Gerard Manley Hopkins: Duns Scotus’s Oxford
Towery city and branchy between towers;
Cuckoo-echoing, bell-swarmèd, lark charmèd, rook racked, river-rounded;
The dapple-eared lily below thee; that country and town did
Once encounter in, here coped & poisèd powers;
Thou hast a base and brickish skirt there, sours
That neighbour-nature thy grey beauty is grounded
Best in; graceless growth, thou hast confounded
Rural, rural keeping — folk, flocks, and flowers.
Yet ah! this air I gather and I release
He lived on; these weeds and waters, these walls are what
He haunted who of all men most sways my spirits to peace;
Of realty the rarest-veinèd unraveller; a not
Rivalled insight, be rival Italy or Greece;
Who fired France for Mary without spot.
Nothing else in nature comes near this unspeakable stress of pitch, distinctiveness, and selving, this selfbeing of my own. Nothing explains it or resembles it, except so far as this, that other men to themselves have the same feeling. But this only multiplies the phenomena to be explained so far as they are like and do resemble. But to me there is no resemblance: searching nature I taste self at one tankard, that of my own being. The development, refinement, condensation of nothing shews any sign of being able to match this to me or give me another taste of it, a taste even resembling it.
from The Sermons and Devotional Writings of Gerard Manley Hopkins, edited by Christopher Devlin.
One of my favorite poems in any language by one of my favorite poets (here is Lowell’s take).
Gerard Manley Hopkins: (Carrion Comfort)
Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist — slack they may be — these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
With darksome devouring eyes my bruisèd bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?
Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.
Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, chéer.
Cheer whóm though? The héro whose héaven-handling flúng me, fóot tród
Me? or mé that fóught him? O whích one? is it eách one? That níght, that year
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.
(quoted after The Major Works, edited by Catherine Phillips (Oxford World’s Classics))
Now, to be thoroughly in act is human perfection; in other words, it is to be thoroughly made. According to Catholic theology, perfection demands a substantial transformation, which is called first sanctifying grace and then beatitude; it involves the mysterious co-working of grace and free will. To go into this question further would be a digression. What I want to emphasize is that for Hopkins life was a continuous substantial progress toward perfection. He believed this, he lived this, this is what he wrote. (…) Hopkins’s rhythms, even when he’s not writing sprung rhythm, have the effect of a hyperthyroid injection.
Robert Lowell on Gerard Manley Hopkins (“Hopkins’s Sanctity”, in his indispensable Collected Prose (ed. R. Giroux))