I baited my hook with a word and caught a poem by Hopkins today, and thought I should share it with you. But first, wordnotes:
– “chevy” means to chase after something or generally race and scamper about;
– to roister (or, presumably, to royster) is to revel, to engage in noisy merrymaking without restraint (as though one were a rustic, countrified sort);
– shivelights are slivers or splinters of light; given that splintered light, the darkness between is as the shadows of ship-rigging or pulleys or what you will, hence shadowtackle; and
– yestertempest is nothing but my new favorite word. I shall endeavor to work it into conversation whenever possible.
– GMH called this “a sonnet with two codas.” Everyone since has said “No, no, surely that’s three codas.” As for me, I will say it is one whole poem and leave it at that.
– He also wrote the following to a friend:
Lately I sent you a sonnet on the Heraclitean Fire, in which a great deal of early Greek philosophical thought was distilled; but the liquor of the distillation did not taste very greek, did it? The effect of studying masterpieces is to make me admire and do otherwise. So it must be on every original artist to some degree, on me to a marked degree. Perhaps then more reading would only refine my singularity, which is not what you want.
Read this out loud. Read it to your roommate, to your spouse, to your kid, to your cat, to a hedgehog named Jeffy who was startled by the opening of a champagne bottle. Read it to yourself inside, or out by a lake, or in a field staring up at the clouds until your eyes are forced shut by the sun behind them. Read it silently but then read it again.
On the Nature of the Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection
Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows ‘ flaunt forth, then chevy on an air-
built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs ‘ they throng; they glitter in marches.
Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, ‘ wherever an elm arches,
Shivelights and shadowtackle in long ‘ lashes lace, lance, and pair.
Delightfully the bright wind boisterous ‘ ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare
Of yestertempest’s creases; in pool and rut peel parches
Squandering ooze to squeezed ‘ dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches
Squadroned masks and manmarks ‘ treadmire toil there
Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, ‘ nature’s bonfire burns on.
But quench her bonniest, dearest ‘ to her, her clearest-selvèd spark
Man, how fast his firedint, ‘ his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
Drowned. O pity and indig ‘ nation! Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, ‘ death blots black out; nor mark
Is any of him at all so stark
But vastness blurs and time ‘ beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart’s-clarion! Away grief’s gasping, ‘ joyless days, dejection.
Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam. ‘ Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; ‘ world’s wildfire, leave but ash:
In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, ‘ since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, ‘ patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.
I can only end by saying that Hopkins delights me and I ought to read more of his work. If you are looking for actual analysis so as to deepen your delight, go here.