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Geoffrey Hill as Lord of Limit: the Kenosis as a Theological Context of his Poetry and Thought

Note sur la kénose dans la poésie et la pensée de Geoffrey Hill
Adrian Grafe
p. 50-61

Résumé

L’hymne kénotique pré-paulinienne (cf l’épître aux Philippiens, 2: 5-11) est un contexte pertinent pour situer la poésie et la poétique de Hill. Et la poésie et la prose de Hill montrent qu’il réfléchit sur cette notion (la kénose) depuis au moins les sonnets de « Lachrimae » (1978) ; en passant par le titre et certains aspects du contenu de l’ouvrage critique The Lords of Limit (1984), ainsi que par l’appendice rédigé pour Christ : The Self-Emptying of God (1997) de Lucien Richard, jusqu’à The Triumph of Love (1998) et au-delà. Dans l’appendice de l’ouvrage de Richard, Hill évoque la « poésie kénotique » de Herbert, qui marie la maîtrise (la dimension seigneuriale) et l’humilité (l’aspect limité). Dans la mesure où le terme « kénotique » est théologique, cette remarque sous-tend la lecture poético-théologique de l’œuvre de Hill lui-même qui est ici proposée sous une forme brève comme son titre l’indique.

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  • 1 Hopkins is perhaps the prime example, along with Simone Weil, herself a poet taken by the beauty of (...)

1St Paul’s kenotic hymn (Philippians 2: 5-11) provides an appropriate theological context in which to set Hill’s poetry and poetics. It is possible to see how a poet might be drawn to the passage.1 The hymn is first of all a poem, one with ellipsis, a tripartite, possibly strophic structure, and narrative, though it is not linear in its time structure. The passage in question from Paul’s letter reads (in the Authorised Version):

Let this mind be in you which was in Jesus Christ:/Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:/But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men;/And being found in fashion as a man, humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross./Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:/That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

2The first movement of the passage describes the kenosis, Christ’s emptying out or shedding his divinity, taking on the shape of a human being, a servant, and humbling himself, dying on the cross in obedience to his Father; the second, dependent on the first, is God’s exaltation of Christ.

  • 2 Lucien Richard, OMI, Christ: The Self-Emptying of God, Paulist Press: New York/Mahwah, N.J., 1997, (...)
  • 3 Geoffrey Hill, Collected Critical Writings, Kenneth Haynes (ed.), Oxford University Press: Oxford, (...)
  • 4 CCW, 69; I have taken the phrase “sympathetic vibration” out of its context.

3Discernment of the relationship between the kenosis and Hill’s writing is based on a core cluster of texts which, together with the hymn just quoted, form a context within which to consider Hill’s work more broadly. Hill’s poetry and prose show him pondering on this notion from at least (1) the title of the King Log collection (1968); (2) the “Lachrimae” sonnets of Tenebrae (1978), via (3) the title and, possibly, part of the content of The Lords of Limit (1984) and (4), his appendix to Lucien Richard’s Christ: The Self-Emptying of God (1997) through to (5) The Triumph of Love (1998) where the noun “kenosis” and, in section CXLVI, the noun group “Kenotic Hymn” appear and the biblical passage in question is quoted, and finally (6) to the title and part of the content of Without Title (2006). For example, one might suggest that because “On Suffering” in the latter volume is dedicated to Lucien Richard it might be read as it were kenotically; while the poem “On the Reality of the Symbol” takes its title from, and is inspired by, Hill’s reading of Karl Rahner’s “The Theology of the Symbol”, which in his appendix to Richard’s study Hill presents as a profoundly positive understanding of poetic kenosis; the words “the reality of the symbol” are to be found in slightly different form in Rahner’s own text, and as such in Hill’s appendix to Richard’s book.2 Indeed, one wonders whether Hill wrote the appendix because he recognised in Richard’s study a suitable if indirect gloss on his own work. Hill’s appendix to Richard’s volume is a rara avis in the context of Hill’s work: it is rare to find any British poet, with the exception of Hopkins and Eliot, doing theology, and the same might be said for Hill, though his appendix to Richard’s book is, as its title suggests, geared more towards poetics than theology. Hill, that is to say, does it his way, as one would expect, considering the kenotic hymn as poetry and going off at what might seem different tangents related to his own preoccupations. Nevertheless his central concern here remains the link between poetry, specifically English poetry, and the kenosis. This list can be completed by a few sparse but telling references to the kenosis, and indeed to Rahner, in the Collected Critical Writings and, in the latter and some poems, to the French philosopher Simone Weil. In addition, one needs to mention T. H. Green, the Oxford philosopher lovingly studied by Hill in “ ‘Perplexed Persistence’: The exemplary failure of T. H. Green”.3 There was a “kenotic current” in Anglican theology between 1890 and 1910, in which Green participated. I don’t know when Hill first read Green; it might have been before the composition of the poems of For the Unfallen (1959). It seems to me that all these texts resonate in “sympathetic vibration” thanks to the context provided by the theology and poetry of the kenosis; in other words, these texts are not straightforward intertexts quoting from each other.4 This long timeline (1968-2006, or 2008 if one includes the Collected Critical Writings) provides a link between the early and later (post-Canaan) Hill. In what follows I’ll mainly be concentrating on The Triumph of Love and, to a lesser extent, Tenebrae.

