Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Rise of The Oxford Movement and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in the Nineteenth Century and the Coinciding Renascence of Marian Poetry (Twelve); Alice Meynell

Alice Meynell, the wife of the partnership who sheltered Francis Thompson during his affliction and nurtured his genius, seems to present human beings as trying to conceive of Christ in the mind in her poem:


     We too (one cried), we too,
     We the unready, the perplexed, the cold,
     Must shape the Eternal in our thoughts anew,
     Cherish, possess, enfold.

     Thou sweetly, we in strife.
     It is our passion to conceive Him thus
     In mind, in sense, within our house of life;
     That seed is locked in us.

     We must affirm our Son
     From the ambiguous Nature's difficult speech
     Gather in darkness that resplendent One,
     Close as our grasp can reach.

     Nor shall we ever rest
     From this our task. An hour sufficed for thee,
     Thou innocent! He lingers in the breast
     Of our humanity.

  Meynell's main message posits that, whereas Mary conceived Christ as a mother, in her womb [not intellectually] in what for her was a simple hour [15], humankind makes a lifetime task out of conceiving Christ in the mind.

Dr Luky Whittle

Poet and suffragist
Alice Christiana Gertude Meynell was an English writer, editor, critic and suffragist; now remembered mainly as poet.
  Her first poetry collection was Preludes [1875], and was illustrated by her elder sister - the artist Lady Elizabeth Butler.
  John Ruskin, the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, praised Preludes - in particular, the sonnet 'Renunciation' for its beauty and delicacy.

Faith in Poetry 
 Meynell's writings migrated to subjects of religious matters.
Her "Sœur Monique"  is a serene testament to a woman of faith
  The poet addresses 'Quiet form of silent nun' [1], and speaks of
     'This old master's melody  [6]
      That expresses you;         [7]
  Meynell illuminates the faith-woman's life of prayerful unity with God. The sister is seen standing 
     'With your life held in your hand      [36]
      As a rosary of days                        [37]
  A magnificent image is thus flawlessly word-painted by the poet, whose personal faith was an integral part of her being.

Economy of syntax
The poet created 'Via, et Veritas, et Vita' ; 'I am the Way',
'Unto us a Son is given' and 'Veni Creator'.
  These poems with spiritual titles and text are a clear indication of her faith translating into her creativity.
  The poetry Meynell produced from 1893 to 1902 demonstrated her growing mastery of what one critic named a 'chastened' form.
  She manipulated economy of syntax and rare felicity of expression, within the orthodox sonnet and quatrain.

Madonna Alice
  The poet's spiritual and emotional strength led her to support others in their difficulties.
  She and her husband were deeply supportive of the poet Francis Thompson who was struggling to overcome opium addiction.
  Wilfred and Alice Meynell rescued Thompson from the streets and sent him to a hospital to help him with rehabilitation.
  They supported him both financially and emotionally his entire life.

  Thompson - his wounded body and mind given shelter and peace by the poet and her husband - overcame his disability to produce exceptionally fine poetry.
  Such was the warmth the kindness of the Meynells inspired in Thompson, that he referred to Alice as 'Mother', 'Lady' and even 'Madonna Alice'.
  Francis, the Meynell's last child, was named for his godfather - Francis Thompson.

Women Writers' Suffrage League
  Meynell - a leading figure in the Women Writers' Suffrage League - spoke out courageously on behalf of the oppressed.
  She campaigned for the right of women to vote; and witnessed the success of the suffragette movement in her lifetime.
  The poet was an activist who used her abilities and position in society to reach out to help those in need.
  This luminous 'madonna' - sensitive to the needs of others as she struggled with her own series of illnesses, including migraine and depression - continued to pen a library of letters, essays and poetry that stand to this day.

