Hopkins is probably my favorite poet. His dense poetry makes you work hard to understand it, almost requiring you to read it aloud and play with the prosody. This work is rewarded richly, even if you don’t share the beliefs that motivated it. His reflections on nature, beauty, and piety are wonderful and distinctive.
My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled—
Quelled and quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
Are felled, felled, are all felled—
Of a fresh and following folded rank.
Not spared, not one,
that dandled a sandled
shadow that swam or sank
on meadow and river and wind-wandering, weed-winding bank.
Oh if we but knew what we do
when we delve or hew
Hack and rack the growing green!
Since country is so tender
to touch, her being so slender, that
Like this slick and seeing ball,
But a prick will make no eye at all.
That we, even where we mean
to mend her we end her,
when we hew or delve;
Aftercomers cannot guess the beauty been.
Ten or twelve, just ten or twelve
strokes of havoc unselve
the sweet especial scene.
Rural scene, a rural scene—
Sweet, especial, rural scene.
— Gerard Manley Hopkins
On the subject of nature, another of his that I love (but haven’t memorized) is Inversnaid, which ends with this lovely stanza:
What would the world be, once bereft
Of wildness and wet? Let them be left, O,
Let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
It would be a fitting caption for the Half-Earth Project.
©2020 Matt Post