EveryChangingShape_10820297.pdf - EVE R Y CHA NGIN G SH A PE Eliz ab eth Je nn in gs A nd I mus t borro w To nd express z o n T s E LI OT sha e ev r ck

EveryChangingShape_10820297.pdf - EVE R Y CHA NGIN G SH A...

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Unformatted text preview: EVE R Y CHA NGIN G SH A PE Eliz ab eth Je nn in gs ‘ A nd I mus t borro w To find express z o n . T . s E LI OT — sha e ev r ck a n z n y g g p e Portrait P H ILA D ELP H I A /D U FO U R 1 96 Q of a Lady EDI T I ONS P R I NTED I N G RE A T BR I T A I N FO R D U FOU R ED I T I O N S ‘ - CATAL O G CA RD No : . ’ 1 3 779 A elw in F or Tinda l A tkinson - OP MY G R A T E F U I A CKNO WL E DG EMENTS are due to th e editors o f the following magazines and per i odicals in which versions o f some of the following chapters originally appe ared : The Ay lesford R eview Black riars T h e D u b lin R eview a a z ine T h e n d n M L o o f g , , , The Month , The Tw entieth , , Century . A C K N O W L E D G E ME N T S Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following for perm i ssion to use copyright material in this book for quotations from The Dia ry of a Country P ries t and Joy by Georges Bernanos to the author T h e Bodley Head T h e Macmillan C ompany N e w Y ork and P antheon Books I nc N e w Y ork ; for quotations from L a nguage A s Ges ture by R P Blackmur to the author George Allen U nwin Limited an d Harcourt Brace and C ompany Inc N ew Y ork ; for quotations from P rayer a nd P oetry by Henri Bremond to the author and Burns and O ates Limited ; for quotations from The Clou d of U nknow ing to John M Watkins for quotations from The Collected P oems of H a r t Cr a ne to the author s executors and L iveright P ublishing C orporation N ew Y ork ; for quotations from the works of T S E liot to the author F aber and F aber Limited Harcourt Brace and C ompany Inc N ew Y ork an d F arrar S traus an d C udahy Inc N e w Y ork ; for quotations from the works of Gerard Manley Hopkins to the author s executors and the O xford U niversity Press ; for quotations from John Frederick N ims s Introduction to his trans lation of Th e P oems ofS t Joh n of the Cross to the translator and Grove Press Inc N ew Y ork ; for quotations from Julian of N orw i ch s R evela tions of Divine L ove to Burns an d O ates Limited ; for quotations from Ju lia n of N orwich by P aul Molinari to the author and Lo ngm an s Green and C ompany L imited ; for quotations from S o nnets to Orpheus and The Duino E legies by R ainer Maria R ilke to the author and T h e Hogarth Press L imited ; for quotations from the poems of E dwin Muir to the author s executors F aber and F aber L imited and Grove Press Inc N ew Y ork ; for quot ations from the poems of W allace S tevens to the author s executors F aber and F aber Limited and Alfred A Knopf Inc N ew Y ork ; for quotations from The L ife of S t Teresa trans lated by J M C ohen to the translator and Penguin Books Limited ; for quotations from Wa iting o n Go d by S imone Weil and from S imone Weil as We Knew H er by J B Perrin and G T hibon to the authors and R outledge and Kegan P aul Li mited , , , . , . . , , . , , , . ’ , . , , , . , , . , . , , , ’ ’ , . , ’ , ’ , . , , ’ , , . . . . . . , . . , C O N TE N TS Fo rew o rd D efin i t i o n s an d I n t r o du c t io n W i tn es s es I m age s in A b eyan ce A sp ec t s o f A u gu s t ine Th e S o i l o f S an c t i t y A s t u dy O f The Cloud U nknow ing f o T h e Val u e o f S u ffe r in g Ju l i an o f No r w i ch T h e Fr u i t fu l W a t er s A s t u dy o f t h e L ife of Tere s a T h e I nn o cen t A u dac i t y An app ro ach t o St Jo h n o o f th e f A v i la C ro s s T h e Lyr i c I n t erv en t i o n H er b er t and Vau gh an T h e A cc es s i b l e A r t A s t u dy o f Th o m as T r ah ern e Medita tions ’ s Centur ies ( j T h e U n i t y o f I nc arn at i o n A s t u dy o f G er ard Man ley Ho p k i n s T h e Po w er o f C o m p as s i o n A no t e o n t h e p o et ry o f C h arles P égu y T h e S ec u l ar A n gels A s t u dy o f R i lk e A W o rld o f Co nt r ad i c t i o ns A s t u dy o f S i m o n e W e i l T h e V i s i on o f Jo y A s t u dy o f G eo rges Bern an o s Th e U s e s o f A llego ry A s t u dy o f t h e p o e t ry of Edw in Mu ir A r t i c u lat e Mu s i c A s t u dy o f t h e m ys t i c al c o nt en t in t h e p l ays and F o ur u ar tets o f T S E l i o t Q . . CONTENTS T h e R e s t o r at i o n o f Sym b o ls A s t u dy O f t h e p o e t ry o f D av id G asco yn e V i s i o n w i t h o u t Bel i e f A no t e o n t h e Vo i c e s ) 2 ( ) 1 ‘ of y of W allace S t ev en s E xp lan at i o n P oet ic E xper ience b y Th o m a s G i l b y O P P r ayer a nd P oetry b y H en r i Br e m o n d Th i s gr e at w i n k T h e p o e t ry Bi b l i o gr aph y I n de x o e t r p o f e t ern o f H ar t i ty ’ C r an e FO R EW O R D T HI S B OOK I am co ncerned with three things the making of poems the nature o f mystical experience and the relationship between the two My examination of individual poets and myst ics is with o ne o