By Harold Bloom
Bloom's smooth severe perspectives
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Extra resources for Tennessee Williams
Christe was . . ’ ‘Excessus’ signiWes ‘ecstasy’. The word was so used by St Bernard, the author closest perhaps to Southwell’s heart, whose works he cited in An Epistle of Comfort; which were also his ‘solace’ during his imprisonment in the Tower. We may seem here to have returned to that the absolute reasonableness of robert southwell 39 suggestion with which we began, that Southwell, in ‘The Burning Babe’, appears to have ‘lost himself in ecstatic delight’. The circle is not quite closed, however.
I would further suggest that the radical pun perceivable in ‘ecstasy’, in being ‘beside oneself ’, either with a frenzy of egoistic inclinations or with a disciplined indiVerence to them, would not be lost on him. When he was brought out to endure ‘the torments of a shameful death’ Southwell could speak, with perfect calm and tact, in the idiom of his own Epistle of Comfort: ‘I am come hither to play out the last act of this poor life’. Even at that moment he could retain his grasp on ‘complexity’ and yet speak with absolute simplicity.
Strictly interpreted, this means the radical change in ‘mens maners’ engendered by the blood of martyrs. Figuratively applied, it could be said to describe a crucial ‘turn’ which is a feature of his style: And this is that which Saint Paule sayd: Reformabit corpus humilitatis nostrae, conWguratum corpori claritatis suae: He shall reforme the body of our humility confygured vnto the bodye of his brightnesse. Whiche phrase of speache argueth, that the more the body for him is humbled in torments, the more shall yt be partaker of hys brightnesse in glorye.