For reasons that should shortly become clear, the term ‘Book Review’ may be a misnomer here.
First, let me just say that what we have to do with here, is a reprint of a very slim volume of poems by Charles A. Coulombe, written in his youth, back in the 1980’s.
Also included is a fair amount of intriguing prose in the form of both preface and afterword by the poet himself, and a lengthy and laudatory introduction, which tells the story of the author’s early life.
Now this “review’ is being written by a reviewer, who in general does not read poetry (with the single exception apart from this in recent years of Charles Péguy). Peguy apart, and to my own impoverishment, I never read the likes of Keats or Yeats or Baudelaire . . .
As such, I really find myself in no position to say how well the young Coulombe’s verse stands up next to other poetry, whether great or good.
But if I cannot judge how technically accomplished Coulombe’s poems are, I may still declare how frequently I am moved by them!
And, likewise, that these poems are richly evocative of much that seems very important to me.
Thus I relate indeed to his Death in Paris, which would seem to voice the poet’s despair on visiting contemporary France, that the soul of that nation has been killed:
I kneel here at the altar
Of St Nicolas du Chardonnet
I smell incense – miserere mei,
Great God, give a sign!
Yes I relate: For I have also knelt in the same church—bastion of the Tradition in Paris—and I have also despaired of the contrast between the France which is still honoured within its walls and the dry, secular rationalist wasteland beyond its walls …
This is a poem for Paris in France, that once great centre of Christendom. And it may help the reader to say that the poems as a whole serve as an elegy for Christendom.
For Charles A. Coulombe even as a young man remembered. As a young man, I must admit I had very little cultural memory at all.
Swept up as I was – like so many young men – in secular ideology and New Age dreams, I believed the last centuries had mostly been a march of progress and enlightenment, with just a few hiccups here and there …
What a different young man Mr Coulombe was to myself! He remembers and he weeps. With Our Lady, he weeps for all that we have lost.
But if I cannot really say much more to the individual poems here, I would still like to record that this little volume, slim as it is, has given me real consolation, meaning, rich satisfaction …
The satisfaction of which I speak is really to do with the soul of the poet himself – for it shines through all three elements invoked above: poetry, prose and biographical introduction.
Charles A. Coulombe is unlike any other Twenty-First century English writer I know. All his writing captures a spirit of remembrance of Christendom. This is to say, that he recalls the sacred civilisational aspirations of the past, not only of Catholic France – but this and far more.
Now, Coulombe’s writing is I think, important for many other reasons besides – his gifts as a historian, his lucid analysis of contemporary trends and politics etc.
But we have not so much to do with such things here. Rather, we simply have the very personal expression of a soul, undimmed by secular forgetfulness, somnambulance.
This slim volume is for me just another little radiating light from him, warming in the dark …
I shall keep this ’review’ short and sweet: my heartfelt thanks to Charles A. Coulombe for making this humble volume available once more and for affording us such evocative glimpses into a very different world vision than that of mundane – not to mention so often soul murdering – modernity.
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