Catherine Nicolette
Poet Alice Maynell

"Sœur Monique"

Via, et Veritas, et Vita

I am the Way

Unto us a Son is given

Veni Creator

With thanks to
Image and Editing by Catherine Nicolette

The Rise of The Oxford Movement and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in the Nineteenth Century and the Coinciding Renascence of Marian Poetry (Eleven); Francis Thompson

Unlike the other nineteenth-century poets who wrote in praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary mentioned thus far, Francis Thompson [1859-1907], who is probably best known for his Christ poem The Hound of Heaven, was an ardent admirer of seventeenth-century metaphysical poetry.  1
  He suffered poverty and deprivation and was addicted to drugs.
His plight was recognized by the publisher-poet Wilfrid Meynell [1852-1948] and his wife the poetess/essayist Alice Meynell [1847-1922], who not only were the first publishers to publish Thompson's poetry but took the impoverished poet into their home where he remained under their care until his death and where he grew in poetic stature as his writing brought him wide acclaim.

Office of Our Lady 
 Thompson was familiar with the devotion known as 'The Office of Our Lady' and, of course, the Old Testament, including the Canticle of Canticles.  2
  In the poem Assumpta Maria transcribed below, he refers to himself as a poor Thief of song [99], (a clear reference to the thief who  made supplication while being crucified alongside Christ), while in an 1893 letter [Connolly 1979:477]  3  which accompanied certain poems including the one which follows, he wrote:
  They (the sources) are almost entirely taken from the Office of the Assumption, some from the Canticle, a few images are from mythology. Some very beautiful images are from a hymn by St Nerses the Armenian, rendered in 'Carmina Mariana'.
  You will perceive therefore the reason of the motto from Cowley: 'Thou needst not make new songs, but say the old.'


Thou needs not make new songs, but say the old. -COWLEY

'Mortals, that behold a Woman
Rising 'twixt the Moon and Sun;
Who am I the heavens assume? an
All am I, and I am one.
'Multitudinous ascend I,
Dreadful as a battle arrayed,
For I bear you wither tend I;
Ye are I: be undismayed!
I, the Ark, that for the graven
Tables of the law was made;                                           10
Man's own heart was one; one, heaven; Anteros           4
Both within my womb were laid.
For there Anteros with Eros                                              5
Heaven with man, conjoinéd was
Twin-stone of the Law, Ischyros,                                      6
Agios Athanatos                                                                 7

'I, the flesh-girt Paradises
Gardenered by the Adam new,
Daintied o'er with dear devices
Which He loveth, for He grew.                                         20
I, the boundless strict Savannah                                        8
Which God's leaping feet go through;
I, the heaven whence the Manna,
Weary Israel, slid on you!
He the Anteros and Eros,
I the body, He the cross;
He upbeareth me, Ischyros,
Agios Athanatos!

'I am Daniel's mystic Mountain,
Whence the mighty stone was rolled;                               30
I am the four Rivers' Fountain,
Watering Paradise of old;
Cloud down-raining the Just One am,
Danae of the Shower of Gold;                                              9
I the Hostel of the Sun am;
He the Lamb, and I the Fold.
He the Anteros and Eros
I the body, He the Cross;
He is fast to me, Ischyros,
Agios Athanatos!                                                                 40

'I, the Presence-hall, where Angels
Do enwheel their placéd King-
Even my thoughts which, without change else,
Cyclic burn and cyclic sing.
To the hollow of heaven transplanted,
I a breathing Eden spring,
Where with venom all outpanted
Lies the slimed Curse shrivelling.
For the brazen Serpent clear on
That old fangéd knowledge shone;
I to Wisdom rise, Ischyron,                                               50
Agion, Athanaton!

'Then commanded and spake to me
He who framed all things that be;
And my Maker entered through me,
In my tent His rest took He.
Lo! He standeth, Spouse and Brother,
I to Him, and He to me,
Who upraised me where my mother
Fell, beneath the apple-tree.                                               60
Rise 'twixt Anteros and Eros,
Blood and Water, Moon and Sun,
He upbears me, He Ischyros,
I bear Him, the Athanaton!'

Where is laid the Lord arisen?
In the light we walk in gloom;
Though the Sun has burst his prison,
We know not his biding-room.
Tell us where the Lord sojourneth,
For we find an empty tomb.                                                70
Whence He sprung, there he returneth,
Mystic Sun, - the Virgin's Womb'
Cloud-enpillared as He was
From of old, there He, Ischyros,
Waits our search, Athanatos.

