29 April 2009

'The Infinite & Eternal of the Christian Soul', Almost

When I wrote the post on Romanticism the other day (here), I did a little search for Berlin’s quotation—‘the starry heavens which can scarce express the infinite and eternal of the Christian soul’. One site I found that had citations for several of his allusions in the long catalogue of Romantic qualities seemed to have concluded that it couldn’t be traced. But a search for a few key words rather than the exact quote yielded the following: John Lancaster Spalding, Religion and Art and Other Essays (Manchester, NH: Ayer, 1969), p. 32.

What depth and spiritual force has not the Christian religion given to poetry! Groves, flowers, and running waters satisfied the poets of paganism; but not the boundless ocean, nor the starry heavens, nor aught else can express the infinite thoughts and emotions which fill the soul of a Christian.

Apparently, Spalding was the RC bishop of Peoria from 1877-1908 and a co-founder of the Catholic University of America. Not the sort of person I’d associate with Romantic sentiments (and get a load of the photo!), but clearly Sir Isaiah Berlin knew many things that I don’t know. It's a thought worthy of Chesterton!

Addendum: The site that I linked to above which provides citations for the various quotes and allusions in Berlin's lecture has since discovered this post and added the reference, thanking me by name for tracking it down.

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