sexta-feira, maio 02, 2008

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins
Gerard Manley Hopkins is one of the great unsung poets, virtually unknown in his lifetime. We have his poetry today only because it was collected and published by his friends after his death. It has some of the obsessive ornateness and sentimentality of the Victorians, but also a startling musicality which is ahead of its time and ours.
Hopkins began his adult life, like many others of his time and middle-class background, as an earnest student at Oxford, concerned with the minutest details of religious practice. Like many others, Hopkins wound up "swimming the Tiber", that is, going from the Church of England to the Church of Rome: and, like many others, he was received there by John Henry Newman. The feelings of the converts' families are exemplified by a Mrs. Arnold, who wrote to Newman, "Sir, you have now for the second time been the cause of my husband's becoming a member of the Church of Rome and from the bottom of my heart I curse you for it." Not content with this, she also threw a brick through the window of the church where her husband was being received.
Hopkins faced a similar obstacle in his own family. He wrote to Newman: "I ... have heard fr. my father and mother in return for my letter announcing my conversion. Their answers are terrible: I cannot read them twice." He wrote to his family, trying to explain his decision: "I shall hold as a Catholic what I have long held as an Anglican, that literal truth of our Lord's words by which I learn that the least fragment of the consecrated elements in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar is the whole Body of Christ born of the Blessed Virgin, before which the whole host of saints and angels as it lies on the altar trembles with adoration. This belief once got is the life of the soul and when I doubted it I shd. become an atheist the next day. But ... it is a gross superstition unless guaranteed by infallibility." He continued: "I am surprised you shd. say fancy and aesthetic tastes have led me to my present state of mind: these wd. be better satisfied in the Church of England, for bad taste is always meeting one in the accessories of Catholicism." He was received into the Catholic Church in 1866 at the age of 22.
Hopkins had long shown a tendency toward severity and asceticism, which influenced his choice to join the Jesuits. Newman wrote to him: "I think it is the very thing for you ... Don't call 'the Jesuit discipline hard', it will bring you to heaven." However, Hopkins' health, both mental and physical, had always been delicate; he was prone to digestive problems and severe depression. As a result he was often forbidden to join in Church fasts, to his disappointment. Hopkins didn't fit in; it's hard to imagine where this moody, overwrought genius could have fit in. "He is clever, well-trained, teaches well but has never succeeded well: his mind runs in eccentric ways" was one superior's assessment.
Hopkins essentially gave up writing poetry from about the time of his conversion until 1875, when he wrote "The Wreck of the Deutschland", about the heroic sacrifice of a group of German nuns who were crossing the North Sea to England when their boat sank in a storm. This is a difficult experimental poem, not much understood; even Hopkins' friends didn't like it ("I wish those nuns had stayed at home", one wrote) and when Hopkins tried to submit it to a Jesuit magazine, it was rejected. But it got him writing again, and he went on to write some more accessible work.

Márgarét, áre you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow's spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

In the last few years of his life, Hopkins sank into a bleak depression from which he was never to recover. "I began to enter on that course of loathing and hopelessness which I have so often felt before, which made me fear madness ... All my undertakings miscarry: I am like a straining eunuch."

My own heart let me more have pity on; let
Me live to my own sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst's all-in-all in all a world of wet.
Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
's not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather -- as skies
Betweenpie mountains -- lights a lovely mile.

Hopkins died in Dublin in 1889, aged 44. The first collection of his poetry was published in 1918.

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