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Six Poems by Les Murray on Christian Faith

"I like those things because they are damned good elaborations of the Poem, but [also because] they are such an offence to the gentiles. I love those parts of the Church, the harder it gets to believe the happier I am with it. The sense that at least somewhere there are propositions at utter variance with the dogmas of secular French-Revolution Modernism is wonderful. A counter-balance to what I find a terribly oppressive, arrogant, narrow, bullying kind of atmosphere. Most of the things that have been said about Catholicism in the past really apply to the modern Inquisition. The Inquisition is not the Catholic one but the Modernist one."
--Interview, 20 December 1994

"The only agency I see which may help humans, all of them, endure and delight in peace is God's grace. Any blockage of that in their lives, and they are open to blood sacrifice, of themselves and others'"
--from Australian Literary Studies


Prose is protestant-agnostic,
story, explanation, significance,
but poetry is Catholic;
poetry is presence.

  1. Explain in your own words the distinction between the religious vision of prose and poetry in "Distinguo."
  2. Is this distinction similar to the one Murray makes above?

"November--The Misery Cord"

  1. How does misery affect us? Why is it seemingly so irresistible?
  2. What is Christ's relationship to misery? How should we then respond?

"The Wedding at Berrico"

  1. What are the gifts that come from God for marriage? What other blessing s does he wish for them? Why?
  2. How does he describe his relationship to his daughter? Why does he not "give her away"?

"The Say-but-the -Word Centurion Attempts a Summary"

  1. What does each description of Christ reveal about the limited perspective of the centurion?
  2. What are the consequences for the world if Christ is who he says he is?
  3. Is the centurion entirely happy with this?

"The Last Hellos"

  1. How does he describe his father and his relationship to him?
  2. Why end this poem the way he does? What is he saying about modernity and belief in God?


  1. Start by comparing this poem with Philip Larkin's "Aubade." How is Murray's poem a response to his?
  2. How does Murray describe his clinical depression?
  3. What does he conclude about death and therefore the Creator?

"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