Middleton is an active Episcopalian, the poetry editor for the Anglican Theological Review, and an elected member of the Guild of Scholars of the Episcopal Church. An indication of both Middleton’s theological perspective and his sense of the Christian life is the central sequence of The Burning Fields, “The Middle World,” which is dedicated to Eric Voegelin (1901-1985). Voegelin was a conservative thinker who left Germany during the Nazi era and taught for many years at Louisiana State University, where Middleton was his student. Voegelin was interested in the idea of tradition in both the classical and the biblical worlds—interests that Middleton, who ends this primarily Christian volume with a series of poems on incidents from classical mythology, would maintain.
Middleton writes about the essential generalities of Christian faith, but he examines them through the prism of felt experience. In “The Shepherd,” the speaker recalls seeing a Christmas pageant as a young boy. He then traverses the same ground many years later as a mature adult. Instead of being a trivial memory of childhood fun, the Christmas pageant now seems profoundly symbolic of life’s meaningful losses.
Middleton shares many of his Christian themes and interests with T. S. Eliot, a poet widely influential on the southern Agrarians, who were his teachers and forebears. In “Epiphany in Baca,” Middleton seems to write a deliberate sequel to...
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