  • 5 Cf Georges Kleiber, “Quand le contexte va, tout va et… inversement”, in Claude Guimier (ed.), Co-te (...)

4My aim then is to argue for the passage on the kenosis in St Paul’s letter to the Philippians (2: 5-11) as a context for Hill’s poetry and poetics. I say “a context”, at least for the time being, in order to distinguish my argument from such commonly heard statements as “this doesn’t make sense without the context” or “one needs to take the context into consideration”.5 My approach leaves the way open for other possible contexts. And I say not only “poetry” but also “poetics” because Hill offers an appreciation of the passage in question in the context of a theological treatise in which he himself uses the word “poetics” — I see every reason, therefore, to apply this term to Hill’s own poetic practice. This dimension of his poetics has not been fully recognised. His poetics are in part inspired by the kenosis — the approach to history he adopts in his poetry is inspired by the kenosis. He uses the terms “poetic kenosis” and “kenotic poetry” in his appendix to Richard’s book, and his passionate response, as a poet and critic, to the kenosis, would justify the critical application of such terms to his own poetry.

  • 6 Cf Ibid., 22.

5One might have thought that the Prologue to St John’s Gospel, with its meditation on the Logos, would have appealed to a poet, and a poet who is a Christian, more than the kenotic hymn, especially one whose poetry is so reflexive. Be that as it may, if the kenotic hymn provides a theological context in which to set Hill’s writings generally and The Triumph of Love in particular, then the question arises: “How far can the context exert its influence?”6 This question isn’t easy to answer especially in relation to the kind of poetry written by Hill in The Triumph of Love, which is a sequence composed of sections, highly fragmentary in style, rarely focusing on one single point for more than a few lines. This makes it both harder and easier to apply contextualisation to his work: harder because the material is so heterogeneous that it is difficult to see how it could fit any one epistemological context, but easier because such fragmentation or at least multiplicity calls perhaps for context or some such device in order to give it some satisfying aesthetic unity.

  • 7 In CCW, 396, Hill has described as kenotic (“kenotic paradigm”) Christ’s silence — His not speaking (...)
  • 8 Cf the explanatory note in Geoffrey Hill, Le Triomphe de l’amour, transl. René Gallet, in collabora (...)

