Saturday, September 8, 2007

Arnold goes to confession, bothers priest

The following brilliant sonnet -- which sheds a bemusing light on Arnold Schnabel’s newly unleashed sexuality -- was submitted by Arnold to the Olney Times for the August 10th, 1963, issue. Not surprisingly -- considering its bold treatment of a subject matter which Arnold had always previously dealt with in the most thickly-veiled terms if at all -- the poem was rejected by the paper’s editor, Silas Willingham III. What is slightly surprising is that after almost twenty-five years of publishing Arnold’s poems on a weekly basis (Arnold had continued to submit poems by V-mail even when serving in the European Theatre in WWII), Willingham had only rejected one other poem, “Committed Bachelor”, which Arnold had submitted apparently just a few weeks previously. Upon finding “Dialogue in the Confessional” unsuitable for the family audience of the Olney Times, but not wanting to leave Arnold’s fans bereft, Willingham had second thoughts about “Committed Bachelor” and ran that in the August 10th issue instead.

“Dialogue in the Confessional”, one of Arnold’s most humorous yet flowing and masterfully composed sonnets, remained unpublished until it was recently discovered in the files of Arnold Schnabel Society at the Oak Lane Library by that indefatigable scholar, our correspondent Mr. Pierce Inverarity.

(This special première broadcast is brought to you thanks to the kindness of the aforementioned good ladies and gentlemen of the Arnold Schnabel Society.)

“Dialogue in the Confessional”

I went to confession and told the priest
About what I had done and that Jesus
Had said it was okay; I heard the least
Intake of breath; “Sex is not to please us,”
He said after a long pause, “but to bring
Children into the world, within the state
Of holy matrimony.” “But the thing
Is,” I said, “no man and wife procreate
Each time they perform the act; is it wrong
Then, when they do it and fail conception?”
“No, no, of course not,” he said, “Just so long
As they’re wed, their love is no exception
To the rule.” “Right,” I said, “But what if, say --”
“Three Hail Marys,” he said. “Now go away.”

(Kindly go to the right hand column of this page for links to lots of other Arnold Schnabel poems as well as to our on-going serialization of his previously unpublished memoir Railroad Train to Heaven.)


Unknown said...

That's the most beautiful priest I've ever seen.
Beautiful priest, beautiful poem, and Arnold's penance is so beautifully easy and sweet. No hair shirt; no all night flogging. Does this mean all he needs to do is say three Hail Marys every time he sins?

Dan Leo said...

I dunno, I think the priest kinda just wanted to get Arnold out of there.

Also, there might have been a line of people waiting outside to get into the confessional, so maybe Father Clift just wanted to move things along.

Three Hail Marys sounds fair enough to me.