r t w o exceptions a chronological o n e T his arrangement is for the sake o f order and convenience rather than for any more profound reason If there is as I shall try to show a connection between poetry and mysticism then it will be found as easily in the fifth century in Italy as in the fourteenth century in England o r the twentieth century in France Some of the figures I shall deal with were both poets in the most literal sense a nd mystics for example John o f the C ross Henry Vaughan C harles Pé gu y ; others l ik e Augustine Julian of N orwich T eresa o f Avila and S imone Weil were e i ther mystics or deeply religious people as well as prose writers Such men and women as these I shall examine at the highest peaks o f their writing at those moments when prose most nearly resembles poetry As the book progresses it will also be necessary for the most prosaic writings o f some o f these people to be examined with care since i t is O ften paradoxically their most laborious explanatory passages that best reveal the likenesses between the making of poetry and the practice o fprayer Such passages often throw a strong light on what the finished poem takes for granted And in most cases it is the mystics who tell us more about their experiences than the poets T his is partly because the ultimate e xp eri ence of mysticism is so di fficult to capture in words that mystical writers Often have to satis fy themselves with detailed accounts of the thoughts feelings and events which preceded that experience With poets the situation is reversed T h e poem is made finished set aside What the poet says about how he made it is always a falling away from the experience itself ; it throws a backward light T h e poet s explana tions are approximations at best With the mystic it is di fferent He is able t o describe even to tabulate and place in categories the stages which led to his experience o f loss o f se lf and union wi t h God I shall define mysticism more ( exactly in my opening chapter ) His writings thus throw a forward light an d for this reason among others are more trustworthy than the poet s afterthoughts Fo r the mystic is concerned t o describe his mystical experience whereas the poet is only interested in the fruits o f h is IN , , , , . . , . , , , . , — , , , , , , , , . , , . , , , , , . . . “ , . , . , , . ’ . . . , , . , ’ . , , FOREWO RD IO poetic experience in his poem in fact Th e m ystic looks fo r the seed the poet for the flower Much of this book is a clearing of the ground an attempt t o clarify vague words like inspiration intuition vision and revelation I have had perforce to select examples to illustrate my thesis not in arbitrary mann er but always in the knowledge that my findings might equally well have been found elsewhere in the work of other writers However I do not feel that this matters because whatever discoveries I have made by an examination of my chosen poets an d mystics may if they are valid be applied to others I have as far as is within my scope chosen some of the finest poets and the most vividly articulate mystics of di fferent centuries T here are three notable gaps in this book and they are delibera te gaps T here are no chapters here on Dante Blake or Y eats D ante I have omitted partly because a study of the mystical content of the Div ina Co m m edia would not only entail a thorough examination of medieval theology and philosophy but also because to treat D ante in the detail he demands would take up a disp ro n at e amount of this book and overshadow the other writers in it o r t i o p I have said nothing about Blake because not only is his religious writing not in the orthodox Western C hristian tradition but on the other hand owes much to E as tern mysticism but also because his symbolism is both eclectic and personal ; thus a j ust study of him would again overshadow the entire book Y eats I have omitted for the same reasons and also because however much Y eats talked and wrote o f visions he was a shaper of systems a creator of myths rather than a man who wished to lose himself in God Where I have dealt here with poets and mystics who used languages other than English I have selected translations which seem to me t o contain the most precise and evocative writing the most near t o the originals As is well known a translation of a poem may sometime s keep closer to the original by changing its formal structure ; it may in fact most successfully retain the feel of the original by changing its form S uch a question does not Of course arise with prose T his is a study of poetic and mystical experience by a practising poet who is also a C atholic Always I have examined mysticism in its Western E uropean aspect I do not have the knowledge o r the scholar ship necessary to explore the rich mystical literature of the E ast My subj ect has sometimes led me into the domain of the philosopher and where this has happened I have confined myself to the particular philosophical i deas which were h eld by the writers in question , . , . , ’ ‘ ’ ‘ , ‘ ’ ‘ ’ , . , , , . , , , . , , . , . , . , . , , , . , . ‘ ‘ , ’ , . , , , . . , , . . . . FOREWORD is therefore always a sca ffolding o r skeleton rather than a complete building or a whole body But of course o n e cannot build a house without sca ffolding or possess a body without a bone structure E ach one of the chapters assembled here might I believe stand by itself as a study of a particular writer o r mystic Y et the book is intended to have a cu mu la tive e ffect and every chapter is designed t o throw both a forward and a backward light My treatment has been tentative my approach cautious ; I have attempted to reach the centre o f each writer an d mystic by a careful reconnaissance have tried in e ffect by indirections to find directions o u t T h e last word can never be said o n a subj ect so complex as this One can only clear the ground for oneself and perhaps for others T h e qualities essential for such a study are a bold humility and a dis interested intelligence Y et what writer does not throw a little of his o wn shadow on whatever he approaches ? One can only hope that the shadow is not too long or the darkness too Obscure In the words o f E zra P ound from a very di fferent context my aim has been Philosophy . . , , . , . , , , ’ ‘ . , . , , . . . , to have drawn from the air a live tradition o r from a fine o ld eye the unconquered flame E LI Z AB ET H JENN I N G S . 1 . DEFIN ITI ONS AND W ITNESSES I n troduc tion y y Let the new faces pla wh a t tricks the w ill I n th e old ro oms ; nigh t can ou tb a lance day , Our sh a dow s r ove the g a rden g ra vel s till, Th e living seem m ore sh adow th an the Y E AT S T h e N ew Faces y ‘ y . MY ST I C A L I S O N E o fthe most misused words in the English l anguage ’ . In this book I Shall be using it in a limited precise and I hope lucid way But before I define my own usage of the word I want to indicate some Of the abuses o f it if only t o Show the meanings it will no t be burdened with in the following studies T h e word mystical is Often appropriated to denote a sense o f vagueness both o n the part of the speaker o r writer and also on the part of the thing described or spoken in fact employed t o cover up an unwillingness t o define o f It is meanings and feel ings ; it is a counter for the inchoate a cipher for the half understood It is also used to hint at moods experiences app r e h en s io n s which are felt t o be either religious o r aesthetic In this connection o n e is reminded o f Humpty Dumpty s remark Words mean what I choose them to mean no more and no les s T h e word mystical then tends to appear at al most any moment in thought o r speech when definitions seem elusive and precision impossible In the use I myself Shall make of it I h Op e not to align myself with Humpty Dumpty but r ather to restore the word to an exact meaning in literature and religious experience ; and as this book is essentially a study o f the Western C hristian tradition of mysticism I Shall no w give the definition o f the word supplied by Dom C uthbert Butler in his exhaustive and invaluable work entitled Western Mys ticis m T h e mystic s claim he says is expressed by C hristi an mystics as " the experimental perception o f God s Presence and Being an d " especially union with God a union that is not merely psycho logical in conforming the will t o God 3 Will but it may be s aid ontological o f the soul with Go d spirit with Spir i t And they declare that the experience is a momentary foretaste of the bliss of heaven , , , , . , ‘ ’ . , , . , - , . , ‘ . ’ ‘ , ’ , . ’ ‘ , , . , , ’ ‘ ’ ‘ , , ’ , , , , , , , . ’ . 13 EVERY C HANGING SHAPE 14 Q quite simply mysticism is t h e study o f direct union with God a union which reaches beyond t h e senses and beyond reason T his is the essence o f mystical experience From it spring all the subtleties and complications which have exercised writers and philosophers for centuries And it is in these complexities these fit fu l sparks which the central illumination sheds and scatters that I intend to search for the connections between this particular sense of union with God and the making of poems In the history of English poetry the word mystical has perhaps been used most appropriately and with most clarity in the criticism that has accumulated around the seventeenth century S O called Meta physical poets T h e great representatives of this group of poets are in fact not metaphysical at all ; on the contr ary they are mystical poets Vaughan Herbert an d T rahern e were not primarily interested in the n ature or study o f being the true meaning of metaphysics ; they were concerned with making direct contact with reality or God and with expressing this in their verse Indeed it is rather ironic that the use of the word metaphysic al as ap plied to these poets is j ust as vague and imprecise as the use o f mystical in other contexts It must however b e stressed from the outset o f these exploratory studies that a poet can write strictly mystical poetry without being fully conscious o f what he is doing whereas the mystic in attempting