6The noun “kenosis” appears twice in the volume, in LVI and LXXXVI, and the adjective “kenotic” once (CXLVI). “Who cried ‘if this is kenosis, I want out?’ ” Hill writes in LVI. The answer to the question is: no-one did (except Hill). Cranmer, whose martyrdom the section is about, remained “unmoving” — unmoved, silent, with a silence Hill would describe as kenotic — while he was being burnt at the stake for heresy.7 Christ’s kenotic act is inscribed in history, and becomes reinscribed in it every time a new witness to the Absolute surfaces. Hill’s reading of history — including, I think, intellectual history — is governed by exemplary human beings. His poetry, especially The Triumph of Love, is filled with kenotic human figures like Southwell, More, Bonhoeffer and so on, witnesses to an Absolute for which, if and when it came to it, they were prepared to die at the hands of tyranny. And if Hill’s poetry is full of kings and lords of one sort or another, it is also riddled with peasants, slaves, fools and clowns especially The Triumph of Love. Melancholy, he writes “grants us a little possession, that we may then lose all.” (XXVIII) This passage, in which the opposition of possession and then the loss of all is typically kenotic, is followed directly by the Dutch word Boerenverdriet, the meaning or meanings of which Hill provides straight after it: “peasant sorrow? peasant affliction?” Hill evokes the cruel suffering, the “uncouth terror”, of the Dutch peasants in the 17th-century European wars, asserting that their “flesh/is our own”.8 Even so distant, Hill cannot but taste the suffering of these peasants. The sensitivity to their suffering displayed by the poet in these lines is, I would argue, kenotic: it requires an emptying out of your own preoccupations — or rather an outpouring of sympathetic historical imagination — in order to be able to feel such long-ago suffering so intensely and bring it to life.

  • 9 Bruno Bettelheim, The Empty Fortress: Infantile Autism and the Birth of the Self, The Free Press: N (...)

7The word “kenosis” crops up again as one side of the theme of the fictitious conference mentioned in LXXXVI, “Kinesis to Kenosis”. Finally, in CXLVI, five sections before the end, the adjective appears, in the phrase “Paul’s reinscription of the Kenotic Hymn”, just before the extract from the letter to the Philippians which is the last quotation to appear in The Triumph of Love: ”God […] made himself of no reputation […] took/the shape of a servant”. In The Triumph of Love, it is rare for a quotation to spill over more than one line. By running the lines on, Hill takes over the words and in a way gives them his own style. This technique and the length of the quotation give it added weight, and it thus throws its influence back over everything that has gone before, and especially the occurrences of the word “kenosis”. The reader is naturally left free to attribute this particular theological and textual colour or character to the word “kenosis”; but the word is rarely used without suggesting some kind of allusion to the kenotic hymn. (If I remember rightly, Bloom uses the word in The Anxiety of Influence to invite the reader, or critic, to an emptying out of all his preoccupations in order to come to the text with as fresh and open a mind as possible. However, closer to a secular kind of kenosis might be Bruno Bettelheim’s The Empty Fortress9, in which the psychoanalyst devotes years of strenuous activity to descending deep down into the psyches of autistic — speechless — children, in order to practise his healing art:

  • 10 Jean-Marie Lustiger, Le Choix de Dieu, Paris: Fallois, 1987, 193.

I perceived in the book the figure of the kenosis of the Messiah. Bettelheim dives deep down into the abyss in which the child is lost in order to bring him back from where he’s been hidden. How strong a love that involves, and what generosity — the time, care, love of human beings, and the most deeply lost ones at that. What a huge store of intelligence, science and attention to others is poured out in that therapeutic endeavour. What makes it all the more moving is the fact that this labour doesn’t provide the satisfaction that a surgeon’s fine work does).10

  • 11 Cf Kleiber, op. cit., 19: “the context […] functions as a sort of interpretative filter.”

8The inclusion of the kenotic hymn in The Triumph of Love acts then in the way context is said to be useful for — as an interpretative filter, so that the previous occurrences of the word in the poem may now be interpreted theologically rather than profanely.11 This manner of interpretation, at the same time, is left entirely up to the reader.

  • 12 L. Richard, op. cit., 67.

9To give what I perceive as an example of the influence of Richard’s book on Hill, Richard comments on the identification by the centurion of Christ as the Son of God, as related in Mark (15, 39). Hill wonders if the centurion saw “nothing irregular before the abnormal/light seared his eyeballs?” (LXVII). I believe that Hill’s inspiration for this passage is not only the Gospel but Richard’s discussion of it in the light of the kenosis: “The centurion, in contrast to others in the drama, proclaims Jesus the Son of God — not because he witnessed one of Jesus’ miraculous feats, as Jesus’ adversaries mockingly demanded for their proof, but because he saw how Jesus died. The only person on the scene with real power in the eyes of the world reinforces Jesus’ Christological status — not because Jesus awed him with his power but because Jesus died a suffering and powerless death”.12 The answer to Hill’s wondering rhetorical question must be: no, he didn’t. The revelation experienced by the centurion, the grace of recognition enabling him to name the crucified man, only came about at the moment of Christ’s death, a moment the Gospel associates with extreme darkness but which Hill here transforms into a personal illumination on the part of the centurion. The latter’s ability to recognise and then to name is arguably both kenotic and poetic: in some sense these qualities are, in the context, identical.

