“What would the world be, once bereft Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left, O let them be left, wildness and wet; Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.”
Gerard Manley Hopkins
by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 – 1899)
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;
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;
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.
Hopkins, for all his precise literary religious fervor, is complicated in his contradictions. He uses exquisite rhyme and structure to construct his poetic hymns. His goal was to promote Christianity through his art. In his own words;
“What are works of art for? to educate, to be standards. To produce is of little use unless what we produce is known, is widely known, the wider known the better, for it is by being known that it works, it influences, it does its duty, it does good. We must try, then, to be known, aim at it, take means to it. And this without puffing in the process or pride in the success.”
Well, let’s not go too far Mr. Hopkins in your humbleness. You also said, “What I do is me, for that I came,” which is a clever way to say, I am what I write or I write because I am, either way there is a certain amount of credit being taken. I have never met a writer who put their work out into the public eye that didn’t take a little pride in its success. If Hopkins’ was writing today he would have thousands of likes on his blog. My point is genius can rarely get out of the way of its own recognition.
It’s okay to not seek recognition, it is another to ignore it. I am in the camp both approaches are acceptable to an artist, but the latter can get one in bind if they pick and choose what awards they acknowledge during their career. Writers willing to be adored only by fans worthy of their adoration rarely age well, the vintage goes off as dust settles, something just not quite right as the flavor goes off.
The interesting question is why do some why do poets like Hopkins continue to inspire for hundred’s of years after their deaths, while thousands of other writers, some with equal gifts, are discarded by and large to obscurity relatively quickly? I think it may have something to do with luck and inspiration, but in reality I have no idea….
Justus quidem tu es, Domine
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just. Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must Disappointment all I endeavour end? Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend, How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend, Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes Now, leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes Them; birds build – but not I build; no, but strain, Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes. Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.