Who is She, in candid vesture,
Rushing up from out the brine?
Treading with resilient gesture
Air, and with that Cup divine?
She in us and we in her are                                                   80
Beating Godward: all that pine,
Lo, a wonder and a terror -
The Sun hath blushed the Sea to wine!
He the Anteros and Eros,
She the Bride and Spirit; for
Now the days of promise near us,
And the Sea shall be no more.

Open wide thy gates, O Virgin,
That the King may enter thee!
At all gates the clangours gurge in,                                      90
God's paludament lightens, see!                                           10
Camp of Angels! Well we even
Of this thing may doubtful be, -
If thou art assumed to heaven,
Or is heaven assumed to thee!
Consummatum. Christ the promised                                     11
Thy maiden realm, is won, O Strong!
Since to such sweet Kingdom comest,
Remember me, poor Thief of Song!
Cadent fails the stars along:-                                               100
Mortals, that behold a woman,
Rising 'twixt the Moon and Sun;
Who am I the heavens assume? an
All am I, and I am one.

Greek usage
There is a ring of triumph about this poem, and the use of Greek expressions and poetic devices bestows a sense of victory on the poet's poetic celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
  The fact that the Greek is fairly obscure to the general reader of our era, from whose school curriculum at first classical Greek and later classical Latin have largely been dropped, adds to the aura of scholastic formidability of the poet who pens them with a nonchalance which contrasts with the magnificence of their thunderous quality.
  Like Newman and Hopkins, though in his own individual way, Thompson in his Marian poetry shows the era's intellectual approach to the topic of the Blessed Mary.

Dr Luky Whittle

1.  The Hound of Heaven

2.  The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary

3. Assumpta Maria - Francis Thompson: 'Mortals that behold a woman - Thompson 1937:222

4.  Anteros: Greek God who avenges slighted love

5.  Eros: passionate love

6.  Ischyros: Strong One 

7.  Agios: Holy One
    Athanatos: Immortal One 

8.  Savannah: Treeless Plain

9.  Danae of the Shower of Gold: Jupiter visited Danae in a shower of gold, Ovid; 'Metamorphoses', Book IV, lines 610-11.

10.   Paludament: Cloak of a Roman general or chief officer

11. Consummatum: It is accomplished

With thanks to,,
Edited by Catherine Nicolette

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Rise of The Oxford Movement and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in the Nineteenth Century and the Coinciding Renascence of Marian Poetry (Ten); Robert Stephen Hawker

The Anglican Vicar Robert Stephen hawker [1803-1875] used quatrains to express his praise of the Blessed Virgin.
  His poem is called Aishah Schechina, which means Pillar of Cloud, an appellation bestowed on Mary throughout the centuries.


       A shape, like folded light, embodied air
       Yet wreathed with flesh, and warm:
       All that of heaven is feminine and fair,
       Moulded in visible form,
       She stood, the Lady Shechinah of earth,
       A chancel for the sky:
       Where woke, to breath and beauty, God's own Birth
       For men to see Him by.

       Round her, too pure to mingle with the day,
       Light, that was life, abode;                                      10
       Folded within her fibres meekly lay
       The link of boundless God.

       So linked, so blent, that when, with pulse fulfilled
       Moved but that Infant Hand,
       Far, far away, His conscious Godhead thrilled,
       And stars might understand.

       Lo! where they pause, with inter-gathering rest,
       The Threefold, and the One;
       And lo, He binds them to her orient breast,
       His manhood girded on.                                          20

       The zone, where two glad worlds for ever meet,
       Beneath that bosom ran:
       Deep in that womb the conquering Paraclete
       Smote Godhead on to man.

       Sole scene among the stars, where, yearning, glid
       The Threefold and the One;
       Her God upon her lap, the Virgin Bride,
       Her awful Child, her Son!

