Reading one book leads to another; and in this case, reading the pseudo-Dorothy Sayers Thrones, Dominations led me to read John Donne. It seems from the quotes in “Thrones, Dominations” that neither Dorothy Sayers nor Jill Paton Walsh have made much progress in the collected work, all quotes are from poems early in the volume.
Anyway, from Collected Works of John Donne, a natural progression was to the old Penguin Classic, The Metaphysical Poets. This book must have been on Irina’s shelves since before I first met her, because it contained a newspaper clipping from December 1986, when I was 17 years old.
We are still reading the same newspaper: Trouw, one of the surviving underground resistance papers from the second world war, a newspaper with a very Christian identity. Or so it is still regarded…
Reading this clipping shows clearly that there’s been quite a bit of change. This clipping contains a review of a translation of Donne’s poems and is written by Eduard Pijlman. It is not exquisitely well-written, but the prose is serviceable enough. It supposes, however, a form of Christian belief that Trouw nowadays actively opposes.
By coincidence (coincidence? the “pensees” by Pascal-wannabe Alexander Elchaninov state that whoever believes coincidence exists, doesn’t believe in God…), Trouw today published an interview with a minister. This interview was mainly remarkable for its tenacity in trying to get this minister to tell Trouw he didn’t believe in God anymore. This minister, Sam
Jansen from Driebergen very courageously resisted the onslaught.
The difference between today’s interview, and this 19 year-old book review couldn’t have been greater. In fact, I suspect the review would be refused by the Nederlands Dagblad…. The reviewer is especially impressed by both Donne’s and Donne’s translator’s insight in St. Paul’s second letter to the
Not a topic that would make many hearts beat faster — but a week or two earlier, I received a copy of the latest issue of “Liter”. Lloyd Haft, who once taught me modern Chinese, sent me this copy because it contains a number of his poems. One of them, the first in fact, on St. Paul’s letter to the Romans.
I’m not really word-perfect, anything but word-perfect in fact, in the tail chapters of the Bible, having grown up in a family of convinced Church-leavers, so I needed to read the letter to the Romans before I knew what I had felt on reading the poem; namely that this was a perfect commentary, an enriching summary (if such a thing can be allowed to exist). Irina tells me the poem about the Acts of the Apostles is even better, and the one on Corinthians I sends shivers down my spine.
I’ve been studying letters and poems together and have forgotten to write a thank-you note for the copy of Liter… Which we’ll subscribe to, since the other content is very interesting, too.
But I wish Trouw would still publish reviews like the one by Eduard Pijlman.
By the way, about the lying winter… Methinks I lied all winter, when I swore my love was infinite, if spring make it more. And about the letter to the Romans (in the hope that quoting one poem is fair use and all that):
Wij vragen nog
strekkingen die strikken,
Maar waarheid is geen wet:
zij is een wij.
nergens hier alleen.
Waarheid maken wij niet vast.
Wij komen er benaderend,
in beademend beamen.
Somehow, this is very close to Christos Yannaras’ Freedom of Morality and Zizioulas’ Being as Communion. Both are relatively modern (time moves slowly in amateur theology) Greek theologians who emphasize the fact that belief is communion and community. We get there together, as Lloyd Haft says, in untranslatable Dutch.