By John Hertz: In a note celebrating the 40th anniversary of File 770 (January 6th) and 10th of File770.com (January 15th), I mentioned Gerard Manley Hopkins and even quoted him, but I didn’t bring him to you (or should that be the other way around?)
Since then he’s been on my mind. Did I do him a disservice? Or you?
My mother introduced me to a New York cousin, Selma Jeanne Cohen (1920-2005; we were thus also related to SJC’s uncle Benjamin V. Cohen), whom I met while living there, and knew as the editor of Dance Perspectives; at length she found a publisher for her International Encyclopedia of Dance (Oxford Univ. Press, 6 vols. 1998), I even helping with a few articles. I never knew, I stupidly never learned, she too had been enkindled by Hopkins. He was the subject of her doctoral dissertation.
Hopkins, a superb poet and one of the most original, was a Jesuit priest, in whose devotion poetry and religion were mutually illuminating, I think I may say inseparable; which SJC, no more a Christian than I am, indeed just as little, found no more daunting than I (nor maybe you, I dare hope, if you happen not to share Hopkins’ faith; if you do share it, may such conjoined inspiration never fail you).
As SJC says beginning “Hopkins’ ’As Kingfishers Catch Fire’” (1877; superb poem, and superbly Christian), a 1950 Modern Language Quarterly piece (v. 11 p. 197), “to consider Hopkins’ lyrics only as restatements of doctrine is to neglect a part of the art [surely an intended chime; see her article] of poetry as he conceived it,” going on to alliteration, internal rhyme, and his coruscations of sound and sense, not neglecting to quote Duns Scotus (MLQ v. 11 at p. 201 n. 17).
Earlier, in the lead article of the January 1947 Philological Quarterly (v. 26 p. 1), “The Poetic Theory of Gerard Manley Hopkins”, she quotes his “Poetry is speech framed for the contemplation of the mind by way of hearing or speech framed to be heard for its own sake and interest even above meaning” (PQ v. 26 at pp. 18-19), going on to sprung rhythm (as he called it).
In case you don’t know Hopkins here’s the start of another fine poem, “The Windhover” (also 1877). Marking each metrical foot and accent would illustrate what he meant by sprung rhythm, and its extra unstressed syllables he called outriders; even without, by the second line you’ll see. These eight lines are the octet of a sonnet: but what a sonnet!
I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!
I once told a friend The greater the reality, the better the fantasy. Or should that be the other way around?
Much of this material appeared in Vanamonde 1284.