10Once again, it is easy to see how a poet, and a poet one of whose main literary principles is intertextuality, might be attracted to the Pauline kenosis. Hill’s use of the word “reinscription” reflects Biblical exegesis which has demonstrated that the hymn is not by Paul himself but adapted by him and incorporated into the letter to the Philippians, a letter notable for the way it blends personal confidences with some of the main aspects of the apostle’s thought. Hill is only doing what Paul has already done — including extraneous literary, or liturgical material, in his own text, his own context. As Paul “reinscribes” the hymn in his letter, so Hill reinscribes, or re-reinscribes it, in his poem, and this raises the possibility of parallels between Paul’s letter and Hill’s poem, or indeed, strange as it may seem, between Hill and Paul.

  • 13 Among other examples, for the “Kingdom of God” cf Mark 4, 30; Luke 13, 28; John 3, 3. For Christ as (...)

11A word about titles. The title of The Triumph of Love — a volume of vast historical breadth and depth racked, perhaps like the image of Europe suggested in it, by old age and exhaustion — is noticeably close to The Lords of Limit, if the sequence of words here might be described as a “strong” noun followed by a “weak” or “weaker” one. King Log and The Lords of Limit are identical in this respect: the first term carries connotations of power and dominion, and in a biblical context would be connoted as deriving that power from God if not in places actually referring to God or to Christ13; the second diminishes, deflates, even debunks the first, emptying it out of its power, ridiculing and reducing it. The Log of the title King Log might be a truncated form of Logos, and therefore a kind of kenosis.

  • 14 Hill’s appendix to Richard, op. cit., 197.

12According to the Christian paradigm, love triumphs through weakness. Love is mentioned by name only a handful of times, and not always positively: CVI evokes “the hatred that is in the nature of love”; this would depend on the kind of love in question.Why is Herbert called “lovely” (LXVI)? Might it not be in allusion to Herbert’s most famous poem, “Love”? Hill praises the “kenotic poetry” of Herbert as both “magisterial” (lord) and “self-humbling” (limit).14 One of the special features of “Love” is the extreme delicacy of the “Love” character, the “Lord” and Creator, in relation to the “guest”, His desire to serve the latter; this notion of the serving Creator, self-giving in the meal He serves, is specifically kenotic. Hill, furthermore, describes Herbert’s poetry generally as the most kenotic in English, along with Tyndale’s translation of the kenotic hymn. Several of Hill’s titles — or non-titles — are best understood within the context of the kenosis, even when the latter is not mentioned or the Philippians text not alluded to. The title Without Title perfectly describes the kenosis of Christ, God in Christ taking the form of a slave and making himself of no reputation, dying without honour on the cross. One postmodern theologian, Graham Ward, has discussed the link between the kenosis as set out by St Paul and the problem of names and naming — one of the questions with which the passage from Philippians is concerned. Hill’s often satirical use, abuse and non-use of names in The Triumph of Love underlines this problem. For instance, section XXX puns repeatedly on the word “name” and different variations of it (“nominal”, “ignominy”, “nameless”).

  • 15 Graham Ward, “Kenosis and Naming: beyond analogy and towards allegoria amoris”, in Paul Heelas (ed. (...)
  • 16 Cf René Gallet’s stimulating appreciation of the sequence in Geoffrey Hill, Le Triomphe de l’amour, (...)

