Friday, February 12, 2021

slps 3: Gerard and Joyce

In the wan winter daylight I pull off the shelf an unlovely 1970 paperback 4th edition of THE POEMS OF GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS (Oxford University Press).  I always say he's one of my favorite influences (despite a fundamental disagreement about the role of a God in all the wild wonder of the world), but how many of his poems do I know, really?

Here's one new to me:

That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection | 
Gerard Manley Hopkins

Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows | flaunt forth, then chevy on an air-
Built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs | they throng; they glitter in marches.
Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, | wherever an elm arches,
Shivelights and shadowtackle ín long | lashes lace, lance, and pair.
Delightfully the bright wind boisterous | ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare
Of yestertempest's creases; | in pool and rut peel parches
Squandering ooze to squeezed | dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches
Squadroned masks and manmarks | treadmire toil there
Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, | nature's bonfire burns on.
But quench her bonniest, dearest | to her, her clearest-selvèd spark
Man, how fast his firedint, | his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
Drowned. O pity and indig | nation! Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, | death blots black out; nor mark
                               Is any of him at all so stark
But vastness blurs and time | beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart's-clarion! Away grief's gasping, | joyless days, dejection.
                              Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam. | Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; | world's wildfire, leave but ash:
                              In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, | since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
                              Is immortal diamond.


I pick this one because it does what my other favorites do:  uses a profligacy of language to celebrate the profligacy of nature.  You did read it out loud, right? Your brain can't quite keep up with the flood of images, right? And yet the tsunami is comprehensible if you loosen your logic and let your whole body sense the wide surroundings that he's attempting to pack into one spring-loaded canister of wildwonder. Gerard's wordplay is S U B L I M E, makes me want to shred the dictionary and wallow in the mudhole of slippery wordsherds waaaaah........ hoooo!  

What poet for young readers can compare?  Hmm, let's return to the shelf for a book I haven't spent enough time with....WINTER BEES by Joyce Sidman (HMH, 2014).  Here's another human for whom nature is cause for elated wallowing in language.

Chickadee's Song | Joyce Sidman

From dawn to dusk in darkling air
we glean and gulp and pluck and snare,
then find a roost that's snug and tight
to brave the long and frozen night.

We fluff and preen each downy feather,
Sing fee-bee---and laugh at the weather!
For if we're quick and bold and clever,
           winter's chill won't last forever.

The sun wheels high, the cardinal trills.
We sip the drips of icicles.
The buds are thick, the snow is slack.
Spring has broken winter's back.

Quick and bold and brave and clever,
we preen and fluff each downy feather.
Sing fee-bee--laugh at the weather--
        for winter doesn't last forever!


May you have enjoyed that as much as I did this morning, and may you find more to wallow in over at Nix the Comfort Zone, where Molly's post on her Artist's Prayer is a serendipitous echo.


  1. I love Sidman's Winter Bees & the Hopkins poem is new to me, reading it aloud is joyful & challenging all together, Heidi. I had to look up a few words, like shivelights & found that he is given credit for the coining, which makes the poem even more his, in celebration (at least I think it is). I don't know if he coined others, did not search, but I loved "treadmire toil there/Footfretted in it". Thanks for both!

  2. Like Linda, I was looking things up ("roysterer"=merrymaker). This would be a great poem to memorize. I esp. like "world's wildfire, leave but ash." Joyce's poem is so tight and dances in the mouth, a perfect follow-up.

  3. What a delight for the mind and tongue! Both poems make me wish to be better at this, such advanced word play. I have a copy of Winter Bees somewhere. I must find it. On Monday we are having a winter storm like no other, so I will "Sing fee-bee--laugh at the weather--
    for winter doesn't last forever!"

  4. These are such fun--Definitely meant to be read aloud just to delight in the glorious sounds.

  5. Hopkins was one of the first poets I encountered in a 19th century lit class when I was a freshman and even then, was fascinated by his words, his poem about dappled things. It's so interesting to see the similarities in the one you posted above Sidman's poem. I need to return to this post.

  6. While I love both of these poems, Heidi, I think I love your commentary even more. Your sheer delight in their verbal wordplay is echoed in your own -- "to pack into one spring-loaded canister of wildwonder." and "makes me want to shred the dictionary and wallow in the mudhole of slippery wordsherds waaaaah........ hoooo! " Thanks for generously sharing these poems and the exuberance that is you!

  7. I'm a big Hopkins fan, and I just love this Joyce Sidman poem, which is new to me. It's perfect.


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!