'Unhappily in love with God' : conceptions of the divine in the poetry of Geoffrey Hill, Les Murray and R.S. Thomas
This thesis looks at the poetry of three markedly different contemporary poets, Geoffrey Hill, Les Murray and R. S. Thomas. They are linked by at least tacit belief in Christianity and the Christian world-view, and this belief shapes everything they write, whether explicitly 'religious' or otherwise. My focus throughout the thesis is on Hill, Murray and Thomas's differing conceptions of God, and my explorations of their poetic and religious stances take God as both their starting point and destination. The opening chapter is a general introduction to the possibilities of religious poetry in the modern world, before turning, in chapter two, to Hill, Murray and Thomas themselves and an identification of their religious concerns and sensibilities. The remaining thematic chapters concern themselves with Hill and Murray's explorations of suffering and evil, post-1945; the place of humour and laughter in the religious visions of Murray and Hill; Murray's remarkable sequence of animal poems, 'Presence'; and the figure of Christ in the poetry of Thomas. I conclude with a discussion of T. S. Eliot's misgivings concerning religious poetry, and how Hill, Murray and Thomas avoid writing the limited poetry he identifies. My method throughout is to base my discussion of these three poets on close readings of their individual poems.