Twice in the past week I said or wrote something deeply embarrassing—hurtful words about someone else that I have regretted with a stab in the heart. The first time was with someone very close to me. The second was in a recent post. In the first case, my embarrassment led to a reconciliation with the person involved: we have never been closer. It is too early to predict what will happen in the second case, but I’m praying about it. Meanwhile, I’ve taken a vow of silence.
Yeah, I know, you’ve probably heard that one before, especially if you know me personally or have hung around this virtual soapbox for any length of time. Like many people with a certain minor gift of eloquence, I suffer from foot-in-mouth disease. I get too smart for my own britches, and my mouth runs all the same, and then I feel awful about it.
Which is why I’ve chosen another poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., for this week’s installment. I suppose it is about taking literal vows; but it has a lot to say to all of us, especially me, and right now.
The Habit of Perfection
Elected Silence, sing to me
And beat upon my whorled ear,
Pipe me to pastures still and be
The music that I care to hear.
Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb:
It is the shut, the curfew sent
From there where all surrenders come
Which only makes you eloquent.
Be shelled, eyes, with double dark
And find the uncreated light:
This ruck and reel which you remark
Coils, keeps, and teases simple sight.
Palate, the hutch of tasty lust,
Desire not to be rinsed with wine:
The can must be so sweet, the crust
So fresh that come in fasts divine!
Nostrils, your careless breath that spend
Upon the stir and keep of pride,
What relish shall the censers send
Along the sanctuary side!
O feel-of-primrose hands, O feet
That want the yield of plushy sward,
But you shall walk the golden street
And you unhouse and house the Lord.
And, Poverty, be thou the bride
And now the marriage feast begun,
And lily-coloured clothes provide
Your spouse not laboured-at nor spun.