Guido Gezelle (1830-1899): Flemish priest, teacher, and poet

b. 1st May 1830
d. 27th November 1899

Belgian priest and poet, born in Brugge as Guido Pieter Theodorus Josephus Gezelle. He is considered by the Belgians as one of their greatest poets.

 

 

About Gazelle’s sexuality, not much is certain. Typically for a priest, there is no clear evidence that he ever gave physical expression to his sexual yearnings, whatever they may have been, About the nature of those feelings, and what we today would call his “orientation”, there are some strong clues:

Forget Maurice Maeterlinck, Herman de Coninck, Hugo Claus. The Belgian poet you want to read is Guido Gezelle (1830-1899). Writing in the popular idiom of the West Flemish region, this poet-priest caused a revolution in the rhythm, sound, and soul of Belgian poetry, and can be counted among the world’s greatest poets.

In Gezelle’s work, God and Nature are the key words. Admiring the beauty of God’s creation, the poet is reminded of the grandeur of the Creator Himself. To express these feelings into writing, Gezelle refuses to imprison them into the straight-jacket of age-old conventional forms, but allows them to play freely in a refreshing, new use of rhyme patterns, original images, free verse, and prose poetry.

(He) also voiced strong feelings for some of his pupils. Gezelle expressed the “spiritual twofoldness” between master and student in some of his best poems.

Gezelle’s homoerotic feelings may have been platonic. Certainly, some of his admirers resist any suggestion that his feelings for his pupils were sexual.Nevertheless, his relationship with Eugène van Oye, whom he admired for his “angelic innocence” and whom he tried to comfort in his loneliness in the seminary, was deep indeed. It struck him as a tragedy when van Oye left the seminary in Roeselare in 1859. In his lamentation “To an Absent Friend,” published in 1862, he called his loss greater than that of a mother missing her child.

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