13The poet gives the reader no clue that I can find to enable him to identify the addressee (“your name”, “your single glory”, “your ignominy”) of these lines; I find no reason to rule out Christ, and several to rule him in, in this respect: the “single glory” can only be that of God, or Christ in His parousia; “ignominy” might refer to Christ’s shameful death on the cross as a common criminal; while the privative prefixes dis- and ig- and the privative suffix –less could point to what Simone Weil called the “decreation” of the kenosis in the Incarnation. Ward’s article is helpful to my mind because he characterises the passage in Philippians as “a poetic enactment” reflecting upon three notions in particular, all of which are relevant to The Triumph of Love.15 These are: names and naming; the divine representation of God in Christ: “the real being God, or more comprehensively, Christ —” (XXXIX); the exemplary nature of Christ’s self-giving, and indeed we find many variations, prefixations and suffixations of the self in The Triumph of Love, including “self-giving” (VIII). The self-giving of the kenosis in Philippians is to be contrasted with the kinesis, or expansion, of the affirmation of the self as set out, for example, in Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”. The title of the fictitious conference mentioned in LXXXVI, “Kinesis to Kenosis” could perhaps stand as a description of the unfolding of the sequence as a whole, which seems to tend towards a theologically positive affirmation: “our arrival at a necessary salvation” (CXXV). The passage from Philippians about the kenosis appears almost at the end of the sequence, whereas the word kenosis first figures much earlier on (in LVI). The order of the terms suggests a shift away from Athenian philosophy to Christian theology; and from observation of the universe in motion with no purpose or destination to God’s uniting Himself to the density of our humanity. The whole sequence entails applying what René Gallet calls “just, attentive speech” to the violence of history, including its silences, awkward patches, and the “[e]ntertainment overkill” (LIV) of the modern era.16

  • 17 CCW, 573.
  • 18 Collège de France, Paris, 18th March 2008.
  • 19 Simone Weil, “Spiritual Autobiography”, quoted Hill, CCW, 558.

14But to obtain a clearer picture of this topic in relation to Hill’s writings it is worth adverting to the Tenebrae volume. Here the French philosopher, mystic, and poet, Simone Weil, is first mentioned in Hill’s poetry, after having first been cited in The Lords of Limit. Simone Weil is one of those numerous figures who crops up in both Hill’s poetry and prose, one of the many fruitful cross-currents between the two. Hill said in a lecture at the Collège de France on March 18th, 2008: “By the early 1950s I was acquainted with Simone Weil — L’Enracinement and Attente de Dieu — and I have returned to Simone Weil over the decades.” At the heart of Simone Weil’s religious metaphysics lies her concept of decreation, which has all kinds of theological and spiritual resonances. The concept of decreation takes its cue from the kenosis to encompass the divine act of creation itself: the line “The decreation to which all must move” from the fifth “Lachrimae” sonnet “Pavana Dolorosa” I take to be a possible allusion to the thought of Simone Weil, who made the term her own, especially as it makes a universal statement (“all”) which could easily refer to the whole of creation. The movement of the line itself reflects — or possibly reflects backwards — the much later phrase “‘Kinesis to Kenosis’”. In his “Postscript on Modernist Poetics” Hill quotes several lines from Weil’s L’Enracinement, and in doing so draws Simone Weil within the force-field not only of his reading of modernist poetics but, by extension, of his own.17 To the extent that all Hill’s work is a reflection on poetry it might be worth bearing in mind a statement he made at the lecture in Paris: “Poetry is an art of public significance, while at the same time I recognise that poetry has no significance and no prestige”18. The contradictory or paradoxical nature of such a statement was confirmed a minute or two later when Hill added: “I am a despairing optimist.” Though as far as I could tell Hill did not give reasons for his statement about poetry as both an art of public significance and its having no significance and no prestige, I would linger on the second, as it were negative, definition. Poetry’s having no significance and no prestige makes it by definition a deeply kenotic art form: kenotic theology would suggest that one of the facets of the Incarnation was the utter insignificance with which it was mainly attended — it was for this reason that it failed to meet the Messianic and political hopes of the Jewish people. A quotation from Simone Weil may help enlighten us: “I did not mind having no visible successes, but what did grieve me was the idea of being excluded from that transcendent kingdom to which only the truly great have access and wherein truth abides”.19 In CCW, the context in which Hill quotes this statement is an analogy he finds in it with Bradleian metaphysics. However, in his lecture at the Collège de France, Hill applied it to himself as one of two statements of Weil’s and indeed of European literature which had most influenced him. What if Hill’s poetry were an attempt to gain access to that transcendent kingdom wherein truth abides? Visible success would be as naught, the struggle to gain access to that transcendent kingdom of truth, everything.

