“I’ve brought some books of poetry,” the man leading the Bag End Cafe at the C.S. Lewis Foundation summer potluck said, almost casually, to all of us. “Help yourselves.” After everyone else had had a turn to choose, the little book of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poetry was still there. I didn’t have to sell all I had and buy the field. I asked with beating heart, “May I have that one?” And the man said yes.
I had only read a few of Hopkins’ poems, the ones frequently anthologized: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil. . .”
“Glory be to God for dappled things–For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow. . .”
“I caught this morning morning’s minion, kingdom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding. . .”
But the word choices and imagery in each one have always flooded me with a kind of wild joy beyond full understanding.
In this jewelry box of a book, I count 48 poems this Jesuit priest wrote which I have never read, didn’t know existed! I know he destroyed others because he was afraid he enjoyed his own poetry more than he enjoyed his Lord.
The summary of his life inside the plain front cover says, “Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89) . . . combined an intense feeling for nature with an ecstatic awareness of its divine origins. He was also one of English poetry’s greatest stylistic innovators, and his poems reveal an unprecedented constructive imagination in the service of a vision of reality which is equally original.”
I have placed the book on the bedstand, with my Bible, my daily devotional (Jesus Calling), and my current reading (Joel Rosenberg’s The Ezekiel Option). There is such savoring in the anticipation that it may take me awhile to actually open it and read the poems themselves.