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THE PARENTHETICAL LITURGY OF DAVID JONES THOMAS DILWORTH, eSB In Parenthesis, David Jones's long poem concerning the six months that culminate in the Somme offensive of 1916, issues from his experience as an infantryman during the First World War. By means of an analogical perception intricately bound up with his Catholicism, Jones detects in military life nuances which expand and enrich its significance without compromising the realism of its description.' This sacramental sensibility is especially evident in the relationship between the shape of In Parenthesis and the patterns of liturgical worship, particularly those of the Tridentine Mass and the liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent. Through allusions to ritual and to scriptural passages intended to be understood in their liturgical context, the poem's military activity is juxtaposed with the redemptive acts celebrated in the liturgy. The effect is an unprecedented disclosure of combat's physical destruction and spiritual outrage. Not that In Parenthesis is a pacifist depiction of the profession of arms as by nature evil: its liturgical references stress the dignity and essential goodness of soldiers as well as warfare's negative purpose. In fact, the horror of their misadventure is heightened by the goodness and redeemed status of combatants who, consciously or not, share in the sacramental life of Christ. In his preface, David Jones writes that 'the "Bugger! Bugger!" of a man detailed, had often about it the "Fiat! Fiat!" of the Saints." In other words, infantrymen are more than soldiers and more than merely themselves , for the 'Fiat' of the saints, like that of Mary, incarnates the Logos and makes possible the Pauline assertion, 'I live now, not I, but Christ liveth in me.' Because of Christ's presence, soldiers' ordinary human actions and words are worshipful: they praise the Father. Jones notes that the word 'cushy' and certain 'impolite words' acquire by their very repetition a liturgical importance (xii). One of these latter, which eases the frustration of Private John Ball's painful knuckle, is likened to 'the efficacious word' of sacramental formulae. And the 'passing back' through the marching rank 'of aidful messages' resembles the Kiss of Peace (36). Similarly, the 'thank-worthy' issuing of supplies on Christmas morning UTQ., Volume nu, Number 3, Spring 1973 242 THOMAS DILWORTH, CSD is, in its form and spiritual reality, eucharistic. Its participants plead to the lance-jack: Come off it Moses - dole out the issue. Dispense salvation '" let us taste and see, let us be renewed, for christ's sake let us be warm. o have a care - don't spill the precious odon't jog his hand - ministering '" . Each one turns silently, carrying with careful fingers his own daily bread. [73-4] The reference to the corporal as Moses recalls the prefiguration of the Eucharist in the saving quail and 'bread from heaven' that were rationed to the starving Israelites (Ex. 16). Shortly after receiving 'his own daily bread,' John Ball drinks from an 'enamelled cup' offered by another corporal. He receives, as it were, under both species. Moreover, each soldier ministered to is himself a priest, for 'you could eat out of their hands,' and accordingly their individual meals are eucharistic celebrations. On guard duty Ball thinks one must Find harbour with a remnant. Share with the prescribed their unleavened cake. Come for the sweet princes by malignant interests deprived. Wait, wait long forwith the broken men, nest with badger and martin-cat till such time as he come again, crying the waste for his chosen. [66] This Mass, celebrated in memento for the 'sweet princes,' bears out St Paul's assertion that 'as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come.' The last of these eucharists occurs shortly before the battle and consists of a quick meal of unleavened seedcake shared by Ball and his friends. 'In haste they ate it,' as the Passover meal was eaten before the coming of the angel of death, and as viaticum is taken (146). Through the Passover allusion, their last meal before battle is associated with the Last Supper Christ ate before his Passion. Ban and his companions do not intend this...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 241-257
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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