Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jesus in a scalding bath

I had never heard of Faithful Teate (the father of Nahum Tate), and so was interested in Elizabeth Scott-Baumann's review of his "epic lyric" Ter Tria, edited by Angelina Lynch. Scott-Baumann (following Lynch?), defines the epic lyric as "a contradictory category that conveys the sense of a public poem, but one with some of the introspective intensity of more personal lyrics by greater seventeenth-century devotional poets." 

While devotional poetry of the period often used monarchical images to describe Eden as a court and God as king, Teate, a Puritan, portrayed Eden as a "treasurie", a "Minting-house" and a naval stronghold. Images of reading and writing pervade the poem: Christ is a "new Edition" of Adam and the Old Testament is "the coppy". Jesus, in his first-person narrative at the Last Supper, employs intensely visceral language in the mode of the Jesuit poet Robert Southwell. He demands of his disciples, "Can you get sleep, whilst in this scalding bath / I melt away, / Blood-wet / In sweat?" That's hot.

In the same article, Scott-Baumann also reviews Re-reading Thomas Traherne: A collection of new critical essays (edited by Jacob Blevins). I read Traherne back in my undergraduate days but honestly don't remember much of it. Susannah B. Mintz's essay in this collection sparks an interest in re-reading him. She shows how Traherne was influenced by anatomical developments in the seventeenth century, but his spirituality resisted the increasingly mechanical view of man. In "Thanksgiving for the Body", he dissects the body's arteries, sinews and veins, but defers to the mysteries of God's "Hidden Operations". 

2 comments:

Eshuneutics said...

Interesting. I can't quite imagine a Puritan poet sampling a Jesuit though. That really would be making a pact with the Devil. Teate's physical imagery seems to have an alchemical ring to it...as did the early Milton. I would be tempted to read, but not at the high price of £24 per copy. My curiousity is aroused!

Jee Leong Koh said...

I did not know there was a relationship between Puritanism and alchemy. Hmm...