By W. J. IGOE The lunatic, the lover rind the poet Are of imagination all compact: One sees more devils than vast hell can hold, Thar is, the madman; the lover, di as frantic, Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt
NEVER did great poet write greater nonsense. That he was capable of sueh human absurdity, only makes us love him more, but we must be wary of the foolishness of great poets. Customarily so sane, they mislead too easily. How could Shakespeare confuse poets and lovers with madmen ? These lines, i suspect, were Written on the morning after the night befine, or on an evening after Helen had flounced off. to leave him gazing at a jug of stale sack and consoling himself, such is the compensatory conceit of men, with the thought that love was folly. and poetry superfluous.
Pride, in this moment, was Isis downfall—he was a man—in so defining Iiiy nnui. Humble in ihe mouth of Ilamlet, he had been nearer the truth of love's, poets arid himself when he observed with wonder . . . "what a piece of work: is Malt . how infinite in faculty . . . in apprehension how like a god . . the paragon of animals . . this quintessence of dust . . . the beauty of tire world . ." The image and likeness of God T It is because they see the image and likeness of God. so difficult to diagnose before breakfast, that the poet and lover are sane.
Only the lover will take time off from the important tasks of life, such as playing the stock market, Standing in queues for whale steaks, throwing darts, reading he:Juries:. Greene and Professor Dover Wilson, imbibing tea, hewing coal, talking polities and reviewing books—even major tasks, like washing babies and watching the ducks in St. James's Park, to gaze long enough at poor Egypt to diagnose Helen's beauty in her tired eyes. She even distracts him at prayer and he her. so that in her mind Falstaff assumes "a touch of Harry in the night" and even Shallow may be Benedick by day and night.
bey see Orel in each other. and so despite the frown of Egypt in both, are redeemed; they arc sere and not 10 be confused with the ittadmnn; they are brother and sister to the poet.
Too Good To Be Reviewed Such is Mr. William Bliss: whose rich book about Shakespeare has evoked these musings.* It is such a book one cannot review it, the sort of book one gives one's self as a present. I have browsed in its pages ore hot August afternoons and it has even turned my eyes from the ducks ill St. James's Park—those holy fowl; I look forward to reading it before fires on cold November evenings. if. by then the puritans have not -robbed U s of all they ever offered—fire. 1 shall read it on Christmas day. I will, however, forbear from commenting on it critically, which would be impertinence; perchance when I am as old. feel as young, and am half as wise, as Mr. Bliss I shall write a critical essay upon his work.
He hates Shakespearean commentators. He consigns them all to a circle of hell, unplumbed by Dante. But he does not see the puritan in Shakespeare, the puritan in its all, which, clashing with the Catholic in the soul of the poet, produced great music. in Shakespeare, England's battle, at its inception-, was fought out and the Catholic won, as England will win.
Mr. Bliss seeks for the truth of Shakespeare in the only true portrait we have of him, his rsork. After consigning the commentators. those wicked men, his rivals for Shakespeare's love, to hell, with witty cmdition he teases the poet's life from his poetry. Searching for the truth of his hero's boyhood in England's countryside he gives to Eugemus. his fellowtraveller, the thought that it was in his childhood that the poet must have learned the ways of the land and the beasts and the birds of England, its rivers and " of willows that grew aslant brooks and bunks whereon the wild thyme grows—and that sort of thing:.
" Yes. replies our author, "and of fairies and pixies and spirits of wood and air and water. Be found Puck in the Arden woods and Ariel on Blinton Hill. Peaseblossom and Cobweb and Moth and Mustard Seed played with him in Fox Covert on the way to Snitterfield, and Queep Mab filled' his head with dreams when • he lay asleep after bathing in'Welford mill pool."
Who, overhearing such a conversation on these sunlit English afternoons, hearing again those names that only the boy in Shakespeare could have dreamed out of the enchanted -past, cannot envisage the poet's childhood in Mary's rural England
Mr. Bliss writes of Shakespeare's ladies, witty, gentle, wicked. good, sad and lovely, his kings. fools, murderers, clowns, monks and his religion.
. No Poet an Atheist "/ believe," he , writes, that someone has even wildly tried to maintain that he was a Puritan. That suggestion, of course. is beyond trittacy7 hut. on the other hand. 1 do not think that Shakespeare was a practising Catholic. What is clear, however, is that be posseSSed the anima noturaliter Catholica."
He goes on to give us this truth: I. No poet was ever Wt an atheist— though the young Shelley tried to pretend lie was—nor ever will be. But in the case of Shakespeare I mean more than that. I mean his writingsshow Ire was Catholicminded; that his sympathies lay with the ohl order; that he held by the old reverences and Old sanctities and the old virtues . . ."
So he continues. I should have liked him to have commented on Shakespeare's intense—and so very significant in an Elizabethan—preoccupation with the doctrine of the Sacrament of Penance, so fearfully outlined in the prayer of Claudius: "0, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven: it haat the primal eldest curse upon'!. (I brother's murder .. . Rut 0, what form of prayer can serve my turn . . . Forgive me my foul murder ? That cannot be, since 1 am still possess'el . . ." The writer of these lines felt the burden of sin, and the possibility of penance, as only a Catholic can. .And so our hook comes to an end with a visit from Shakespeare, who proves Mr. Bliss was right about poets and atheists, by telling him " In heaven we ore ail poets. He places his imprimatur on the author's book, saying as he does so—it is On the frontispiece for all to see: " Even heaven, we ID S'S' to be loved." This is a loving book and lovable.
*The Real Shakespettre: A Coon. ter-blast To Commentators. By Wiliam Bliss. tSidgwick and Jackson, I8s.)
Mass Cutouts for Teachers.
