POETS AND MYSTICS, by E. L Watkin (Sheed and Ward, 21s.), CHOIR OF MUSFS, by Etienne Gilson, translated by Maisie Ward (Sheed and Ward, 12s. 6d.).
By Fr. T. Corbishley, S.F.
A NYTHING that Mr. Watkin r-Iwrites, either on philosophy or on mysticism. shows the working of a mind at once sensitive and cultivated, perceptive and intelligent, profoundly spiritual yet rooted in everyday realities. We naturally open Poets and Mystics with great hopes; nor are we disappointed. In a book of quite remarkable range—dealing as it does with writers as widely diverse as Shakespeare and Dom Augustine Baker, Margery Kcmpe and Miss Ruth Pitter—we are treated to a series 'of critical and reflective essays, many of which have already been published in periodicals, but which nevertheless possess a fundamental unity of outlook and purpose. We must be grateful to Mr. Watkin as to his publishers for giving us in more permanent form these studies which might so easily have been limited to a small public. One essay in particular seems to call for special notice—the second chapter of the book. It is entitled, "He Wanted Art," and is a startling yet shrewd and well-argued study of Shakespeare. Ardent admirers of Shakespeare will probably be shocked at the bluntness of pronouncements such as: "There is the Arid Shakespeare, the poet, pouring out as sublime poet!), as the world has heard, and there is Forsyte Shakespeare, of bourgeois aims, and, as we shall see, an animus that failed to appreciate and therefore to assist the achievements of anima. Only if we keep these two unreconciled beings in view can we hope to understand Shakespeare or his work." . It seems unlikely that anything new can he said in this field, yet to one reader at least Mr. Watkin has shed light on a complex and difficult subiect
TT is difficult to appraise Prof. 1 Gilson's curious book with anything like certainty. The thesis of it, roughly, is that woman's role in the life of the creative artist is to inspire him by remaining an unattainable ideal. Fie may love and desire. but must never possess; possession destroys the special quality of her inspiration. To sustain this thesis, M. Gilson re-tells the stories of Pctrarch and Laura. and of half a dozen other famous pairs of men and womenBaudelaire and Apollonie Sabaticr, Wagner and Mathilde, and so on. Thus, "to the poet's appeal for the eternal feminine, the well-meaning woman had offered him Apollonie
. Sabatier. . A muse cannot become a pal. . . ."
"If Wagner's muse only said No to him after first saying Yes, we are confronted by what is certainly a rare instance of flight. coming at the very moment of passion's triumph. serving therefore to maintain passion at the highest point of its burning." "Man is so made that when he meets beatitude he asks for her in marriage. You may be called Goethe and be past master in the at t of timely flight, but the day will come when you are convinced that the only means of taking possession of Wisdom is to marry her." Well, in all this business of the relations between the sexes, the physical. the spiritual, the artistic, the social. the religious factors are so complex and subtle that no simple solution seems possible.
M. Gilson has stated a point of
view, and accumulated much interesting information. But there is, inevitably, so much of masculine arrogance involved in his discussion that we should like to hear the other point of view. Though, as he implies that the woman only becomes articulate in the man, perhaps we shall never hear it.