15Having mentioned Simone Weil in the context of Hill’s “A Postscript to Modernist Poetics”, I would wish to add a final strand. Perhaps the first critic and certainly, I believe, the first poet to welcome Simone Weil’s work in Britain was T. S. Eliot, who wrote the preface to the English translation of Weil’s L’EnracinementThe Need for Roots —that came out in 1952, and from which Hill quotes. Hill does not mention this fact anywhere in his writings as far as I know. However, he does quote extensively from Eliot in, among other places, the 1981 Viewpoints interview with John Haffenden:

  • 20 John Haffenden, Viewpoints: Poets in Conversation, London: Faber & Faber, 1981, 86.

I still see no reason to quarrel with the celebrated passage from Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent”, which does not deny personality but enters caveats against the false equation of poetry with a certain kind of luxuriating in personality: “Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from those things”.20

  • 21 Hill’s appendix to Richard, op. cit., 197.
  • 22 S. Weil, Gravity and Grace, transl. Emma Crawford, London: Routledge Classics, 2004 [1957], 33-34. (...)

16To quote another celebrated phrase of Eliot’s from “Tradition and the Individual Talent”, Hill’s poetry is concerned not with the “extinction of personality” but rather putting the self in its proper place so that it may be a fit subject of satire and mockery, like anything else, including language and indeed poetry and poets, not least the poet himself and his own poem. Hill prefers to concentrate not so much on personality as on character: “If, as it must be, character is something other than personality, each true act of expression is the making of a character, kenotically conceived: an affirmation of self-hood which, even in the instant of expression, is self-forgetting.”21 Hill’s application of the words “kenotically conceived“ to this process shows him accepting Eliot’s basic premise, but adding the theological dimension of the kenosis to it. The great thinker of this kind of kenotic self-effacement in the 20th century was Simone Weil, with her concept of decreation, and it seems to me that not only Lucien Richard and Rahner but perhaps also, most crucially, Simone Weil, underpin this aspect of Hill’s poetics and thought. “Renunciation. Imitation of God’s renunciation in creation. In a sense God renounces being everything. We should renounce being something. That is our only good. […] He emptied himself of his divinity. We should empty ourselves of the false divinity with which we were born”.22 This emptying ourselves of “false divinity” — pride, egocentrism — leads to inner poverty, that kind of inner poverty which enables Hill to identify, for example, with the Dutch peasants mentioned above, of whom he so movingly writes.

  • 23 Cf CCW, 396 where Hill describes as kenotic Christ’s silence before the High Priest (in Matt. 26, 6 (...)
  • 24 Quoted in Jean-Yves Lacoste (ed.), Dictionnaire critique de théologie, Paris: PUF, 1998, rev. ed. 2 (...)

17To bring all this to a tentative conclusion, one might argue that the power of Hill’s poetry is in part due to his acute awareness, if not conscious practice, of kenotic powerlessness, and his inscription of that powerlessness in his work, in the heart of his language. If Herbert is most “magisterial” when most “self-humbling”, Hill, too, is a lord of limit, acknowledging in powerful ways the limits of the self — as well as the importance, both spiritual and ethical, of limiting it — and of language when faced with either unbearable human historical suffering, or, like Angelus Silesius, one of the avatars of negative theology, a theology paradoxically practising silence (as to speaking of God) and therefore (potentially) kenotic23, and one of the heroes of The Triumph of Love, when faced with the Divinity: “If you want to speak of the ground of eternity, you must first break off from all speech”.24

I wish to thank Professor Gallet for his indispensable insight and help.

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Bibliographie

BETTELHEIM Bruno, The Empty Fortress: Infantile Autism and the Birth of the Self, New York: The Free Press; London: Collier-Macmillan Ltd, [1967] 1972.

BIBLE The, Authorised Version.

