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Year Christian Year

poetry, kebles, editions and religion

CHRISTIAN YEAR, YEAR, The. iThe Chris tian Year,' by the Rev. John Keble is a series of poetical compositions or *thoughts in verse for the Sundays and holy days throughout the year."' In other words it represents an attempt to make poetry an instrument of religion ;. rn consequence, the writer is interested more in the religion than in the poetry. The work was intended to be an aid to the reader of the Book of Prayer of the Established Church of England; its object, in the Words of thenuthor, *will be attained if any person find assistance from it in bringing his own thoughts and feel ings into more entire unison with those recom mended and exemplified in the Prayer Book.* It has, also, an historical significance, inasmuch as it *still remains the most satisfactory expres sion in poetry of the spirit which inspired the Oxford Movement."' Although it does not con tain the best of Keble's poetry, it is the work fir which he is most widely known, and by which, in all likelihood, he will be chiefly re membered. When published in 1827, its success -was immediate. It was, and doubtless remains, the most successful series of religious poems ever published. Before Keble's death in '95 editions were called for; before the end of 1867, the work had run into 109 editions —the editions in each case varying from 3,000 to 5,000 copies. It is still popular.

It is not difficult to account for the• success of The Christian Year.' The different poems

expand, elaborate, and • illuminate some of the most familiar and most cherished Scriptural scenes, events and texts. It is doubtless true that most people are not *athletic that most do not think strenuously, or use their imagination effectively, while they are reading. A substitute, or aid, such as Keble supplies, does not ordinarily fail to attract attention and gain wide currency. There is, also, in The Christian. Year> enough of true _poetic quality to sustain the whole; in general, Keble's taste is *on the side of the angels.* The Christian Year) is a kind of poetical analogue of the Rev. Samuel Rutherford's (Religious Letters.> Cer• tain devout souls are pleased with such raptur, ous expression; other souls,just as devout, but more reserved, are displeased It has been said that *the poet of The Christian Year' sinks not infrequently to the commonplace. . . He lacks the art to conceal art; or, better, the,glow of feeling which effects the concealment unconet sciously. A little coldness is the defect of his verse, just as it is the defect of a most amiable and virtuous life.* The interested student will find John Campbell Shairp's criticism in the North British Review well worth reading.