Monday, June 1, 2009


Below is one of the last poems written by Gerard Manely Hopkins.

I seldom play the "favorites" game, thinking it a little silly, and a lot limiting, to be so focused on a color or a composer or a painter that all others are somehow relegated to a place of less enjoyment. I think this is true of Poetry as well, but in the case of poetry an answer is easy for me: Gerard Manely Hopkins. I was introduced to his poem "Kingfishers" in my freshman year in college and was stunned by it's beauty. If I may call myself a poet then I must acknowledge Hopkins as my inspiration. I am far from alone in that. I suppose I am also not alone in feeling that my relationship with his poems is very personal, indeed, that the ideas expressed in the poem "Kingfishers" have been a lifelong guide to me, a constant focus for meditation.

I have just finished Paul Mariani's very beautiful and challenging biography of Hopkins and feel that it is appropriate to share my responses to Hopkins' poetry. This will form one of my series of posts, please be patient.

I learn from Mariani's biography that Hopkins often prayed in a kind of retrospect, feeling that as time did not apply to God, to pray now about something that had happened in the past was appropriate. It that spirit I hope that my tribute might provide a drop or two of whatever rain Hopkins' roots did find.

THOU art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?
Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend, 5
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,
Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again 10
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build—but not I build; no, but strain,
Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

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