The recent eel, bi ion of the Metropolitan Catholic Teachers' Association stressed the need for more religious teaching aids for children. An America n pattern sheet called Father Peter Cutouts, has now arrived, which covers the explanation of the Mass. Children can paint their own model vestments, chalices and altars and a written story in simple language of the Mass is contained in the cover of ttle Cutouts. This excellently-produced American edition cart he obtained from 107 Fleet Street, E.C.4, at two shillings and sixpence each.
A similar effort produced in England by the Young Christian Worker Publications, is called the Father Alfred Teaching Aid. It covers the same ground as the American edition, although it is not quite so well produced and comes well within the pocket of the average schoolchild. It can be obtained at fourpence a copy, or three. shillings per dozen post free, from 106 Clapham Road, London, S.W.9. ALL MOONSHINE?
Built before the Flood. By H. S.
Bellamy. (Faber and Faber, 2Is.) Reviewed by F. EULFORD
ONCE upon a very long time ago there was a moon revolving around this earth which was not this moon we have now. It fell with a mighty crash into Africa. And there were a lot of cultured
people living on top of the highest
mountains of the Bolivian Andes, which tops were really islands at
the time of the previous moon. be
cause that moon exercised a terrific attraction on the waters of the earth
and got them to conercgate at the tropical belt. When that old moon hit Africa, the svaters seem to have receded from the tropics and more
or less found their present beds in the Pacific. Atlantic, and so on.
Then what had been islands where Bolivia is now, stood out as the cold forbidding tops of the great range of South American hills.
That is Mr. Bellamy's story, and he is sticking to it fervently because other learned people have been talk
ing along the same lines for the last few years. including Floerbiger of Austria. He is so fervent in his be liefs, and is so consistently impatient of contrary beliefs, that you close this beautifully produced arid admirably illustrated book feeling that had he adopted a more sober style in arguing he would have won More disciples.
Facetious as this reviewer may sound, the fact is that Mr. Bellamy
argues his point from a flying fish.
These creatures arc tropical sea water things (delicious to eat incid entally), and inscriptions discovered on top of the mountains referred to show that the artists of long ago were familiar with flying fish.
The book is a new, revised and augmented addition of a successful seller, and includes this passage " The 'Christianity ' of the Indians of the Titicaca region is, luckily, not
more than skin-deep." Titicaca. by
the way, is the name of a huge lake on top of Mr. Bellamy's mountains, and the insertion of the word "luckily " in the quoted sentence might be expressive of the author's fear that Christ's religion would want to debunk his beloved theories. Whether Mr. Bellamy has that fear. or not, is a myStery on the par of that of the appearance of flying fieh up around Titicaca lake.
AN UNUSUAL BOOK
The Existence of God, a Thomist essay. By Dom Mark Pontifex. (Longmans, 7e. 6d.)
. Reviewed by
FR. VINCENT TURNER, Si.
T HIS short essay of some 180 A pages covers a variety of subjects, A chapter on the existence of God is followed by one on the transcendental concepts and by another on our knowledge of God, Then comes a section of three chantere on the relation between creatures and God, on free will, on the problem of evil. The rest of the book, over a half, is taken tip with matters of epistemology and ontology, concluding with three chapters on moral philosophy. One cannot but wonder why so many topics are touched on, and in that order.
The treatment, perforce very summary, is traditional on the whole and elementary. As an introduction, then, to the central ideas and arguments of scholasticism the hook may well do good service. But alas—and this we say with reluctance, mindful of the many excellent essays that Dom Pontifex has to his credit—so sketchy are the many sections of this hook that one fears that the ignorant will be unenlightened and the informed will be shocked. For instance, the brief half page on God and prayer (45-46) were better omitted; and the naivety of all DoM Pontifex's discussion of moral philosophy revised. There are in circulation many good and critical books about ethical .terms and problems, and in consequence the too cavalier declaration of what good " means or how the good stands to desires is probably more than even the average informed reader can swallow.
But perhaps there is something that eludes me.
A Convent Letter-Box.
Reviewed by IVOR HAEL
THE attractive Collection of letters, arranged by a Benedictine of Stanbrook and entitled " Any Saint to Any Nun " (BOW., 8s. 0.), is timeless in its religious humanism. The " Little" Teresa of Lisieux follows St. Athanasius and St. Jerome, while St:Ambrose is sandwiched between St. Philip Neri and the Blessed Ruysbroecle This is as it should be. The saints in all ages were delightful human beings—and always the kind comforters of those less perfect than themselves. . Fever patients may not now be inclined " to be fumigated with sulphurwort, maidenhair-fern, egg shells. a little resin ... rosemary and lavender," but every nun will enjoy the " Great " Teresa's description of the Sister with the " prim" mouth — and the "melancholic beata"!
Outsiders who imagine that convents are dove-cotes will be enlightened by the prescription for dealing with Sister So-and-So " when you see her in a rage " (p. 66). The Benedictine " Foreword" is an intelligent introduction to a compilation which will certainly be appreciated by " Any Nun " and many
others l The pleasing Benedictine woodcut on the wrapper might have been repeated on the title-pace.
Questions and Answers IN the first volume of " Platform Replies" (Mercier Press, 5s.), the Very Rev. Fr. J. P. Arendzen gives us the cream of Answers made to Questions put, mostly by non-Catholics, to the Fathers of the Catholic Missionary Society. They do honour to their compilers, and to the Catholic Gazette, from which they have been adapted for permanent reference. Covering a wide field of Ethics and Religion, they will take their place with the " Question Box " and " Radio Replies • in the Catholic Arsenal of Defence. The useful "Index" might be extended to help a hurried seeker. Thanks to its wrapper," the 200 well-printed pages are within the means of all. We look forward to a reinforcement of artillery in Vol. II.