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64Book Reviews Mary Theresa Kyne, Country Parsons, Country Poets: George Herbert and Gerard Manley Hopkins as Spiritual Autobiographers. Greenburg, Pennsylvania: Eadmer Press, 1992. 250 pp. $25.95. by John L. Idol, Jr. Intertextual studies of George Herbert and Gerard Manley Hopkins have yielded dissertations, articles, chapters of books, and conference papers. Such studies will no doubt continue as readers explore the minds, hearts, art, and creative sources of these two priestly poets, both of whom wrestled to overcome powerful egocentric forces as they sought to make their lives and verse more Christocentric. With frank acknowledgment of her indebtedness to earlier commentators on the intertextuality of Hopkins' and Herbert's poetry, Mary Theresa Kyne seeks to place these two poets within the tradition of writers who use their verse or prose to reveal their spiritual conflicts as they prepare themselves to be abler messengers for God. Tracing that tradition carries her back, of course, to St. Augustine, who had wrenching reckonings and wrestlings. Kyne chooses not to spend much effort and time forging ties to St. Augustine or other spiritual autobiographers. Content to define the genre of spiritual autobiography and to indicate Herbert's and Hopkins' focused use of it, she finds the Ignatian Exercises a key component in the lives and art of Herbert and Hopkins. For the latter she can point to the specific day (September 16, 1868) that St. Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises came into his life. For Herbert, she can claim only that he, like many other seventeenth-century English devotional poets, turned to these guides to meditation to nurture his religious life. Like Louis Martz and others, she must rely on internal evidence to suggest the range and depth of Herbert's use of Ignatian meditative practices. From the letters and journals of Hopkins, she can trace a conscious and conscientious dedication to Ignatian exercises as Hopkins sought to enrich his spiritual life. Hopkins' life had its share of spiritual conflicts. He might well have said with Herbert that his poetry was "a picture of the many spiritual Conflicts that have past betwixt God and my Soul, before I could subject mine to the will of Jesus my Master: in whom I have found perfect freedom." Kyne sees both conflict and resolution, a clearly discernible movement toward acceptance, and eventual joy in Book Reviews65 the poetry of both periods of "(w)reckoning" and (w)restling." These qualities are visible in the work of each poet, but the use to which she puts the progression from conflict to resolution is more pietistic than aesthetic, for she wishes the reader to look to Herbert and Hopkins as models for achieving harmony with God. That is not to say that Kyne ignores the aesthetic — far from it. She knows, as Joseph Summers long ago observed, that Herbert viewed God as the great Artificer, a view shared by Hopkins. To exercise their poetic gifts to the highest was for them to express what was most God-like in their being. Those gifts could be blighted when God was, or was thought to be, absent and could be nourished again when God brought rain and helped them bud. Their relation with God thus entered centrally into how a poem or a series of poems found expression or form. The progression Kyne sees and traces can be handily summarized in her chapter titles: " 'Ah!' Creation: The Sacrament of the Soul's Encounter with God"; " 'The Dark Night of the Soul': A ^Reckoning of the Spiritual Life"; "The Cost of Discipleship: An Audit of the Soul's Account"; "The Soul's (W)Rest: God's Pay and Reprieve"; "Lenten Fast to Paschal Feast: The Church's Mystical Repast"; "The Unfinished Cornerstone." Her discursive method calls for pairings of poems for each chapter and then a thoroughgoing analysis of each as she relates the chosen poems to the author's spiritual growth and development. She also cites relevant letters, journals, biographies, and critical studies as she discusses the poetry. Her manner of using these materials betrays the fact that the book has not been scrubbed clean of all its dissertation qualities. Generally, Kyne has a securer handle on Hopkins than on Herbert, a condition resulting...


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