Hopkins’ Poems (1876-1889)

The forty-eight poems in Hopkins' Poems (1876-1889) contain, in my opinion, some of the greatest poems ever written in the English language. Hopkin's "God's Grandeur" and "Pied Beauty" rival Marvel's "To His Coy Mistress"and "The Definition of Love." Perhaps they are enhanced by the suspicion that, like Emily Dickinson's poems, their style can never be emulated by another poet. They are unique.

Though I find it a little strange that my view of the world can suddenly coincide with a Catholic priest's view of the world, "God's Grandeur" so nearly parallels my view of the natural world that it might well stand as a synopsis of what little optimism I hold for the future of our world:

GOD'S GRANDEUR

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.

To fully appreciate this poem, of course, you must read it out loud or listen to someone who loves it read it out loud. How can anyone living in the 20th century not feel that God's creation has been "seared with trade" and "wears man's smudge." And still, despite man's neglect and abuse, "nature is never spent." Watching a beautiful sunrise or sunset, one could almost believe "the Holy Ghost over the bent/ World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings."

Anyone who doubts that the beauty of the world transcends man's ability to smudge it, only need read:

PIED BEAUTY

GLORY be to God for dappled things,
For skies of couple-color as a brinded cow,
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls, finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced, fold, fallow and plough,
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange,
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim.
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change;
Praise him.

Though tempted to save this poem until I finished studying Flash because it seems the near-perfect poem to set to pictures, I relented, realizing it's a great enough poem to be mentioned again and again, and yet again, lest we forget what beauty is father-forthed again and again if only we have the wisdom to discern it. Beauty is there, even in the "trades, their gear and tackle and trim" if we are but able to see it.

5 thoughts on “Hopkins’ Poems (1876-1889)

  1. I am totally with you here Loren. I have these words pulsing in the heart of me. Like incantations, like mantras. Perhaps because I was brought up with them. And maybe my lack of appreciation for Dickinson is because she wasn’t part of my “canon”.

  2. Loren,

    A similar thought occurred to me as I consider writing poetry about industry. There is a beauty to the trades and the work we do–when we do it well, and when our heart guides our work.

    Thank you again for what you do!

    Don

  3. I do so much agree with you that Pied Beauty and God’s Grandeur are two of the most wonderful poems ever written…please don’t traduce them them by colour pix!

  4. i’ve always loved those poems (& 2 or 3 more, eg.g. “Margaret are you grieving…”)–even after my style & study shifted to where i knew i wasn’t supposed to love them.

    but now i know better.

    m.

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