April 12th, 2009

Talk Talk - Colour of Spring

POEM: That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection

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 in 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.

-- Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1844-89


I am, in general, not very good at appreciating poetry. I love beautiful language, but I'm also an impatient reader; I read very quickly, and I want to catch my meaning on the fly, not have to tease it out by lingering on every sentence. However, there are a few poets that get through to me more often than not, and Hopkins is one of them. (The others, for the record, are Donne, Herbert, and Erin Noteboom Bow.)

There's something so fantastically sensuous and vivid about Hopkins: he writes like a synaesthete (I wonder if he was?). And lines like "sheer off, disseveral, a star... but vastness blurs and time beats level" send shivers right through me, even when I'm not entirely sure what he means by it. But he gets something in his poetry that few religious writers in my experience really have -- the wild, uncontainable, passionate, burning glory of God. His poetry always makes me think back to my favorite parts of Isaiah and Ezekiel, where the prophet witnesses "the appearance of the likeness of the glory of God" and is completely thunderstruck, jelly-kneed, down on his face in awe because it's so huge and alien and overwhelming. There's nothing in science fiction or fantasy to compare to a scene like that; and yet some of my favorite SF&F has moments that approach or evoke it.

This is rough and random because I've had a long day, but I hope you get some idea of what I'm trying to say...?