Thomas Lynch's The Sin-Eater: first impressions

There are lines in Lynch's poetry and introit that resonate deeply on first reading, that invite further reflection. I am going to list them here, for my benefit, so I know which ones I want to dwell on. Perhaps they'll entice you, spark your imagination - and I hope they'll invite you to seek out this wonderful collection of poems about an intriguing character.

'to be awestruck was better than certainty' (xii)

questioning 'the legalisms and accountancy by which glorious and sorrowful mysteries were rendered a sort of dogmatic and dispassionate math' Lynch says, 'to be so certain about God struck me as sacrilege. Faith must be more than religious belief and obedience.' (xvii)

'When someone shows up - priest or pastor, rabbi or imam, venerable master or fellow traveler - to stand with the living and the dead and speak into the gaping maw of the unspeakable, I know I am witnessing uncommon courage and my perennially shaken faith is emboldened by theirs.' (xxi)

'What makes this aching in the soul? he thought ... And though no answer was forthcoming he went forth.' (Argyle's Return to the Holy Island', 19)

' "The last among the earthen decencies -
this shovel and shoulder work by which are borne
our fellow pilgrims on their journeys home." ' ( Argyle Among the Moveen Lads, 31 )

'Sometimes he counted words or parts of words
as if they amounted to something more
than sound and sense attuned between his ears' (His Ambulations, 33)

'Some days he felt so happily haunted,
by loving ghosts and gods upholding him.
Some days he felt entirely alone.' (He Considers Not the Lilies but Their Excellencies, 37)

'Among old stones a calm came over him
as if the dead beneath them held their own
redemptions on their journeys heavenward,
like wild flowers gathered out of bones,
their sweet bouquets a comfort beyond words.' ('He Weeps Among the Clare Antiquities', 39)

Thomas Lynch, The Sin-Eater. A breviary. 


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