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Remaking Religious Poetry for Today's World
editor Ewan Fernie
What is Redcrosse? It's a celebration of England and Saint George and an attempt to "re-imagine the story of Englishness we English tell ourselves". It started life as an academic project, based on the epic allegorical poem, The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser (born c.1552), whose first book has the title "The Legend of the Knight of the Red Crosse". The project led to a celebratory liturgy at St. George's Chapel, Windsor and Manchester Cathedral in 2011. The text of the liturgy is included in this volume. It contains poems by Andrew Motion and others, specially commissioned music and the Collect of St George. There are also 6 "reflections" on Redcrosse, all but one of them by people involved in the discussions that led up to the celebration. Andrew Shanks comments in his essay that the whole project was an "experiment", aiming to "uphold for scrutiny a certain impossible ideal". Other contributors tackle such issues as the nature of patriotism, liturgy versus propaganda, allegory and the poetic work of Edmund Spenser himself. The Faerie Queene is not read uncritically. John Milbank finds Spenser guilty of paranoia in some aspects of the poem, which can only be a starting point. Does Redcrosse achieve the aim it set itself of answering questions such as "What is this England?" and "What does St George stand for?" Opinions will differ. I was left feeling that actually participating in the Liturgy would be more valuable than just reading it or reading about it. Does it ever take place now?
Reviewer: Barry Vendy (02/04/13)