30 September 2021
Catherine Enwright, Boston College
“Rite and Fore-Time”, the first section of David Jones’ long poem The Anathemata (1952), begins in the present tense. A priest, using the particular Latin formula of the Roman Catholic Mass of Jones’ day, is consecrating a host. Stripping away the specificities of rubric, the poem focuses on the strange action of the priest: ‘We already and first of all discern him making this thing other…’ He is engaged in consecration, the act of making a holy object, a thing set apart for God, anathema in its forgotten sense. Before the word only meant expulsion from a human community, anathema was also used to describe ‘a thing consecrated or devoted to divine use’. The title’s reclamation of the word’s gentler meaning sets in motion Jones’ larger project: to consider the strange action of the Catholic priest as an event occurring at the end of a long history of man creating anathemata, things of no use except worship.