The last few months have seen two great books on the English Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins: a fictionalized account by Ron Hansen, and a biography by Paul Mariani. I’ve always found Hansen’s books a pleasure to read, and this is no exception. I knew of Paul Mariani as a poet and literary biographer, and I really liked Thirty Days, about his experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. I’ve been a fan of Hopkins since I read him in high school, and I’ll use this as an excuse to share my favorite poem, “God’s Grandeur”:
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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 oilCrushed.
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 soilIs 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.