13 February 2014

Poetry Thursday - poems about places

With poetryatlas you can navigate your way round the world in poems -

Choosing a poem (almost) at random from the southern UK, we find this -

Binsey Poplars

Gerard Manley Hopkins

My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
All felled, felled, are all felled;
Of a fresh and following folded rank
Not spared, not one
That dandled a sandalled
Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.

O if we but knew what we do
When we delve or hew--
Hack and rack the growing green!
Since country is so tender
To touch, her being so slender,
That, like this sleek and seeing ball
But a prick will make no eye at all,
Where we, even where we mean
To mend her we end her,
When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
Strokes of havoc unselve
The sweet especial scene,
Rural scene, a rural scene,
Sweet especial rural scene.

Hopkins' poetry can draw you in, in a paradoxical way - through the points where your reading falters, when the rhythm seems to change and you have to readjust your reading. Also in the words he jams up next to each other, so that you do a double-take... But on the rereading, it starts to fall into place better.

Binsey is quite near where I lived in Oxford, and beside Port Meadow, where we often went by narrowboat, so this poem - only just discovered - has a personal connection. The photo (via) shows not the original poplars, of course (they were felled in 1879), but later replacement, grown up over time -
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) was not just a poet and a Catholic convert, but a Jesuit priest - and Binsey ("Island of Prayer") was a retreat of nuns and great resort of pilgrims in earlier days. Hopkins' experiments with sprung rhythm and his imagery mark him as a daring innovator on the poetry scene. He is now thought to have suffered either bipolar disorder or depression, and felt that the conflict between the humility required by his religious vocation and the need for poetry to have an audience meant that he had failed them both.

1 comment:

Vicki Miller said...

You always come up with such wonderful resources!