In this sublime poem, the poet, while avoiding the pitfalls of Mariolatry, gives due praise to Mary as containing all that of heaven is feminine and fair [3], and thanks the Holy Spirit, the conquering Paraclete/ (who) smote Godhead on to man [23-24], for the graces lavished upon her.
Glad worlds 
  Hawker simply gives honour to God, the Threefold and the One [26], who binds the Trinity to the Blessed Virgin's orient breast [19]. Mary's womb is an eternal meeting place for two glad worlds [21].
  Here Hawker emphasizes that Mary's world is human and God's is celestial.
  By implication therefore it is for the Creator to shower this created being with all the graces He owns.
  Mary's gracious acceptance of these leads to the ultimate privilege: that she, the Virgin Bride [27], can hold her God upon her lap [27].

Dr Luky Whittle

The Rise of The Oxford Movement and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in the Nineteenth Century and the Coinciding Renascence of Marian Poetry (Nine); Coventry Patmore

One of the followers of Dante Gabriel Rossetti who was also a friend and correspondent of the poet Hopkins and a convert to Catholicism, Coventry Patmore [1823-1896], started off his poetic career with contributions to the Pre-Raphaelite periodical 'Germ'.
  Hopkins called Patmore's collected volume of poetic works 'a good deed done for the Catholic Church and another for England, for the British Empire' [Sampson 1970: 601].

Divine Silence 
 For a long time Patmore worked on an ambitious Marian poetry project which never came to fruition but for which he made 'copious notes' [Page 1933:130]. Half of it was to be titled:
The Marriage of the Blessed Virgin. It would have been a poem about a marriage that was perfect, and his idea was [1933:135]:

        . . . simply that of the only perfect marriage. All allusion
        to Christian doctrine should be avoided . . . and some,
        especially my sisters, say, What can Joseph see to admire in
        such a simple child? . . . Perhaps the only personal
        descriptions of Mary should be in the criticisms of Joseph's
        female relations.

   Year later Patmore abandoned his project [Page 1833: 144], feeling 'it would be impossible . . . without . . . breaking in upon the Divine Silence which hangs over the subject like the speckless sky over a landscape.' One little poem remained, however:


       Say, did his sisters wonder what could Joseph see
       In a mild, silent little Maid like thee?
       And was it awful, in that narrow house,
       With God for Babe and Spouse?
       Nay, like thy simple female sort, each one
       Apt to find Him in Husband and in Son,
       Nothing to thee came strange in this.
       Thy wonder was but wondrous bliss:
       Wondrous, for, though
       True Virgin lives not but does know,
       (Howbeit none ever yet confess'd,)
       That God lies really in her breast,
       Of thine He made His special nest!
       And so
       All mothers worship little feet,
       And kiss the very ground they've trod;
       But ah, thy little Baby sweet, 
       Who was indeed thy God!

By means of his informal introduction Patmore captures the essential outward simplicity of the Blessed Virgin Mary's circumstances.
  As a mild, silent little Maid [2] she could not be expected to give an impression of majesty. 
  Yet she freely accepted the invitation to be the mother of God, surely the most awesome responsibility ever offered to any woman and faced it unflinchingly.
  There is an implied contrast in the description of the narrow [3] house which accommodated the immensity of the Divinity.
  In this line, the word awful [3], could either mean a colloquial expression or instead mean filled with awe and majesty.
  Patmore therefore, having first created the impression that Mary was nothing more than a shy child, immediately rectifies this perception by placing into focus her privileged position in surroundings made sacred by the presence of God Himself.

Simple hearts and incalculable grandeur 
 The poet extols the virtue of chastity in womanhood itself before applying it in a more profound measure to the Blessed Virgin in whose breast God made his special nest [13].
  Again we find the juxtaposition of the tenderness of small simple hearts and places with the incalculable grandeur of God.
  The poem culminates in the final quatrain by comparing the lot of all mothers and their devotion to their children.
  Very effective is the poet's almost awkward exclamation of tenderness for Mary's little baby sweet/who was indeed (her) God [18], which says more in conclusion than a detailed and reasoned argument might have done, since the very concept of Christ's infancy is enough to provoke tenderness in the heart of the believer and therefore requires little or no further illumination.