GALLET René, “ ‘The Windhover’ and ‘God’s first intention ad extra‘ ”, in P. Botalla et al. (eds.), Gerard Manley Hopkins, Tradition and Innovation, Longo Editore: Ravenna, 1991, 55-68.

GRAFE Adrian, Hopkins La profusion ténébreuse, Villeneuve d’Ascq: Septentrion, 2003.

------, “Simone Weil among the poets”, in Adrian Grafe (ed.), Ecstasy and Understanding: Religious Awareness in English Poetry from the Late Victorian to the Modern Period, London, New York: Continuum, 2008.

HILL Geoffrey, Interview with John Haffenden, Viewpoints: Poets in Conversation, London: Faber & Faber, 1981.

------, Le Triomphe de l’amour, transl. René Gallet, in collaboration with Michael Edwards, Cheyne: Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, 2006.

------, Collected Critical Writings, Kenneth Haynes (ed.), Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

------, “A reading and discussion of my own work in the context of contemporary British philosophy and poetry”, lecture given at the Collège de France, March 18th 2008.

KLEIBER Georges, “Quand le contexte va, tout va et… inversement”, in Claude Guimier (ed.), Co-texte et calcul du sens, Presses Universitaires de Caen, 1997, 11-30.

LACOSTE Jean-Yves (ed.), Dictionnaire critique de théologie, Paris: PUF, [1998] 2007.

LUSTIGER Jean-Marie, Le Choix de Dieu, Paris: Fallois, 1987.

RAHNER Karl, S.J., “The Theology of the Symbol”, transl. Kevin Smyth, in Theological Investigations, volume 4, Helicon Press: Baltimore; Darton, Longman & Todd: London, 1996, 221-252.

RICHARD Lucien, Christ: The Self-Emptying of God, New York/Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1997.

WARD Graham, “Kenosis and naming: beyond analogy and towards allegoria amoris”, in Paul Heelas (ed.), Religion, Modernity and Postmodernity, Oxford: Blackwell, 1998, 233-258.

WEIL Simone, Gravity and Grace, transl. Emma Crawford, London: Routledge Classics, [1957] 2004.

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Notes

1 Hopkins is perhaps the prime example, along with Simone Weil, herself a poet taken by the beauty of the hymn. I have examined the poetry and thought of Hopkins in the light of the Pauline kenosis and Simone Weil’s kenotic concept of decreation, in Hopkins La profusion ténébreuse, Septentrion: Villeneuve d’Ascq, 2003.

2 Lucien Richard, OMI, Christ: The Self-Emptying of God, Paulist Press: New York/Mahwah, N.J., 1997, 196, “the reality of the symbol”. Hill’s appendix (195-197) is entitled “Poetics and the Kenotic Hymn”. Cf Karl Rahner, S.J., “The Theology of the Symbol”, in Theological Investigations, volume 4, transl. Kevin Smyth, Helicon Press: Baltimore, Darton, Longman & Todd: London, 1966, 230: “the symbol is the reality in which another attains knowledge of a being.”

3 Geoffrey Hill, Collected Critical Writings, Kenneth Haynes (ed.), Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2008, 109-126. This work is hereafter referred to as CCW.

4 CCW, 69; I have taken the phrase “sympathetic vibration” out of its context.

5 Cf Georges Kleiber, “Quand le contexte va, tout va et… inversement”, in Claude Guimier (ed.), Co-texte et calcul du sens, Presses Universitaires de Caen, 1997, 11-30 (25).

6 Cf Ibid., 22.

7 In CCW, 396, Hill has described as kenotic (“kenotic paradigm”) Christ’s silence — His not speaking — at different points in the stages leading up to His Passion (Matthew 26: 63, 27: 12, 27 14).

8 Cf the explanatory note in Geoffrey Hill, Le Triomphe de l’amour, transl. René Gallet, in collaboration with Michael Edwards, Cheyne: Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, 2006, 158.

9 Bruno Bettelheim, The Empty Fortress: Infantile Autism and the Birth of the Self, The Free Press: New York, Collier-Macmillan Ltd.: London, 1972 (1967).

