In this article, Ong divides his thoughts on the genre into six sections.  In section one, he introduces his subject by making the point that critics tend to underemphasize the importance of Latin literature in the Middle Ages and pay more attention to vernacular works:  this is especially true for Latin hymnody, in which the Dies Irae and the Stabat Mater Dolorosa are the only frequently cited works and the more metaphysical works of Adam of St. Victor and St. Thomas Aquinas are almost completely ignored.  Because of this oversight, Ong’s aim in the article is to explore the works of these two men, particularly how they both used wit as a poetic device to illustrate the mysteries of Christianity (a more serious use of wit than simple word play).

In the second and third sections of the article, Ong provides examples of the two men’s works which display this tendency to use wit in a more serious manner, and he asserts that this use of wit creates a rather complex approach to Christian theology.  In the fourth section of the article, Ong elaborates on the complexity of this theology by comparing the work of these two men to the Dies Irae and the Sabat Mater Dolorosa, the two examples of Latin hymnody most frequently cited by critics.  These two works, Ong asserts, can be characterized as coming out of the Franciscan school, in which the Christian mysteries are illustrated in a more simple manner than they are in the work of Adam of St. Victor and Aquinas.  Ong even claims that the Franciscan school simplifies the complex nature of the Adamic-Thomistic theology by presenting a poem by Jacopone da Todi that imitates a passage by Aquinas:  clearly, Ong prefers the work of Adam and Aquina to that of the Franciscans.

In the fifth section of the article, Ong returns to the work of the two men and shows how, in their writings, the poetic device wit is a "normal means" for discussing the Christian mysteries.  Aquinas believed that while poetry and theology are not the same, for poetry lacks the truth while theology embodies it, he thought that both poetry and theology called for the use of analogies or metaphors (which are found in wit through word-play), precisely because poetry’s lack of truth means it can never speak of the truth directly and the overwhelming nature of the truth in theology makes direct speaking of the truth impossible.  At this point in the article, Ong applies his now fully developed discussion of the process of human knowledge (taking material examples and converting them to abstract ideas) to Aquinas’ ideas about the differences and similarities between poetry and theology.  While poetry defies abstraction and theology, especially Christian theology with the concepts of the Trinity and the Incarnation, encourages abstraction, both poetry and theology demand more of the human intellect than it is capable of performing, a weakness Ong believes Aquinas identified with because he often practiced the process of gaining knowledge through the material-to-abstract transformation.  But Ong also points out that while Aquinas recognized the "unsatisfying" nature of religious belief (when compared to the more satisfying experience of the intellectual process), he thought that belief was an important part of the thinking process, something that must be relied upon by all humans at certain moments.

At the end of the fifth section of the article, Ong comes back to the idea of the connection between poetry and theory in the "wit poetry" of Latin hymnody, and in the sixth section of the article, concludes that although the genre did not have the close contact with the material world vernacular literature had, Latin hymnody’s access to vast amounts of metaphors and analogies made it no more limited a mode of expression than vernacular literature.
 

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