Childlike Mysticism: Poetry, Nursery Rhymes, and Chesterton

7152897-LThis morning I stumbled upon this beautiful tribute to Mother Goose (and to childhood) by Mr. Sean Fitzpatrick, which struck me as particularly apropos of our conversation on April 4th.

Those who were present may recall Larry’s question (I paraphrase): Why poetry?

What is it about poetry?  Since I’m quite certain I could not say it better myself, here is what Fitzpatrick says:

Poetic knowledge comprehends truth in a clear yet indistinct way: truths such as love, fear, joy, and all the rest of their kind. Everyone knows these things very well, but only as mysteries. There are truths science cannot demonstrate, nor rhetoric corroborate—and those truths belong to poetry. Poetry, however, being pre-rational cannot define itself. It is itself a mystery about mysteries and so must it be accepted.

Don’t we lose something when we cease to appreciate poetry?  Do we gain something especially humane when we do read it (memorize it, write it, celebrate it)?  I believe it was Tim who pointed out that poetry is no longer taught in schools.  Quite true.  Quite sad.  The cracks… what’s not said in a poem (*Cecelia) is often the delight and the point.  Space, yet – limitation. (frames)

In any case – some of the richest people I know loved poetry and had their favorites committed to memory (and by rich, I am not speaking of money).  One of those rich men was G.K. Chesterton.

As I’ve already stated, I do not endeavor here to stake a full-blown defense of the genre, but perhaps to return to the still-open thread of thought and conversation begun in the upstairs room at Finnbar’s.  As demonstrated through our present protagonist, the poet-detective Gabriel Syme, there is a special place in mystery for the poet… and, a special place in poetry for the mystical.  In both (poetry and mystery), there is a unique affinity with childhood (or the childlike).  Chesterton saw this, and – even in his own massive grown-up shape – he managed to embody all three.

Do go read the whole piece at Crisis Magazine, as it’s quite Chestertonian in its message.  Kudos to Sean Fitzpatrick.


Speaking of the childlike, Nancy Carpenter Brown (of the American Chesterton Society) shared this wonderful photo on the ACS blog.  Thanks to Nancy’s sleuthing, the men pictured have been identified!

A bunch of grown men playing “cowboys,” except, it appears, for Sir Barrie (center).  Perhaps he’d  have preferred a game of Peter Pan!


(L to R) Lord Howard de Walden, William Archer, J.M. Barrie, GKC, and Bernard Shaw.


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