Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Study of His Ignatian Spirit

Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Study of His Ignatian Spirit

Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Study of His Ignatian Spirit

Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Study of His Ignatian Spirit

Excerpt

Historians of religion have noted that, beginning in the twelfth century and continuing to the seventeenth century, there developed a tradition of meditative prayer. This form of prayer as it evolved through the centuries tended to become more and more methodical until a time came when one could talk about methods of mental prayer. Until the seventeenth century, however, there was no one meditative method which one might classify as universal, though some systems were better known and more often used. In the sixteenth century (1521-41), St. Ignatius Loyola composed a series of meditative exercises called The Spiritual Exercises. These became the fundamental instrument of mental prayer for the religious order which he founded, the Society of Jesus. Because of the remarkable success of the Society during the years which we know as the Counter-Reformation, these Exercises became well known throughout all of Europe.

It was not only, however, because they were well known that they had so remarkable an influence on mental prayer; it was also because St. Ignatius' Exercises were really a synthesis and summation of the whole early tradition of meditation. They represent the emergence of an exact and universal method of meditative and contemplative prayer, a culmination of four centuries of effort. Moreover, to this very day, no other method has supplanted them. Their manner and matter form the basis in some measure of all subsequent methods of meditation.

Professor Louis L. Martz, in a fine study, suggests that this spirit of meditation fostered a tradition of religious poetry which had as its first important example, Robert Southwell, and reached its height in the poetry of the Metaphysical Poets and Milton. During the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth century this tradition is less perceptible, though it can be found in the poetry of Blake and Wordsworth; it is particularly evident in the poetry of Parnell, Blair, and Young, better known as the "Graveyard School." He further suggests . . .

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