Catholicism, Gnosticism and Paganism in the Poetry of Czesław Miłosz
In the midst of a multi-national comparative study of modern Catholic poets, Charles S. Kraszewski was more than a little surprised at the difficulty he encountered in finding a representative poet from that ostensibly most Catholic of European nations, Poland. With but two guiding criteria in mind the poet had to be possessed of a Catholic world view and have a significant impact on the development of modern poetry it seemed that Polish poets were either very good . . . or Catholic. Then, in 2004, during the funeral of the Nobel Prize winning poet Czes aw Mi osz, it was revealed that the poet had written a recent letter to the Pope, declaring his intent, in his later writings, to express a Catholic viewpoint. This was a surprising admission, given the rather heterodox reputation that characterized the poet during his long lifetime. Irresolute Heresiarch: Catholicism, Gnosticism and Paganism in the Poetry of Czes aw Mi osz is the fruit of Kraszewski s research into the religious themes expressed in the poetry of the great bard. Beginning with his earliest published poems and continuing through the posthumously printed collections, the book is a careful consideration of the religious claims set forth in Mi osz s works, which range from orthodox Christianity, through dualism and gnostic thought, with a healthy dose of pagan appraisal of the wonder of the natural world. In response to the question Was Mi osz a Catholic poet? Kraszewski first attempts to define that category, on the basis of Catholic core beliefs, and later, in a comparative discussion of indubitably Catholic greats, such as T. S. Eliot, Jan ZahradnÃƒÂ ek, and Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau. Although for the sake of clarity he focuses only on the poems, and not the prose works, of Czes aw Mi osz, the answer to the question is made all the more difficult by the very personal lyrical I adopted by Mi osz in his poetic practice. Which I is speaking, when Manichean thought is expressed, and which I is it, that invokes the saints at moments of temptation? Whatever the answer to these questions may be, Irresolute Heresiarch is successful in highlighting the wide range, and complex nature, of one of the most influential and important poets of our time.