Sunday, July 10, 2011

Gerard Manley Hopkins: On Becoming a Jesuit

Because it's a Sunday and because I'm in a contemplative mood, I thought I'd share a poem with you--one I wrote years ago which was previously published in Stickman Review.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (July 28, 1844 – June 8, 1889) was one of the more influential Victorian poets, but achieved his fame posthumously in the 20th century, chiefly for poems like "The Windhover" and "Carrion Comfort."  There was a period when I was deeply influenced by the life and words of Hopkins, and this poem was kindled during that time in my life.  It was triggered by this significant event in the poet-priest's life (taken from Wikipedia):
On 18 January 1866 Hopkins composed his most ascetic poem, The Habit of Perfection. On 23 January he included poetry in the list of things to be given up for Lent. In July he decided to become a Catholic, and he traveled to Birmingham in September to consult the leader of the Oxford converts, John Henry Newman. Newman received him into the Church on 21 October 1866. On 5 May 1868 Hopkins firmly "resolved to be a religious." Less than a week later, he made a bonfire of his poems and gave up poetry almost entirely for seven years.

You can read more about Hopkins' life, his conversion and his revolutionary style of verse (including the meaning of "sprung rhythm" and "instress") at this Wikipedia entry.

On Becoming a Jesuit 

                        May 11. Dull; afternoon fine.
                        Slaughter of the innocents.
                        --Gerard Manley Hopkins

One resolved match-strike and it is done:
The long scrape,
            The blooming spark,
                        The whiff of sulfur,
The paper leaps from his fingertips.
Once in the candle, the poems curl like embryos
Then stretch as far as metaphor allows.
Their ink-blood browns, bubbles in the heat then
The instress snaps,
The weave of alphabet unravels.
Inscape plumes, gyres over his head.
Caught in the puff of his one, breathy cry,
The secular smoke lingers like a whore’s kiss, then
Whirls straight to the flared nares of God.

No comments:

Post a Comment