t o describe his contact with God is usually perfectly aw are o f what he is striving t o express T his phenomenon applies to all poets an d all poetry and o often sounds either criticism is to explain if it is to achieve these ends at more th an a an d to elucidate and superfici al level it must o f i ts very nature m ake conscious an d explicit what in a given poem may be unconscious and implicit C riticism does n o t ex actly make something o u t o f something else ; if it is j u st and honest it br ings to the surface But the problem Of criticism often is that simply by bringing to the surface it alters and even destroys T h e fish is c aught yes but it is a dead fish o r at best a g asping fish What the perfect critic must do is c atch the fish examine it carefully and afterwards return it t o the water un impaired C riticism then is the applic ation Of a s c i entifi c method to a free spontaneous activity ut , , . ‘ . . , - . ‘ ’ , - - . , , . , , , , . , ’ ‘ ’ ‘ . , , , , , . , , , . , . , . , , , . , , , . , , , s t ic s , on the other hand h ave usually been their o wn best critics Most of their written work is an attempt t o explain a Skirmishing round a point where mysticism and poetry meet It is , , . . DEFI NITI ON S AND WITNESSES 15 this reason th at Bremond h as decl ar ed that the findings o f the mystics may throw light o n the activities o f the poet T o illustrate j ust how deeply the word mysticism has sunk to the level of the inchoate the undi fferentiated it may be useful to examine o n e o r t w o remarks made by a number of otherwise fastidious stylists Sacheverell Sitwell in his recently published Journey to the E nd of Time delivers himself of this rather startling st atement Perhaps our greatest mistake lies in thinking th at holin ess is the most likely means o f communication with the greater consciousness If we take only the last hundred and fifty years the seers in o u r midst have not been men o f religion but scientists and persons o f exception al hum an g ifts Bl ake T olstoy Beethoven R imbaud T hough the word mystic is not used here Seer is certainly a substitute for it Mr S itwell has in fact fallen victim t o a current fallacy he h as relegated to some vague are a o f mystic al e xp er ienc e s o m e t h in g which he is n o t himself pre pared t o define more exactly Even the fine discrimination and clarity o f Albert C amus s mind became clouded when he considered the relationship between religi on an d art and he was betrayed into some extremely confused remarks in The R ebel It must however be said in fairness t o C amus that he w as not s o much enthroning ecstasy as ex amining it He built up only t o destroy it is true but he finally found that total destruction is not possible and s o was left with as it were humanity o n the o n e h and and abstract definitions o f rebellion o n the other T h e tragedy is th at he died at the very moment when he seemed t o be re aching towards some kind o f synthesis In the work he h as left it is his humility whi ch s aves him from absurdity as well as his j oyful sensuousness Here is an extract from the chapter c alled R ebellio n a nd A rt in The R ebel : R eligion o r crime every hum an endeavour in fact finally obeys this ufi e a s o n ab le desire and cl aims t o give life a form it does not have T h e s ame impulse which can le ad t o the adoration o f th e heavens o r t o creative literature which derives C amus does n o t mention mysticism here but he is c t Fo r him it is along with religion only o n e more attempt by man t o impose order upon chaos And fo r C amus ecstasy w as almost always an other n ame for escape o r self dec eption If C amus w as confused at le ast he was diffident about formulating absolute l aws o u t Of his confusion In h is thought there is none o f the self c o nfidence which we find s o frequently in the E xistentialism o f fo r . ’ ‘ , , . , ‘ , . , ’ , , ’ ‘ . , ’ ‘ . , , , ’ ‘ v . ’ . , , . , , , , , . . , . , ‘ , - , . , . , , . . , . - EVERY C HANGI NG S HAPE 16 S artre Most o f h is statements are questions and fo r this he must be greatly respe c ted I h ave considered C amus at some length because his ideas h ave had a potent e ffect o n the c ontemporary attitude both t o the purpose o f literature and t o the v alidity o f religious experience Y et though he may appear t o regard ecstasy as j ust o ne more possible experience he is also acquainted with su ffering as we s e e in The P lague fo r ex ample and when he spe aks o f as c eticism he is no t simply indulging in a facile play of words It is perhaps noteworthy that th o se men and women whose written testimonies would seem to show that they have had the sort of mystical experience t o which D om C uthbert Butler refers are themselves extremely reticent about using the word mystical P ascal s silence is fo r instance more resounding than the current Beat Generation s noisy avowal of attachment to C hrist Furthermore some Of the writers w h o were not C hristians ...
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