Posted by: Peadar Ban | July 18, 2012

A Good Jesuit

Time was when poetry of an openly Christian or Catholic nature was far and away the poetry most written, and the best of the bunch, so to speak. Such poetry, religious in its origins, was intended also to be inspirational, to raise the reader’s mind from the things of earth to the things Beyond and the things Within. That has changed over the years.  Much of what is written, and what is called poetry, does not so readily conform itself to what might be called the “genre” of Christian or Catholic poetry; is not religious or inspirational in such ways as used to be.

Some forms of poetry have almost disappeared from the “canon”.  Indeed “formal” poetry, poetry adhering to a set scheme of rhyme and meter has fallen away.  Who writes sonnets anymore?   When one thinks of sonnets, one may immediately think of Shakespeare or Browning and their love sonnets, and possibly a few others if one is an English professor.  The name Gerard Manley Hopkins does not  come to mind, immediately if at all.  Yet Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., should be a name with which many are familiar for his contributions to the sonnet form of poem making, and for the works he fashioned themselves; their art and their deeply Christian and Catholic religious message.

In his “Commentary on the Sonnets of Gerard Manley Hopkins”, Peter Milward, S. J., takes the reader to school so to speak.  Milward, who is an accomplished poet himself, gives the reader a complete annotation of each of the sonnets Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote between 1877 and 1889, the year of his death.  Along the way, one is exposed to Milward’s scholarship and insights and Hopkin’s deeply religious, Christian and Catholic (in every sense of that word) art.  Gerard Manley Hopkins, the poet, priest, Christian and Catholic is explained, and his contribution to modern poetry and the sonnet form plainly yet eloquently made clear.  The “Commentary on the Sonnets of Gerard Manley Hopkins” is a work of scholarship, but in a way it is a fascinating forensic study of what makes an artist and what makes good art.  It shows how the beauty of the world shines forth the beauty of the world’s Creator in the hands of a great artist.  And it makes a statement about the place of good Christian and Catholic poetry and solid Christian and catholic thinking in the world today.  The book also includes a biographical sketch of Hopkins, so important to understanding the complete man.

The Christian Book Corner is happy to offer Milward’s “Commentary on the Sonnets of Gerard Manley Hopkins” at our normal generous discount.  It is a book which all lovers of good poetry will want, and all students of poetry will find useful and enlightening.

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