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While the connection between poetry and the Jesuits is widely known (as mentioned in last week’s post), what you may not know is that Jesuit novices also tried their hand at poetry. Within the Woodstock College Archives, there are three large boxes of poetry books created between 1920 and 1869 by Jesuit novices. These poems were composed by philosophy and theology students as part of annual collections, and for specific feast days. They served both as a work of devotion and as a chance for students to practice their linguistic skills. While a small number of the poems are in English, most are in either Latin, Greek, Hebrew, or Arabic.
One of the reasons that these poetry collections stand out from their peers is the highly decorative covers of the books. The covers are incredibly ornate with branch-like lettering, floral motifs, geometric patterns, gilded backgrounds, and exquisite calligraphy found throughout. While we don’t which students illustrated these covers, they may have been done by those novices less poetically inclined as a chance to take part in the devotional work. A sampling of the many beautiful covers can be seen by clicking on the picture below.