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This article is taken from PN Review 81, Volume 18 Number 1, September - October 1991.

The Carnality of Charles Wesley Donald Davie

WESLEY IS A POET of vehement feeling. Coming upon him after reading Watts, what strikes us first is a steep rise in the emotional temperature assumed or exacted of us as readers (or as singers). This everyone notices, has always noticed - though the impression is allayed somewhat when we realize that not all the sacred poets in the generation before Wesley were as austere as Watts. The devout poetry of so unlikely a figure as Thomas Parnell, Pope's friend and comrade-in-arms, is for instance sometimes very fervent; and Watts's own friend, the once famous Elizabeth Rowe (whom Wesley can be shown to have studied), was a by-word in her time for emotionalism that Watts indeed apologized for.

In any case, not feverish feeling so much as strong and muscular thought is what distinguishes such stanzas as these:

Glory be to God on high,
    And Peace on Earth descend;
God comes down: he bows the Sky:
    He shews himself our Friend!
God th'Invisible appears,
    God the Blest, the Great I AM
Sojourns in this Vale of Tears,
    And JESUS is his Name.

Him the Angels all ador'd
    Their Maker and their King:
Tidings of their Humbled LORD
    They now to Mortals bring:
Emptied of his Majesty,
    Of His dazling Glories shorn,
Beings Source begins to Be,
    And GOD himself is BORN!


Wesley's profligate use of italics and ...


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