New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1950. First edition. Octavo, original teal cloth, slate blue top edge, photographic endpapers, original dust jacket. An excellent copy in the bright, price-clipped dust jacket with only mild wear to spine ends and corners. A near fine copy. Item #1063
"THERE IS INTOXICATION IN THE WATERS OF CONTEMPLATION"
First edition of Thomas Merton's portrait of Cistercian monasticism—a handsome copy in the original dust jacket illustrated by Arno.
Styled by Merton's publishers at Harcourt Brace as the follow-up to the Seven Storey Mountain of the previous year (the back panel of the jacket features blurbs from Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Fulton Sheen, and Clare Booth Luce). Merton's lengthy Prologue continues the Seven Storey Mountain's stark contrast of monastic contemplation with the Babel of modern American life: "If ever there was a land where silence made men nervous and prayer drove them crazy and penance scared them to death, it is America." These feelings would change over time: "One aspect of the book that he particularly came to regret was the attitude of pious scorn directed at 'the world' and its citizens. He had seemed to regard the monastery as a haven set apart from the 'massa damnata.' Only with time had he realized that 'the monastery is not an escape from the world. On the contrary, by being in a monastery I take my true part in all the struggles and sufferings of the world" (Robert Ellsberg).
Dedicated to Evelyn Waugh—the editor of the British edition of the Seven Storey Mountain, published in England as "Elected Silence"—the Waters of Siloe contains two main sections. Part One outlines the beginnings of monasticism under St. Benedict, the origins of the Cistercian order, the development of the Trappists and the establishment of the order in America. Part Two consists of: Cistercian Life in the Twelfth Century, The Cistercian Character and Sanctity, and Paradisus Claustralis. The end of the text bears Merton's colophon: "Frater M. Louis, O.C.R. / Feast of All Saints of the Cistercian Order, 1948." With "The Daily Life of a Cistercian Monk in Our Time," a frontispiece photograph, a 16-page photo insert, and a Glossary of Monastic Terms. Laid in at the rear endpapers are a handmade bookmark: "Virgin Mother of God, Pray for Us" (signed "Sr. Paul Agnes / 11 - 19 -53") and a contemporary prayer card ("The Angelus"). Approbations. Ellsberg. All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets and Witnesses for Our Time.