Monday, October 21, 2013

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil

Gerard Manley Hopkins was a reluctant Victorian-era poet who converted to Catholicism and became a Jesuit priest. His father was, among other things, a marine insurer, and one of Hopkins' best-known poems is The Wreck of the Deutschland.

I have been a fan of Father Hopkins' verse since my college days, for his use of sprung rhythm and alliteration as well as his keen eye for the natural world.

I suspect, though I have not confirmed, that industrial Britain in the second half of the 19th century was in some ways not so different than the Gulf of Mexico oil patch in the first half of the 21st century.

Many mornings on the boat, Hopkins' words come to mind:

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;        5
  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;        10
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.

"God's Grandeur," Poems, Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1918

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