And the Word was made flesh
'Twas much, that man was made like God before,
But, that God should be made like man, much more.
John Donne, Sonnet XV, Holy Sonnets
THE RELIGIOUS SONNETS are a sequence of ten units of fourteen lines each, arranged in sestet and octave. Through half-rhymes, so effectively used by Wilfred Owen, Thomas achieved a rugged, harsh, uneven sound consistent with the theme of his poem. A neat rhyme scheme would not have suggested the upheaval of chaos in Genesis nor the agony of the Passion and Crucifixion.
The pattern of the poem is similar to the sequence of medieval pageant plays, each sonnet a tableau, moving from the Incarnation through the Crucifixion to an apocalyptic prophecy. Here, as in a pageant play, innocence and religiosity, awe and familiarity, devotion and ribaldry are curiously mixed.
The themes of this poem recall several seventeenthcentury sequences of religious poetry as well as the sermons of Lancelot Andrewes on the Nativity, Passion, and Resurrection. Robert Herrick Noble Numbers is an example of such a sequence, where, as Herrick himself tells us in the subtitle, "he sings the Birth of his Christ: and sighes for his Saviours suffering on the