower"—"And so it was I entered the broken world / To trace the visionary company of love." Crane's journey through that broken world and his effort to heal and trans- form it by poetry are the subject of this book. A book that takes as long to write as this did incurs many debts along the way, and one of the pleasures

Christian Century, Vol. 57, no. 42 (Oct. 16, 1940), pp. 1279-1280, notes that current criticism tends to ignore religious and idealistic poetry as sentimental or didactic, and asks whether or not there is a relation be­ tween its weakness and that of contemporary religion. Bib­ lical religious material seems to have lost appeal, and reli­ gious verse tends to be pantheistic or pagan j and neither the religious poet nor the church drinks deeply enough at the Christian spring. Protestant poets, especially, must recap­ ture the world-shaping tradition of the Reformation