BOOK PICK: The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord
THE HUNDREDFOLD: SONGS FOR THE LORD
By Anthony Esolen
Ignatius Press, 2019
224 pages, $17.95
To order: ignatius.com or (800) 651-1531 (on-line reductions out there)
One can declare that literature — particularly Catholic literature — is in disaster at present. The place is at present’s Flannery O’Connor, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Georges Bernanos or Rumer Godden? Poetry, amongst all literary genres, appears particularly to have misplaced readership. What about Catholic poetry? Most of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poems had been penned by 1884, and even Joyce Kilmer’s been useless a century.
Kudos, then, to Anthony Esolen for taking over the poetic gauntlet, and for doing it so properly.
Esolen, erstwhile professor at Windfall School and now professor and author in residence at Magdalen School of the Liberal Arts, is well-prepared for the duty. His translations of Dante, Lucretius and Tasso are acknowledged for his or her excellence. He’s an incisive cultural critic. This e book demonstrates his strengths as an writer.
The writer’s abilities as a cultural critic are on show within the excellent 40-page introduction to this e book, through which Esolen explains the music of poetry (whereas additionally noting what’s made that music unhealthy within the English-speaking world). These three dozen or so pages are a great crash course in understanding and appreciating poetry.
However this isn’t a e book about poetry; it’s a e book of poetry.
Esolen’s poetry ranges throughout the Bible. It brings new methods to take a look at acquainted figures. It invitations us to think about what may need been a few of their “backstories.” It helps us have a look at what trendy eyes would possibly overlook. It forces us to assume.
And it does so with rhyme and motive, as a result of it typically does so with rhyme and verse. Esolen’s poems are musical. They keep away from the deadening “varieties” into which trendy poetry has been straitjacketed — varieties that win plaudits from the critics whilst poetry hemorrhages its readers. Esolen exhibits us how English can sing.
Think about this stanza, honoring the start of Christ however weaving collectively many biblical motifs right into a Eucharistic complete:
He who builds the sparrow’s nest,
He who feeds the raven,
Takes His milk from Mary’s breast,
Within the manger-haven.
We’re hungry, too, and misplaced.
Who will feed us with out value,
Weakest of the weak?
From His lips in time to be
We will hear that solely He
Is the bread we search.
Or take his poetic prayer about what actually issues in life:
Ought to I develop blind, let it not be
From squinting at an atom or a solar,
When the extra radiant beings close to to me
Can daze the attention and stun.
A soul that dwells on them devotedly:
Love, be it love that steals my sight,
Then within the deeps of evening
I shall hear voices, heat and sensible and delicate,
As previous Tobias heard his spouse and baby
Moments earlier than his world was stuffed with gentle.
Esolen sings of a Roman centurion, uninterested in wine and girls, who arms his concubine “a final kiss, and the charge. I want it had been extra, in your sake. What I may give, I give,” simply as he units down the highway to listen to an intriguing itinerant preacher. Esolen extols the blind Bartimaeus, who opens our eyes to what’s gentle. He pries into the correspondence of a cynical Pilate who resignedly tells his patron, “Do with me what you’ll.”
Don’t let poetry intimidate you! Achieved proper (i.e., not like many “poets” do it at present) it may be lovely, and folks want magnificence. “‘Why trouble with poetry in any respect?’ It’s quite like asking why we should always trouble to hearken to a ravishing piece of unhappy music quite than simply learn a message throughout a display screen, asserting ‘I’m blue.’ Artwork reveals to us the mysteries of our existence.”
Involved in serving to revive the artwork of Catholic poetry? I can’t consider a extra lovely little reward than this superb e book of verse underneath your Christmas tree this 12 months.
John M. Grondelski, Ph.D., writes from Falls Church, Virginia. All views are solely his.