Remaking the Middle Ages in Australia: Francis Webb’s ‘The Canticle’ (1953)
Francis Webb's verse-sequence on St Francis of Assisi, 'The Canticle', from Birthday (1953) has been acknowledged as a watershed in his career (Griffith, Life and Poetry 5, 76, 131) and as a major refocusing of his art (Ashcroft 15-19). I wish to re-read 'The Canticle' here, mainly as an important poem by an Australian writer still lacking sufficient scholarly attention, but also as an instance of what might be called Australian medievalism. I want to show how Webb's poetry, through its local inflection of a disputed European tradition, remade the significance of a central medieval figure—St Francis—within an Australian context. In doing so, I hope to show how earlier European culture (in this instance, medieval culture) can be of importance to our understanding of Webb as a modern Australian writer.
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Published 1 May 1999 in Volume 19 No. 1. Subjects: Australian culture, Literary career, Medieval history, Poetic techniques, Roman Catholicism, Saints, Writer's craft, Writer's inspiration, Francis Webb.