Two Great New Books on Hopkins

Two Great New Books on Hopkins December 18, 2008

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”:

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.

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