“Trees by their yield are known…”

It must have been a busy two weeks because it took me nearly as long to finish Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins as it did to finish Emily Dickinson’s Complete Poems. I’ve just finished the 86 pages entitled “Unfinished Poems Fragments, Light Verse Etc (1864-1889)” and “Translations Latin and Welsh Poems Etc,” though I feel obliged to admit that despite my courses in high school Latin the Latin and Greek translations were certainly “Greek to me.”

Unfortunately, I also remembered one of the reasons I’m generally opposed to publishing poems that left incomplete by the author — too often they sound incomplete and very likely do the author an injustice. If the author thought the poems were done, they wouldn’t have left them in draft form. There were few poems here that moved me, though this one:

Trees by their yield
Are known; but I —
My sap is sealed,
My root is dry.

If life within
I none can shew
(Except for sin),
Nor fruit above,–
It must be so —
I do not love.

Will no one show
I argued ill?
Because, although
Self-sentenced, still
I keep my trust.
If he would prove
And search me through
Would he not find
(What yet there must
Be hid behind
. . . . .

had a certain appeal to it. Perhaps it appealed to me because of the way I’m feeling about my political blogging. (See today’s earlier entry.) Perhaps it suggests the end of winter, more specifically the end of what’s been a long, wet week here in the Northwest, a week where I haven’t managed to get in a single long walk.

Still, I imagine that most of us who are getting older have experienced this feeling more than once. What has our life yielded? At least when I look back I have children and grandchildren who love me. I wonder if a priest who has devoted his life to the church and has no descendents who love him would feel this even more sharply than the rest of us?

I think in the end of our lives, even more than in the beginning, we want to feel that our lives have had meaning, that we have borne some fruit in the world, whether that be children or students who have gone into the world a little more prepared because of what we have taught them. Too often, though, it is difficult to see that we really have made a difference.

We can only pray that our love for the world and for others has borne some fruit that we are unawares of.

One thought on ““Trees by their yield are known…””

  1. You’re as bad as me, writing and waxing serious on a Friday night. But, nice, very nice, about the Hopkins poem and the ruminations about age and bearing fruit that make an older single man like me feel–well, uncomfortable, but that’s not your fault.

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