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Today in Literature

July 28, 2009

28 July 1844: English poet and priest Gerard Manley Hopkins was born in Stratford, England.  Hopkins’ posthumous 20th century fame secured his place among the most highly regarded Victorian poets.  His innovations in his style, most notable sprung rhythm, shook the establishment of poetry and the density of his verse leaves scholars still less-than-certain in their explications.

He was raised in the Anglican church but converted to Catholicism and–indeed–decided to become a Jesuit priest.  His poetry is largely devoted to devotion. Throughout his life, Hopkins suffered what might today be diagnosed as unipolar depression but, in his last moments said, “I am so happy, I am so happy.”

One of my favorite Hopkins poems is “God’s Grandeur.”

“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.

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