Posts filed under ‘Gerard Manley Hopkins’

God’s Grandeur

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Listen (and watch! Stanley Kunitz reads) [1]

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Having started off on Hopkins I can’t seem to stop. Here’s another beauty – a poem that does justice to its subject by being every bit as glorious as what it seeks to describe. It is a poem with warm breast and bright wings, an immense and singing poems that thrills the ear as few other poems do.

In his introduction to the poem, Kunitz speaks of the wonder of discovering Hopkins for the first time – it’s an amazement we’ve all shared at one point or the other, but more importantly it’s a sense of awe I come back to every time I re-read Hopkins and am reminded again of just how miraculous a poet he is. Just that single line – “It will flame out, like shining from shook foil” is enough to make me shut my eyes and savour the exquisiteness.


[1] Video Courtesy the Favorite Poem Project. Warning: Realplayer Required.

March 8, 2007 at 10:57 pm Leave a comment


Gerard Manley Hopkins


Nothing is so beautiful as Spring —
When weeds in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. — Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

It’s the beginning of Spring Break, and the weather in Philadelphia has turned warm right on cue. What better way to celebrate the coming season with this ecstatically beautiful Hopkins poem? A poem of lines “long and lovely and lush”, a poem that “does so rinse and wring/ the ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing”.


March 3, 2007 at 5:01 am Leave a comment

The Windhover

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Listen (Richard Austin reads)

To Christ Our Lord

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

“The achieve of, the mastery of the thing”. If there was ever a poet meant to be read aloud, it is Hopkins. The sheer intricacy of the rhyme in Hopkins is breathtaking, the density of assonance that makes his work a thing to be savoured mouthful by slow mouthful.

What’s incredible about The Windhover is the way the verse itself conveys the sense of something circling, shifting restlessly, something exquisitely balanced yet tremendously soaring. You can feel the tension here, can sense the muscles straining to align themselves perfectly to the wind, the poem itself shifting smoothly from current to curent, line to line, a flight carefully constructed, yet achieved, unmatched in its grace and power. There is nothing easy about this, every word and every phrase in this poem has been carefully selected, weighed and hand-carved with the skill of a true master. But in the end all that sheer plod makes the sillion shine, and the sound of words falling through the air gash the heart of the amazed listener gold-vermilion.


P.S. I’ve been meaning to run Hopkins for a while now, but a poem like the Windhover is one I wouldn’t dare even attempt reading aloud. So I was delighted to find this Richard Austin reading on the Net (courtesy of the Victorian Web).

February 26, 2007 at 2:13 pm 2 comments