Poetry

A Medieval Remedy for Modernity’s Ills

Show me a Catholic not troubled by the circumstances of these days, and I will show you a Catholic asleep. Society’s woes rock his soul, but the historic perils facing Holy Church do so even more. Not only from outside her walls, but more frighteningly, from within. How are we to keep our spirits from [...]

Hopkins, Autumn, and Christ

A young child, Margaret, grieves for the time-swept autumn leaves. She is the object of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem “Spring and Fall,” and her bright Goldengrove is now “unleaving.” Goldengrove, with all its connotations of idyllic youth and sunny play. Goldengrove, where we imagine little Margaret exulting, with Chestertonian wonder, in the gratuitous magic of [...]

George Herbert’s “The Pulley”

In the style of the “wit” of metaphysical poetry—the ability to see striking, original analogies and to use fresh metaphors—Herbert writes of man’s relationship to God by comparing the communication of God to man and man to God to the movements of a pulley. In the language of seventeenth century poetry, Herbert uses a “conceit,” [...]

Brendan Behan: Rebel, Writer, Penitent

The name of Brendan Behan—rebel, hell-raiser, and writer—is rarely linked with the word "Catholic." This is an oversight, for he was by birth and upbringing very much a Catholic writer, if that is to be judged by his culture and social background. Nevertheless, it was more than just that. Its omission, or deliberate negation, is [...]

The Singular Catholic Vision of Gerard Manley Hopkins

If every poem has a past, then the strands of my own past are laced with lines of the loveliest lyric, forged a century or more ago by Gerard Manley Hopkins, an obscure Jesuit priest whose sonnet, “God’s Grandeur,” I elatedly discovered while a student at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. His was the opening [...]

When Textbooks Upheld the Ideals of Our Ancestors

I am musing upon a fine book written by a teacher and prolific author, Leroy Armstrong. He is introducing the reader to the life and the work of John Greenleaf Whittier, the old Quaker poet who was once one of the most beloved writers in America. He directs our attention to “Snow-Bound,” which he says [...]

Who Needs Poetry?

What are poems for? Is there any real point in writing them? And what about us, the folks who are expected to buy all that bilge—is it quite necessary that we actually read all that bleeping poetry? Exercising his customary acuity, C.S. Lewis tells us that poems exist to remind us that water is wet [...]

Rudyard Kipling’s “If–”: A Lesson In Manhood

For a particular poem to retain its power across years and generations, it must give expression to something that transcends the passing of time, and do so in such an exquisitely memorable manner that it simply cannot be imitated or remade. Competitors and critics may sally forth and give it battle; lesser authors may adopt [...]

St. Thomas of Napa Valley

The Sebastiani family has been making and selling wine in California for more than one hundred years. One of its Napa Valley wines bears the intriguing label, “Aquinas,” in honor of the Catholic Church’s greatest philosopher/theologian. The choice of this label might raise some eyebrows. What is the “Angelic Doctor’s” name doing on a product that comes [...]

Bl. Ladislaus of Gielniów and the Power of Catholic Culture

 In the year of Our Lord fourteen sixty-two, St. Peter’s chains’ day, I took the cloister’s bonds. In Gielniów, Peter begot me, but Peter, most kind, in the cloister enclosed me: smashed my chains. Thanking good God, with the Psalmist I sing: ‘You have broken my bonds, O merciful God, By a wretch be thanked, [...]

“Mending Wall” by Robert Frost

 All I, myself, can do is to urge you to place friendship above every human concern that can be imagined! Nothing else in the whole world is so completely in harmony with nature, and nothing so utterly right, in prosperity and adversity alike.  — Cicero, “On Friendship” Two men who meet to repair a stone [...]

The Cultures of Life and Death in Poetry

The Culture of Death in Poetry We are all familiar with Blessed John Paul II’s description of the Culture of Death in his 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae.  The good Pope, of course, was not the first to notice and give expression to this phenomenon. In 1922, T. S. Eliot released to the world his account [...]

Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses

“The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” In this one of his most famous lines, Robert Louis Stevenson presents us with a metaphor of the child as a king and the world as his vast domain.  This image of the child king [...]

T.S. Eliot as Mentor

The following essay is reprinted with the permission of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute from The Intercollegiate Review.   T. S. Eliot was indisputably the greatest poet writing in English in the twentieth century. He was also the most revolutionary Anglophone literary critic since Samuel Johnson, and the most influential religious thinker in the Anglican tradition [...]

Brother Beat

Sixty years ago, Catholicism -- for the first time -- stood at the center of American literature. Katherine Anne Porter, Flannery O'Connor, J. F. Powers, Pietro di Donato, and Mary McCarthy represented the front rank of contemporary fiction. Meanwhile poets like John Berryman, Allen Tate, Robert Lowell, John Frederick Nims, and Robert Fitzgerald became the [...]

Poetry, Not Polemics, Mark the Beginning of Advent

Yesterday was the occasion of what has become my annual Christmas poetry luncheon at Buca di Beppo in Washington, D.C.  This year I co-hosted the event with Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, whose Southern charm was needed to offset my post-60 gruffness.   I intended to post videos of all twelve poetry [...]

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