gerard manley hopkins

nanda's painting

This is something I painted for Maria Fernanda Sosa, rolled up and carried to Venezuela to deliver to her. I probably owed her some money, I can’t remember now. Or maybe it was because her daughter, Fernanda Sosa, asked for it and I never could deny her. In any event this picture just surfaced. Nanda, if you read this, send me some decent pictures, please.




Gerard Manley Hopkins, ends his poem, “God’s Grandeur”, with the line,

“…Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”

In the previous post I matched one of my paintings with a poem or song I wrote some time ago. Both the song and the image have always brought a favorite poem by Hopkins to mind. When amuirin asked why I referenced Hopkins in the post I wanted to share the private reference and his 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 oil
Crushed. 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 soil
Is 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.

by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 to 1889)

I have always loved the poem, the poet’s love of wordplay and especially the last line. Not to mention the interesting man; an Anglican convert to Catholicism who became a Jesuit priest, a wordsmith, and who died young. Wikipedia has this to say about his death,

“…Although he probably suffered from what today might be diagnosed as either bipolar disorder or chronic unipolar depression, and battled a deep sense of anguish throughout his life, upon his death bed he evidently overcame some of that despondency, at times stygian in its intensity: his last words were “I am so happy, I am so happy.”

I just noticed the date of his death and see he was only 44 when he died. It makes me think of passages Robertson Davies wrote in Fifth Business, or maybe, What’s Bred in the Bone, where a priest is reflecting on his evolving understanding of the life of Jesus. The priest (if I remember this correctly), now an old man, is speaking to someone he knew in his youth, when he was new to the priesthood and his fervor was strong and his ideas about Christ and religion seemingly set for life.

“How do you feel about your religion now? The same as you did then?” his questioner asks.

“I am more than twice as old now as Jesus was when he died,” said the old priest. “Things do look very different, from where I am today.”

Forgive the paraphrasing and the misremembering, all you Davies fans. What struck me at the time I read the passage was the likely truth of the old man’s words. I was younger then – 33 or 34, about the age of Jesus when he died – and I thought that some day I might look back on those words and weigh them.

Well, I am too busy to weigh them now. All I can do is hold them up in the light of this coffee shop window and turn them a bit. They seem true, the light shines through them. I can reflect on the life and pain and glory of Gerard Manley Hopkins from a new perspective, that of outliving his 44 years; that of surviving some hellish years of my own.

I don’t have any great wisdom or insight to offer, just that yes, things do look different from the perch at the end of the branch. Flight is inviting, it always has been. Endurance is important, if only because we say it is. Not leaving the branch before our time means everything in the world to those who’s lives we light, and to those whom in turn light our own.

Thank you, amuirin, for your question. I am so glad you are able to stop and wander.

This entry was posted in 'tis a gift to be simple, amuirin, awakening, christ, fernanda sosa, fifth business, gerard manley hopkins, God's Grandeur, jesuits, nanda, poetry, stop and wander, supernatural bridge, what's bred in the bone, with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to gerard manley hopkins

  1. amuirin says:

    I let this one sit for awhile.

    It almost seems like an insult to something beautiful to remark on it, to quantify it, but because being on the side of communication and courtesy seems important, as opposed to being silent, I hafta say, you came back from a long break and now are writing such incredibly beautiful moments into your posts.

    The poem… beautiful. I am so glad I asked.



  2. rick mobbs says:

    thank you, amuirin.


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