By Andrew J. Auge
A Chastened Communion strains a brand new course in the course of the well-traversed box of contemporary Irish poetry by means of revealing how severe engagement with Catholicism shapes the trajectory of the poetic careers of Austin Clarke, Patrick Kavanagh, John Montague, Seamus Heaney, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Paul Durcan, and Paula Meehan.
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Additional resources for A Chastened Communion: Modern Irish Poetry and Catholicism
Half-wakened by the tide, Ships rise along the quay As though they were unloading. I turn a drowsy side— That dreams, the eye has known, May trouble souls to-night. (CPC, 166) The contrast between the Tridentine ritual of confession that so traumatized Clarke in his youth and the practices of the Celtic Church is rendered even more acutely in the title poem of Pilgrimage and Other Poems. The pilgrimage envisioned here encompasses many of the most significant sites and artifacts associated with the golden age of the Celtic Church: Clonmacnoise, Cormac’s Chapel at Cashel, Croagh Patrick, the hermitages of the ascetics on Skellig Michael, the Ardagh chalice, the Annals and illuminated manuscripts produced by monks.
46 In the poem’s concluding description, an ecumenical cloudburst in which the heavens and the sewers are conjoined repudiates the premise underlying the priest’s question—that one’s natural sexual impulses should be dammed/damned: Feast-day effulgence, as though I gained For life a plenary indulgence. . Waste water mocked The ballcocks: down-pipes sparrowing, And all around the spires of Dublin Such swallowing in the air, such cowling To keep high offices pure: I heard From shore to shore, the iron gratings Take half our heavens with a roar.
But for poetry the idea is everything; the rest is a world of illusion, of divine illusion. Poetry attaches its emotion to the idea; the idea is the fact. 44 While Arnold’s formulation imbues modern poetry with a heightened spiritual intensity, it does so, according to T. S. ”45 In contrast to Eliot, who insists that nothing can substitute for religious faith, Charles Taylor credits Arnold with establishing poetry’s role as a viable option for those moderns inhabiting the borderland between belief and unbelief.