Sept 20 – Gerard Manley Hopkins, sj — a place for sorrow in life

Wednesday, September 20

“it is the blight man was born for
it is Margaret you mourn for”

Several days ago a close friend told me that Hopkins’ “Spring and Fall,” when she read it, whispered deep down in her imagination.  I remembered that this morning and wondered whether these elegiac 15 lines (a sonnet less one?) had found their way onto the Work Day/Hard Time poetry list.  They had not; today they join six other gmh poems.  Thanks to my friend for bringing the poem to mind.

Hopkins (1844-1889) lived through the British industrial revolution at its most imperial, British innovations in factory design, the world’s master in ocean-going battleships, freighters, and luxury liners.  He lived close to the grinding wounds of expatriated farmers and machine-dominated factory workers.  Throughout his short life, he never lost his genius for sheer beauty either.   Perhaps he moves so many readers because his ability to write in language that does not compromise its playful elegance for its hard-edge tragedies, nor vice versa.

As Hopkins’ poems go, “Spring and Fall” is pretty accessible even on first reading.  Perhaps, however, on second reading surprises lurk.  It’s a good bet a second reading will have more pauses than the first.

Mid-week.  blessings wherever you live and work.


john, sj

Spring & Fall: to a young child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

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