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Title: Barthold Heinrich Brockes, a transmittal of germinal ideas in his Irdisches Vergnugen in Gott
Author: Kimber, Ida M.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3599 5333
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1969
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INTRODUCTION What we read about Barthold Heinrich Brookes leaves us with a confusing and contradictory picture. CHAPTER I The sources of Brookes' Irdisches Vergniigen have not been adequately investigated, therefore conclusions drawn from his work about his religion and his attitude to nature are suspect, especially since he sometimes used foreign material without acknowledgment. CHAPTER II Brookes' scientific poems read like versified paraphrases of the work of some of the scientists of the Royal Society and of the Boyle lecturers who preached sermons based on their investigations. Their aim, the glorification of God through the study of his creation, is also Brookes' aim, and their theological interpolations are similar to his. CHAPTER III The theological and philosophical ideas of this group of writers go back to the great philosophers and theologians of the past. Cicero and Galen transmitted much of this material. Brookes uses it as motifs in his poetry. The topoi of the book of nature and the artisan God express the relationship of the Creator to creation. By contemplating God's handiwork man can raise himself to a knowledge of God. Sometimes he is optimistic about this quest, but sometimes he feels that knowledge is restricted to the afterlife. God is active in creation. A passive God would be the God of "atheism." Newton's theory of gravity and other suitable evidence is given for God's continuous presence in creation. CHAPTER IV Most of these ideas are also expressed in the writings of Brockes, Du Bartas, Blackmore, Thomson and several others. The literary tradition goes back to Genesis and the hexaemera of the Church Fathers. Motifs are also taken from Lucretius and Virgil. CHAPTER V In several of his poems Brockes clearly opposes the tendency to deify nature, yet he often writes about a Natura figure or spirit of nature who is responsible for plant growth, the changing seasons, instinct in the animal world and many other mysterious processes. These ideas are found in the work of the Cambridge Platonists and those who were influenced by them. Contemplation of space and the thought of God's infinity produce a kind of religious ecstasy. This is also in the work of Norris, Traherne and More. Brockes writes in the hymnic manner of Theocles' apostrophes to various natural phenomena in Shaftesbury's Moralists. CHAPTER VI Certain aspects of Longinus' theory of the sublime are transformed in the writings of Dennis, Addison, Shaftesbury and Brockes into an experience in which the imagination (or reason) capitulates in the presence of something beyond its capacity. In this state man is raised to thoughts of God. Vast expanses (sky, sea, mountains, forests), wild natural forces (storms and earthquakes) produce a pleasing kind of horror. Brockes finds material of this kind in Burnet's Sacred Theory of the Earth CHAPTER VII Brookes' sources are unexplored. Pope's influence has been exaggerated. Brockes translated or adapted material from many other writers such as Genest, La Motte, Voltaire, Shaftesbury, Sarasa and others. CHAPTER VIII Brockes is considered as an unimaginative descriptive poet. He is said to depict the quiet idyllic landscape. But Brockes' best poems are the products of his imagination in conformity with Addison's theories of the imagination. He perceives nature by means of his senses but his knowledge of scientific theories (Locke, Newton and the Royal Society) makes hirn see things in a certain way. His imagination carries him beyond the actual object of description to a higher kind of artistic reality. CHAPTER IX The Irdisches Vergniigen is full of hymns and hymnic passages. Brockes also translated hymns by other writers. The traditional hymn form is used, but is enriched by the motifs which we have been studying. The transformation of Psalm 148 into Hilton's "Morning hymn" and Thomson's "Hymn to the Seasons" illustrates this. The pagan hymn to the sun develops in the same way. Brookes and Thomson gather together material from widely differing sources in their hymns. CHAPTER X Brookes' Irdisches Vergniigen is a mystery as it has no artistic unity. Banalities alternate with poems of near genius. His successes could "be ascribed to the way in which his imagination adapts and varies material gathered from a wide variety of sources.
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Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
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