Nature’s million-fuelèd bonfire: Thoughts on honest poetic contemplation

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Christopher Southgate


Christian poetry has often concentrated on the beauty of the natural world, ignoring the competition and struggle which are factors integral to evolution. Struggle in nature, however, may lead to God’s ends for his creatures and it is this that Christopher Southgate seeks to explore by examining the work of poets such as Gerard Manley Hopkins, Louis MacNeice and R. S. Thomas. He suggests that this kind of honest contemplation allows us to view the struggles in the natural world in counterpoint with the sense of God’s depth of engagement with all suffering; as such it represents a search for divine glory. To seek to glimpse this glory requires us to view nature through three complementary lenses: what the world discloses of its creator (gloria mundi); the gift – made possible by the character of the creation – of the Incarnate Christ and his self-surrender (gloria crucis); and the song of the new creation, in which creaturely flourishing will be attained without creaturely struggle (gloria in excelsis).

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