Tag Archives: Gerard Manley Hopkins

16 November: Spring and Fall.

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We can never have too much poetry, nor too much Hopkins. Here he is writing to a young child, but also to himself, and to those who have ears to hear. Earlier this year young Abel, then aged 2½, was inconsolably grieving for the snow. Echoes of Bottom’s speech in Twelfth Night?

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

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December 7: Stella Maris and the Wreck of the Deutschland

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Our sequence of posts from John Masefield is interrupted by anniversary reflections from another great poet.

We came to Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in Staithes in time for evening Mass six weeks ago. I was rather disappointed that the statue of Mary inside was of Our Lady of Lourdes, but when we passed the church in daylight, there was Mary, Star of the Sea, gliding calm against the storm, reassuring us that despite the tempests that come our way – and the statue feels the full force of the gales, up there on the hilltop – her prayer will lift us up to her Son.

I was reminded of a great storm which hit the Thames Estuary on this date in 1875, causing the Wreck of the Deutschland, rendered immortal by Gerard Manley Hopkins. A powerful prayer, wrestling with the mystery of inescapable death before one’s span is over. Hopkins focuses on five Franciscan sisters, refugees fleeing to exile in England from oppressive laws in Prussia, only to die on a Kentish sandbank. He challenges himself (and the reader) to:

Grasp God, throned behind
Death with a sovereignty that heeds but hides, bodes but abides;
With a mercy that outrides
The all of water, an ark
For the listener; for the lingerer with a love glides
Lower than death and the dark;
A vein for the visiting of the past-prayer, pent in prison,
The-last-breath penitent spirits—the uttermost mark
Our passion-plungèd giant risen,
The Christ of the Father compassionate, fetched in the storm of his strides.

Grasp God! Perhaps a little finger or the hem of his garment? But may we be listeners, heart and soul, humble enough to board the ark.

Let us pray for all in peril on the sea, as they did recently in the local Middlesborough Cathedral when they welcomed a Lampedusa Cross, made from timbers of a XXI Century Refugee boat that landed in Italy, remembering those who do not survive the voyage to Europe. Middlesbrough Lampedusa Cross

And here you’ll find the text of the poem, Wreck of the Deutschland .

Middlesborough’s Bishop Terry Drainey commissioned  port chaplains on the Feast of the Star of the Sea  in September.

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MMB

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23 October: Wit, wilderness, weeds and wetness.

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Neither Scottish burn nor chalk stream, but a brook in the way, roll-rocking down a Polish Mountain.

He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head. Psalm 110.7

I was reading a letter written ninety years ago by Fr Arthur Hughes, MAfr, later an Archbishop. He told his sister how he regretted that rain and subsequent Hampshire mud meant he would not be able to go down to a brook near Botley and there, as was his custom, drink, citing Psalm 110.

Then, on the train home I read an advertisement for an urban survival course; readers might feel confident they could find water in the wild, but after a disaster, could they find water in the city? Hughes had a reputation for finding fun in the Scriptures – by my reading drinking from the brook was a concrete prayer, laughing at himself in the process.

The apocalyptic warriors sound paranoid. Weren’t cities abandoned when disaster struck, from Great Zimbabwe to Roman Canterbury? Plenty of water elsewhere outside the city, and more food!

Hopkins’ poem Inversnaid, describing a brook very different to the clear waters of Hampshire, is a prayer without the name of God being mentioned. Is the beadbonny ash  perhaps the rowan  or mountain ash? (This one grows beside Canterbury’s chalk river, the Stour.)

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Inversnaid

This darksome burn, horseback brown,

His rollrock highroad roaring down,

In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam

Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth

Turns and twindles over the broth

Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,

It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew

Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through

Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern

And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft

Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,

O let them be left, wildness and wet,

Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

MMB.

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