5 February 2002 religious imagination

Slept six hours after reading to the end of Charles Morgan's The Empty Room (Macmillan & Co, London 1941) which I bought largely because I remembered that Dylan Thomas had spoken of the tedium of novels by Charles Morgan - or was it Charles Williams? - they are both I think religious novelists...

Though this book is terribly old-fashioned and portrays the to me oppressive upper-class English speech and manners, I became enthralled, and even frightened in the night, by the ghostly quality of the story.

I suppose this comes of the writer witholding information from the reader (as in Henry James' The Turn of the Screw) - something I now see as politically wrong for modern life , and it has no place in the new fiction I wish for. But I feel that this is exceptionally skillful writing, profoundly serious and humane, as well as religious. I like it.

I noted parts of page 131 which seem to me to embody the essence of Christianity:

..."Imagination consists in seeing things as they are - as they really are, their essences, not as they appear to be. It is the supreme realism of the spirit"...
..."isn't that just words? The hard-boiled people would say so, and they are in a fair way towards ruling the world."
"Towards appearing to rule the appearances of the world" he answered. "They never yet succeeded in doing more than that. What they crucify always rises from the dead.."

Is that what Dylan Thomas might have found tedious - a sense of intangible goodness over-riding the glamour of evil? Yet at the start of his Collected Poems 1934-1952(J M Dent & Sons, London 1974) he wrote this:

I read somewhere of a shepherd who, when asked why he made, from within fairy rings, ritual observances to the moon to protect his flocks, replied: 'I'd be a damn' fool if I didn't!' These poems, with all their crudities, doubts, and confusions, are written for the love of Man and in praise of God, and I'd be a damn fool if they weren't.'

Kenwood. Plenty of snowdrops in blossom already, a few crocuses, many daffodils about to bloom... and an elder tree in bud. Spring has indeed begun, externally - is it present in my thoughts and actions - in wintry times?

digital diary dates


© 2002 john chris jones

You may transmit this text to anyone for any non-commercial purpose if you include the copyright line and this notice and if you respect the copyright of quotations.

If you wish to reproduce any of this text commercially please send a copyright permission request to jcj at publicwriting.net.