Dr Luky Whittle

Why not listen to Regina Coeli: Breviary Hymns

Regina Coeli: Say did his sisters wonder - Coventry Patmore - Page 1949:467

With thanks to Kpshaw.BlogSpot


The Rise of The Oxford Movement and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in the Nineteenth Century and the Coinciding Renascence of Marian Poetry (Eight); The Rossettis [Part Two]

The poet employs a breathtaking kaleidoscope of techniques which betrays a versatility of a word artist of astounding brilliance, whose self-possession is so engrained that he neither needs to heed the conventionalities nor considers himself bound by them.
  Thus we find the situation that whereas on the one hand he is plying the Blessed Virgin with incense, calling her one scarcely to be looked upon [20] and one whose splendour causes a need for angels to veil their eyes, on the  other hand, he is firing rhetorical questions at her in an almost conversational tone of reminiscence:
Mind'st thou not [25] (when) . . . a voice/  spake to thee without any noise [43-44].
Ablaze with baroque splendour
To add brilliance to the composition, the remainder of the stanza is ablaze with baroque splendour and a gift of description that leaves the reader experiencing the heat of Nazareth.
  The personification: June's heavy breath/ (which) warmed the long days in Nazareth [25-26] causes a sense of languidness to enfold the reader.
  The visibility of the plight of the flowers which the poet reminds Mary she gave some drink, that they might live/One faint night more among the sands [28-29] displays the fact that the painter/poet plies his pen with the consummate artistry he would (and did) employ, while depicting the scene with his paint brush.
  Coupled with the descriptions the trees . . . as dark wands/Against the fervid sky [30-31] and etched against the contrast of the peaceful background of the sea/Behind, reach(ing) on eternally/Like an old music soothing sleep [33-35], the poem lulls the reader, until the metaphor unexpectedly culminates in burning lines which seethe through the torpor-inducing climate of the setting:

            It was to thee as though the cloud
           Which shuts the inner shrine from view
           Were molten, and that God burned through:

Effective in its threefold expression of compassion, empathy and query is the exclamation: Ah! [49] which introduces the third stanza.
  The poet fires off a number of questions in this verse but keeps his reader alert by replying to some of these in his own musings, such as : Nay but I think the whisper crept [64] . . . Mid angels in the Temple-courts [66].
  This has the effect of transporting the reader's mind to the time of Christ and make him/her one with the people of the time.

Mother-son relationship 
  There is a sense of familiarity, in the finest sense of the word, when Rossetti mentions the mother-son relationship Mary shares with the disciple John, which reveals an empathy and indicates that the poet had an easy relationship with his own mother.
  Without bashfulness he describes how the Blessed Virgin and John sustained one another after Christ had consummated his human life and resurrection and had risen up to heaven.
  Although from all accounts Dante Gabriel Rossetti had none of the spiritual fervour of his sister, which manifested itself in the observance of all the precepts of the Anglican Church, there was nothing lacking in his insight into the loneliness of Mary and John after Christ had quit their immediate presence.
  Having been widowed young himself, his sigh:
How long, O Lord? [90], an expression which even today is repeated by many who may never have heard of the poet, may have been a groan which likewise came from his own heart.
  It is this empathy as much as its Baroque splendour which makes Ave a great poem.

Varied length of stanzas
  Rossetti varies the length of his stanzas in this version of the poem.
These consist of 24, 24, 15, 15, 22, 14 and 22 lines respectively.
  The only explanation there appears to be for this disparity is that the poet may still have been experimenting when writing this, his second version, featured in this study and quoted from an unpublished doctoral thesis.
  Alternatively, the verse lengths may have been affected by being written on new pages without marking the end and the beginning of the various stanzas, but this does not seem likely, as each stanza appears to be an entity in itself.
Human simplicity with celestial majesty
  The tender reverence of Rossetti's tones and the juxtaposition of Mary's human simplicity with her celestial majesty, while taking nothing away from God nor bestowing undue praise on the Blessed Virgin, are vastly more uplifting than are Christina Rossetti's well-intentioned by apologetic Marian poems, since a canvas that spans the universe as does the corpus of poetry in honour of the Blessed Virgin can only be tarnished, never enhanced, by the use of an eraser, be it ever so figurative.

Dr Luky Whittle