Wednesday, February 10, 2010
These days I'm reading the poetry and life of Gerard Manly Hopkins, an English convert to Catholicism and a Jesuit in the mid 1800's - a path that distanced family, friends, and country - who wrote sensory-drenched, euphoric, agonized poetry hurled right at God.
Wind, fire, and water move more strongly through tight spaces, between things. On the coastline of the Isle of Wight Hopkins writes about the "dance and swagging of the light green tongues...in a place locked between rocks." Wild words bound: poetry; wild dance bound: choreography - what is contained floods through with undiminished or increasing intensity. This is a power of form.
And I think that no matter how male-o-centric Catholicism toils, flops, and flaps to be, it is always shot through, is delivered, falls into (the most delicious fall) like water through narrow rocks, the lap of a mother. She seems its most personal, intense devotion, in every rung of her hierarchy. It is a great comfort to me, whether I place myself within the tradition or push back against it, and I take my turns.
Overworked and unrecognized within the order, in spite of frequent depression, Hopkins remained true to his Jesuit vows to the end of his 44 years of life, and his poetry - sent in letters to a few friends - reached sudden, catapulting fame as a poet after his death.
Here is from his "The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe":
"Wild air, world-mothering air,
Nestling me everywhere,
That each eyelash or hair
Girdles; goes home betwixt
The fleeciest, frailest-flixed
Snowflake; that's fairly mixed
With, riddles, and is rife
In every least thing's life;"