Poem-a-Day Friday: Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Friends, I can’t talk long about poetry without begging you to love my bestest favorite poet-priest ever, the great Gerard Manley Hopkins. I know why he has all my poetry-love. The first time I ever heard his words, they were recited to me by my grad professor Mary while we sat in her office talking about my poems. His words on her tongue were stunning. They were so…what’s the word? Robust. Full. She spoke these words from “Carrion Comfort“:

But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me?

“A lionlimb?” I said. “That’s so weird and disturbing and unlike any description I’ve ever heard.” Then I said those two lines to myself all the way home through the snow until I could look up the poem and read the whole thing. Hopkins always makes me a little nervous and warm around his words. Sort of like you feel when you’re falling in love.

He uses verbs as nouns and nouns as verbs. He builds rhythms that both hurt the ear and ring clear and beautiful in it. He says true things about God and the world’s brokenness with such richness and wisdom. And his poems just must be read out loud. They were made to be read out loud. So, I’m going to do something a little odd today. I recorded myself reading it. Because, if ever there were a poet who deserves my awkward blog reading of his work, it’s Gerard, my main squeeze.

To hear me read it click here. I chose “Spring” in honor of the green buds on the trees around Austin, in honor of these bluebonnets popping out of the ground and begging to be celebrated…

Spring

by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –
   When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
   Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
   The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
   The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
   A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,
   Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
   Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.
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