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The Collected Poems of S. Robert Southwell

Saint Robert Southwell

Edited by Peter Davidson and Ann Sweeney

Southwell Collected Poems cover
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Categories: 16th Century, Christianity
Imprint: Fyfield Books
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (180 pages)
(Pub. Mar 2007)
£12.95 £11.65
  • Description
  • Excerpt
  • Author
  • Reviews
  • 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'

    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.
    Saint Robert Southwell
    Saint Robert Southwell was born in 1561 at Horsham St Faith's in Norfolk, the son of a gentleman who had conformed to the protestant church. He was reconciled to Catholicism and entered the Society of Jesus at Rome when he was seventeen. He studied in Douai, Louvain and Rome. He returned ... read more
    Peter Davidson
    Peter Davidson was born in Scotland in 1957. He is currently Senior Research Fellow at Campion Hall, University of Oxford. Peter has edited the Clarendon Poems and Translations of Sir Richard Fanshawe (Vol I, 1998; II, 1999); the Clarendon anthology of seventeenth-century English poetry, Poetry and Revolution (1998), and (with Jane ... read more
    Ann Sweeney
    Anne Sweeney completed her doctorate on S. Robert Southwell at the University of Lancaster. Her monograph on him, Snow in Arcadia: Redrawing the English Lyric Landscape was published by Manchester University Press in 2006. ... read more
    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
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