“Yet God (that hews mountain and continent,
Earth, all, out:
who, with trickling increment,
Veins violets and tall trees makes more and more)”
Alfonso Rodriquez, sj was a not-very-professionally-educated door-keeper who lived a barely-noticed life – – decades of simple employment welcoming visitors to the Jesuit college of Majorca in the 1500s – – was named a Saint according to Catholic practice in 1888. “Barely-noticed” or not, while he lived, he caught the poetic attention of Gerard Manley Hopkins, sj. His “in honor of St. Alphonsus Rodriquez — Lay brother of the Society of Jesus” offers readers some of his most lyrical and delicate rhythms and imagery ever.
If you’ve never read the poem, prepare yourselves to be astonished and charmed all through the poem, G M H’s cadence and word-choices at every turn. Surely the poem calls for reading out loud, several times, with pauses.
Have a blest weekend, this early mid-summer as we keep vigil with a virus and our courage.
“In honour of St. Alphonsus Rodriquez, Lay brother of the Society of Jesus”
HONOUR is flashed off exploit, so we say;
And those strokes once that gashed flesh or galled shield
Should tongue that time now, trumpet now that field,
And, on the fighter, forge his glorious day.
On Christ they do and on the martyr may;
But be the war within, the brand we wield
Unseen, the heroic breast not outward-steeled,
Earth hears no hurtle then from fiercest fray.
Yet God (that hews mountain and continent,
Earth, all, out; who, with trickling increment,
Veins violets and tall trees makes more and more)
Could crowd career with conquest while there went
Those years and years by of world without event
That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door.
Gerard Manley Hopkins 28 July 1844 – 8 June, 1889