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The Collected Poems of S. Robert Southwell
Edited by Peter Davidson and Ann Sweeney
ISBN: 978 1 857548 98 3
Categories: 16th Century, Catholic
Published: March 2007
216 x 135 x 15 mm
Publisher: Carcanet Press
As I in hoary Winters night stoode shyveringe in the snowe
Surpris'd I was with sodayne heat, which made my hart to glowe
And lifting upp a fearefull eye to vewe what fire was nere
A pretty babe all burninge bright did in the ayre appeare...
from Southwell's 'Burning Babe'
INCLUDES AN INTRODUCTION AND AFTERWORD BY ANN SWEENEY AND AN ESSAY BY PETER DAVIDSON
One of our earliest English critics, Ben Jonson, famously wished that he had written Southwell's 'Burning Babe', the most famous poem of the body of spiritual verse written by the Elizabethan priest, poet and martyr S. Robert Southwell SJ (1561-95). This book is a complete, authentic edition of Southwell's poems, in English and Latin, offering new texts based on the very manuscripts which were circulated in secret among English Catholics in the years following the poet's death. By re-examining these contemporary manuscripts, this edition allows Southwell's poems to regain some of their original purpose of communicating forbidden theologies and doctrines amongst a criminalised and near-silenced readership of secret groups. These are the poems of those Catholics who did not or could not flee the country as the Elizabethan State bore down upon their faith in the last two decades of the sixteenth century.
Audacious and beautiful in themselves, Southwell's poems were also immensely influential in the the development of early modern English literature; his new visions and visualisations bear their fruit a generation later in the works of Donne and Herbert. Southwell's rare Latin verses, available here for the first time, accompanied by a new translation, demonstrate the significant creative debt owed to him by the Augustans, even by Milton.
Praise for Peter Davidson 'Peter Davidson's profoundly civilised and lyrical book is [...] shot through with exquisite poignancies. These have as much to do with the nature of the place - the nature of extreme northerliness - as with the author's finely trained eye. [...] he knows how to see into things, and not only the simply visible, but also the rituals, the inner structures, and music - Lieder and ballad at the piano - of a sequestered, professorial life in rural Aberdeenshire. [...] The stuff and pace of poetry underwrites Prof Davidson's nights and days. He has written a most remarkable book in the same class of accomplishment as the work of Robert Macfarlane, who introduces it.'
Andrew McNeillie, Country Life 'This is a poet's book, his mind wide open to the cultures of the world, especially of the north, specifically Aberdeenshire. The language is luscious, musical and precise, rich with quotation and the cultures of, especially, northern Europe, from minerology and industry to poetry, painting, music [...] The book glows with moments of light, on a city, a river, in a room.'
Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales 'Peter Davidson has written a remarkable and unusual book - I have started the book but want to make it last the summer. It is a sustained prose poem, very moving in its effect... I am savouring it, reading it slowly, hoping to prolong the pleasure of these exquisite essays through the summer. It is, I think, one of the most beautiful books to be written in Scotland for many decades.'
Alexander McCall Smith
We thank the Arts Council England for their support and assistance in this interactive Project.
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