A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Poem of the Day: Gerard Manley Hopkins

No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief, 
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring. 
Comforter, where, where is your comforting? 
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief? 
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief  
Woe, world-sorrow, on an age-old anvil wince and sing -- 
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked "No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief."

    O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall 
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap 
May who ne'er hung there. Nor does long our small 
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep, 
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all 
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep. 
--Gerard Manley Hopkins

As I said before about Hopkins: "Even if you don't believe what he's saying (I don't), you believe that he believed it." But here I believe what he's saying in the sense that I believe he underwent deep personal torment, call it spiritual or call it psychological. His solution -- becoming a Jesuit priest -- is not one I'd prescribe, especially to a man struggling to repress his homosexual desires, and was also not one that seemed to alleviate his emotional suffering. Nowhere in his verse is that suffering more powerfully expressed than in this, one of his "terrible sonnets." (The first word ought to be amended to "terrifying" or "terrified" -- they are both.) And nowhere is it clearer that his faith, however earnestly and tenaciously he clung to it, failed to give him comfort for very long.

No comments: