Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hopkin's Amazing Echoes

What is poetry? Poets love to discuss this. Which is telling in and of itself. Are painters or photographers or musicians asking--What is painting? what is a photograph? or what is music? Well, maybe.

But poetry is perhaps particularly tricky as an art form to nail down. For poetry is art made of language. As music is made of ordered sound-- and paintings of "ordered" paint....

I was thinking that three specific qualities of poetry.

First--this art made of language means that the language is to be irreducible, unpharaseable... unlike an essay or even a story that you could in some way retell, though probably losing much of the artistry and joy, you can't really retell a poem--it exists in its words--and cannot be separated from them.

Secondly--very related the first--the language becomes a kind of music--the sound is extremely important.

Third--also related, is that poetry contains in the language the unsayable--the magic of metaphor and image and the music of the language and the exact sensuosness of the imagery all combine to touch on things that are simply beyond "saying." -- Like music and dance and the visual arts.

So--having that as an introduction-- look at this poem in two parts by Gerard Manly Hopkins (my favorite poet). If I were unpoetic, which I usually am to an extreme (this is true), I would try to paraphrase this poem--write a little sermonette on it-- it surely has a profound and beautiful message--

but it also is simply a revel of language in itself--and that exists as art alongside and inseparable, in this case, from its message. I'm amazed at all the internal rhymes and the gorgeous sounds of this poem. It's so much fun--while being so amazingly serious, earnest and sincere. And simply more wonderful because both of these qualities are held together--that's why I love Hopkins and poetry.

36. The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo

(Maidens’ song from St. Winefred’s Well)


HOW to kéep—is there ány any, is there none such, nowhere known some, bow or brooch or braid or brace, láce, latch or catch or key to keep
Back beauty, keep it, beauty, beauty, beauty, … from vanishing away?
Ó is there no frowning of these wrinkles, rankéd wrinkles deep,
Dówn? no waving off of these most mournful messengers, still messengers, sad and stealing messengers of grey?
No there ’s none, there ’s none, O no there ’s none,
Nor can you long be, what you now are, called fair,
Do what you may do, what, do what you may,
And wisdom is early to despair:
Be beginning; since, no, nothing can be done
To keep at bay
Age and age’s evils, hoar hair,
Ruck and wrinkle, drooping, dying, death’s worst, winding sheets, tombs and worms and tumbling to decay;
So be beginning, be beginning to despair.
O there ’s none; no no no there ’s none:
Be beginning to despair, to despair,
Despair, despair, despair, despair.

There ís one, yes I have one (Hush there!);
Only not within seeing of the sun,
Not within the singeing of the strong sun,
Tall sun’s tingeing, or treacherous the tainting of the earth’s air,
Somewhere elsewhere there is ah well where! one,
Oné. Yes I can tell such a key, I do know such a place,
Where whatever’s prized and passes of us, everything that ’s fresh and fast flying of us, seems to us sweet of us and swiftly away with, done away with, undone,
Undone, done with, soon done with, and yet dearly and dangerously sweet
Of us, the wimpled-water-dimpled, not-by-morning-matchèd face,
The flower of beauty, fleece of beauty, too too apt to, ah! to fleet,
Never fleets móre, fastened with the tenderest truth
To its own best being and its loveliness of youth: it is an everlastingness of, O it is an all youth!
Come then, your ways and airs and looks, locks, maiden gear, gallantry and gaiety and grace,
Winning ways, airs innocent, maiden manners, sweet looks, loose locks, long locks, lovelocks, gaygear, going gallant, girlgrace—
Resign them, sign them, seal them, send them, motion them with breath,
And with sighs soaring, soaring síghs deliver
Them; beauty-in-the-ghost, deliver it, early now, long before death
Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God, beauty’s self and beauty’s giver.
See; not a hair is, not an eyelash, not the least lash lost; every hair
Is, hair of the head, numbered.
Nay, what we had lighthanded left in surly the mere mould
Will have waked and have waxed and have walked with the wind what while we slept,
This side, that side hurling a heavyheaded hundredfold
What while we, while we slumbered.
O then, weary then why
When the thing we freely fórfeit is kept with fonder a care,
Fonder a care kept than we could have kept it, kept
Far with fonder a care (and we, we should have lost it) finer, fonder
A care kept.—Where kept? Do but tell us where kept, where.—
Yonder.—What high as that! We follow, now we follow.—Yonder, yes yonder, yonder,

Monday, July 20, 2009


This is blog-cheating, I'm sure. But Jacky directed me to this sweet blog by a poet, photographer and follower of Christ in London--and I enjoyed browsing it and thought others might as well.