Some Symonds well-suited to the fourth Sunday in Lent, from Walt Whitman: A Study:
Nor does the supreme doctrine of redemption and self-sacrifice lose in significance if we extend it from the One, imagined a pitiful and condescending God, to all who for a worthy cause have endured humiliation, pain, an agonizing death. Not to make Christ less, but to make him the chief of a multitude, the type and symbol of a triumphant heroism, do we think of the thousands who have died on battlefields, in torture chambers, at the stake, from lingering misery, as expiators and redeemers, in whom the lamp of the divine spirit shines clearly for those who have eyes to see.
In Oxford I see cross-topped spires from my bedroom window, I hear chapel bells sound the hour, and I could, if I wished, go to choral Evensong every day of the week. I do go once a week, though, and I go because it helps me to understand how Symonds could write sentences like these, how the straight and unyielding spires of Oxford could and can be bent to the needs of those who think better in layers of metaphor than they do in the uncompromising and unambiguous recitation of Anglican doctrine.
I have been thinking about it, and I don’t think I will go to Christian services when I’m back in the States. I’ve realized that to me Evensong is about the same things that my Symonds project is about: about the romance of Oxford’s “forsaken beliefs” and “impossible loyalties,” and about having it both ways, being simultaneously faithful and apostate, cheerfully Hellbound and yet making a slow Pilgrim’s Progress toward the Celestial City all the same.