Material for Sections III & IV of Denise Levertov's The Stream & the Sapphire

Like section II, sections III & IV of Denise Levertov's The Stream and the Sapphire often work from written and visual texts.  The material in these sections tend to focus more on doctrines, with section III being aptly named "Conjectures."  Section IV focuses on the last events surrounding Christ's mission on earth.  Below, along with the discussion questions for various poems from these sections, I've included scriptural references or links to background images and texts.

"On Parables of the Mustard Seed" (see her ref's.) & "What the Figtree Said" (Matt 21:18-22, Mk 11:12-14, 20-24)

  1. In each poem, Levertov is reading against an implicit earlier interpretation.  What is that earlier interpretation?  What makes hers different?

  2. What imagery does she focus on each poem?  Why?

"Salvator Mundi: Via Crucis" (Rembrandt's 1655-57 portrait of Christ)

"Ikon: The Harrowing of Hell" (Icons)

  1. How do the visual images act as conversation partners in each poem?

  2. What are the key motives/struggles attributed to Jesus in each poem?

"On a Theme from Julian's Chapter XX" (Matt 27, Lk 23, Mk 15, Jn 19)

"On Belief in the Physical Resurrection of Jesus" (Mt 28, Mk 16, Lk 24, Jn 20)

"St. Thomas Didymus" (Mk 9:14-32; Jn 20:24-31)

"Ascension" (Acts 1)

  1. In each poem, what key moment in Christ's mission is stressed?  How does Levertov focus on the personal, subjective nature of that mission?

  2. Levertov, in particular, focuses on the tension between the bodily and the spiritual world.  What particular struggles does Christ undergo as the Incarnate One?

  3. Likewise, how important is the bodily to Levertov herself and to Thomas?

"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding