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$fc> Chapter I Religious Poetry Dylan Thomas wrote religious poetry. This state­ ment has the support of a number of his critics; as it stands, it is perfectly true and not very useful.1 The word "religious" has become a catchword, a simple term of classification for certain easily observed charac­ teristics of a poem. And, as such, it has suffered from generalization and from a tendency to subsume into it the more specific meanings included in such words as pantheistic, pagan, mystic, and sacramental. If the phrase "religious poetry" is to be a part of

The Country of the Spirit

5i^ Contents vii IX 3 26 47 59 69 91 113 125 140 155 187 204 209 221 227 Preface Acknowledgments PART ONE: Chapter I: Chapter II: PART TWO: Chapter III: Chapter TV: Chapter V: Chapter VI: PART THREE: Chapter VII: Chapter VIII: Chapter IX: Chapter X: Chapter XI: Chapter XII: Appendix: Works Cited Index The Mazes of His Praise Religious Poetry Ambiguity and Religion The Three-Pointed Star Three Types of Religious Imagery Referential Imagery Allusive Imagery Thematic Imagery The Parables of Sun Light 18 Poems Twenty

5fc> Chapter XII "The Prayer's End": A Conclusion The three types of religious imagery established in this study, while they are inherent in the principles of Thomas' art, were never defined by the poet himself. They are defined by the reader, and are useful only insofar as he can arrive, through them, at an ordered approach to Thomas' poetry. To assume that they can adequately define religious poetry is to assume that re- ligious poetry has a scientific exactness, that it conforms to strict and absolute laws, and that these laws, de- scribed

Jfc> Preface The major thesis behind this book, which came to me rather suddenly one Sunday afternoon, is a simple one: there are three types of religious imagery discernible in Dylan Thomas' poetry. The years of writing and re- vising since that Sunday have been given to explaining and illustrating this central idea. The resulting book has, like its thesis, three main divisions. The first deals with the phenomenon of religious poetry in general, establishing definitions basic to the study and examin- ing, through Thomas' letters and critical statements

PREFACE THE starting-point for this book was the experience of teaching the Anniversary poems in several graduate seminars, and the sense most of us had that these poems have not yielded very fully to the customary approaches. Another stimulus has been my long-term concern with vari- ous aspects of "Biblical Poetics"—the ways in which six- teenth- and seventeenth-century Protestant theory regard- ing the literary elements of scripture (genre, figurative language, symbolic mode) affected contemporary English poetry and poetics, especially religious poetry

, Entitled Opinions); Haun Saussy at the London Review of Books Café; Paul Fry and Brigitte Peucker at the P. S. Café Petit in Tiong Bahru; Ann Blair and David D. Hall at the Rare Books School seminar at the Houghton Library; Glenn Most and Michael Puett at the Ancient Wisdom workshops at Humboldt- Universität; Sean McCann at the Royals Bistro at NUS U- Town; and Gavin Flood at the Agora Café, where we went every week after our world religious poetry course. From them I learned how to have good conversations. I tried out bits and pieces of the book at the American

than to Counter Reformation, continental, and medieval Catholic resources. It is revisionist also in asserting that these poets and most of their contemporaries shared a broad Protestant con- sensus in regard to doctrine and the spiritual life, grounded upon belief in the absolute priority and centrality of scripture and upon paradigms afforded by the Pauline epistles, a consensus overarching the Anglican- Puritan divide and having great significance for religious poetry. I do not wish to propose a new "school" or a new terminology for seven- teenth

Narrative poetry (61-27) 46 30 11 10 3 Fig. 74 Same type: lesser merit (72-24) 3 26 28 21 10 10 3 Medians .... 3 41 28 11 9 4 1 Hymn Tunes Data from chapter 9 Fig. 98 Of highest merit (42-42) Fig. 98 Oflessermerit (51-51) . Fig. 98 Of least merit (38-38) Age interval Under 20- 30- 40- SO- 60- 70- 80- 20 29 3 9 4 9 5 9 69 79 89 2 19 45 26 7 14 39 31 10 4 2 5 16 32 26 13 5 3 Religious poetry Age interval Under 23- 33- 43- 53- 63- Data from chapter 7 22 32 42 52 62 72 Fig. 78 Best-liked (290-163) 2 18 40 26 12 2 Fig. 79 Of highest merit (26-26) 4 23 SO 15 6