10 Jean-Marie Lustiger, Le Choix de Dieu, Paris: Fallois, 1987, 193.

11 Cf Kleiber, op. cit., 19: “the context […] functions as a sort of interpretative filter.”

12 L. Richard, op. cit., 67.

13 Among other examples, for the “Kingdom of God” cf Mark 4, 30; Luke 13, 28; John 3, 3. For Christ as King, see his dialogue with Pilate, in John 18, 33-37.

14 Hill’s appendix to Richard, op. cit., 197.

15 Graham Ward, “Kenosis and Naming: beyond analogy and towards allegoria amoris”, in Paul Heelas (ed.), Religion, Modernity and Postmodernity, Blackwell: Oxford, 1998, 237.

16 Cf René Gallet’s stimulating appreciation of the sequence in Geoffrey Hill, Le Triomphe de l’amour, op. cit., 154: “une kenosis par où la parole pourrait devenir juste et attentive”. The French adjective “juste” can mean both “fair” and “right, exact”, while Simone Weil’s decreative notion of “attention” may be sensed in the choice of the adjective “attentive”. Gallet has drawn a parallel between Hopkins’s earnestness, “being in earnest with reality” — incidentally a phrase aptly describing Hill’s own aesthetic approach — and Weil’s “attention”, in “ ‘The Windhover’ and ‘God’s first intention ad extra’ ”,  P. Botalla, G. Marra & F. Marucci (eds.), Gerard Manley Hopkins, Tradition and Innovation, Longo Editore: Ravenna, 1991, 59.

17 CCW, 573.

18 Collège de France, Paris, 18th March 2008.

19 Simone Weil, “Spiritual Autobiography”, quoted Hill, CCW, 558.

20 John Haffenden, Viewpoints: Poets in Conversation, London: Faber & Faber, 1981, 86.

21 Hill’s appendix to Richard, op. cit., 197.

22 S. Weil, Gravity and Grace, transl. Emma Crawford, London: Routledge Classics, 2004 [1957], 33-34. I have examined Simone Weil’s relationship with English poets and poetry, and vice versa, in “Simone Weil among the poets”, in Adrian Grafe (ed.), Ecstasy and Understanding: Religious Awareness in English Poetry from the Late Victorian to the Modern Period, London, New York: Continuum, 2008, 161-171.

23 Cf CCW, 396 where Hill describes as kenotic Christ’s silence before the High Priest (in Matt. 26, 63), before the chief priests and elders (Matt. 27, 12) and before Pilate (Matt. 27, 14).

24 Quoted in Jean-Yves Lacoste (ed.), Dictionnaire critique de théologie, Paris: PUF, 1998, rev. ed. 2007,  956: “Si tu veux dire l’être de l’éternité, il te faut d’abord rompre avec toute parole.

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Adrian Grafe, « Geoffrey Hill as Lord of Limit: the Kenosis as a Theological Context of his Poetry and Thought », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal, Vol. VII – n°3 | 2009, 50-61.

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Adrian Grafe, « Geoffrey Hill as Lord of Limit: the Kenosis as a Theological Context of his Poetry and Thought », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], Vol. VII – n°3 | 2009, mis en ligne le 19 mai 2009, consulté le 27 mai 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/77 ; DOI : 10.4000/lisa.77

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Adrian Grafe

Professor, (Arras, France)
C’est sous la direction de René Gallet qu’Adrian Grafe a eu la chance de préparer son Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches. Diplômé d’Oxford et de Paris VII, agrégé d’anglais, il est professeur des universités en littérature des pays anglophones depuis septembre 2008 à l’université d’Artois, où il a consacré son tout premier séminaire de recherche à The Triumph of Love de Geoffrey Hill. Il est l’auteur d’études de la poésie anglaise depuis Hopkins jusqu’à Hill. Il écrit également des comptes rendus pour Etudes anglaises, les Etvdes, le Hopkins Quarterly (Philadelphie), et Notes & Queries (OUP). Il se joint avec empressement et joie à cette célébration de René Gallet, à qui sa compréhension de Hopkins et de Hill, entre autres, doit tant. Le texte qu’il propose pour ces Mélanges offerts à René Gallet est celui d’une communication faite à Oxford en juin 2008 lors du colloque qui s’est tenu à Keble College sur Geoffrey Hill et ses contextes.

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