The [best] poet is the true prophet

‘It has often been said that the teachers of the age’s religion are to be sought rather among its poets than its preachers. But it seems as if we must look for our noblest theology also to our poets, rather than to our clerical schools … The age is deeply theological, and does not know it. It is like the man who was amazed to find that all his life he had been talking prose without being aware of it. We are theological, and don’t know it. Hence part of our unhappiness. It is like the sorrow of some young Werther who bears in his bosom the ferment of a genius not yet apprehended, and the germ of a revolution not yet realised. Our atheology belies our true deep selves, and our great poets are in this but prophets. They steal upon our less aggressive hours, and reveal our soul and future to ourselves. They fore-shadow our destiny, and they tell us that, in spite of all the savants say about the impossibility of a theology, it is the passion for a theology which is at the root of our mind’s unrest, and the possession of a theology which alone can lay our mind’s anarchy’. – PT Forsyth, ‘The Argument for Immortality Drawn from the Nature of Love: A Lecture on Lord Tennyson’s “Vastness”’. Christian World Pulpit, 2 December 1885, 360.

[Image: John Everett Millais, Alfred Tennyson 1881. Oil on canvas. Tate Gallery. Lent by National Museums Liverpool, Lady Lever Art Gallery]

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