George Santayana: A Sonnet Rhapsody
Prepared and presented by Denis Daly
Loved for the gentle humanity of his world view, and widely respected for his amazing breadth of knowledge, George Santayana could be called the ultimate adult prodigy. Despite his attachment to the antique elaborations of Roman Catholicism, he was, in essence, a true citizen of the Twentieth Century, the first age in which art and commentary were really seen as being different aspects of the same endeavor.
Santayana is most often considered a philosopher, although his prime role was that of a cultural commentator. Gifted with a natural and easy command of language, he wrote dramatic and poetic works, in addition to his dissertations on philosophy, literature and culture.
Although his poetry displays conspicuous craftsmanship and a skillful avoidance of the banal, Santayana is not ranked with many of his students, who achieved celebrity as poets, like T.S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens. That elegant lack of conviction, which enabled Santayana to enjoy the trappings of Catholicism without embracing the faith itself, and which enabled
him to remain truly impartial as a commentator, results in a certain philosophic blandness, which robs his verse of direction and vitality. As one commentator has suggested, Santayana’s natural eloquence has been a hindrance rather than an asset in the spread of his writings, and no more so than in his poetry.
However, any poetry of this level of craftsmanship is worthy of preservation and popularization. This collection was a delight to record, and it is hoped that many will find this journey into the pastures of Santayana’s poetic meditation pleasant and uplifting.
Sonnets: 1883 – 1893 – twenty sonnets
Sonnets: 1895 and after – thirty sonnets
On the Death of a Metaphysician
On a Piece of Tapestry
To W. P. (four sonnets)
Before a Statue of Achilles (three sonnets)
The Rustic at the Play