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Young Hopkins Hopkins as a Jesuit Priest

GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS

Poet and Priest

1844-1889







His Life through his Poetry

With recordings of his poems by Claire Marchionne and Shaun MacLoughlin

A Hopkins Poetry Workshop

Sharing my love of his poetry; based on three BBC Programmes I have produced on Hopkins, on a workshop I gave at the Actor's Centre in London and most recently on Gerard Manley Hopkins, His Life through his Poetry, the CD I produced with Claire Marchionne.

Notes by Professor Helen Gardner


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We recommend the Oxford Edition and in particular Sean Street's account of The Wreck of the Deutschland, which he was inspired to write from hearing my production of Paul Scofield's reading for BBC Radio 3.  We also highly recommend Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Study of Poetic Idiosyncrasy in Relation to Poetic Tradition by Professor Helen Gardner and what Iain McGilchrist has to say of Hopkins in his The Master and His Emissary:

"Hopkins is a case of particular interest. Almost everything about him suggests a right hemisphere predominance. He was a priest, who suffered from depression. He had a fascination with the thisness of things, what, following Duns Sootus, he called haeccitas.

   Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
   Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
   Selves-goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
   Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

In his 'Comments on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola', Hopkins refers to:

"that taste of myself, of I and me above and in all things, which is more distinctive than the taste of ale or alum, more distinctive than the smell of walnutleaf or camphor, and is incommunicable by any means to another man (as when I was a child I used to ask myself: What must it be to be someone else?) searching nature I taste self at but one tankard, that of my own being."

Hopkins coined the term inscape to represent this unique quality of a thing, person, place or event, and instress to represent the energy that sustained it. He was a passionate observer of things as they are: 'moonlight hanging or dropping on treetops like a blue cobweb', 'drops of rain hanging on rails etc. seen with only the lower rim lighted like nails (of fingers)', 'soft chalky look with more shadowy middles of the globes of cloud on a night with a moon faint or ooncealed'.

He was so captivated by the sound and feel of words, their 'thingness', clang and touch, that, although he never loses the sense, he sometimes comes close to doing so. He was hyper-alert to the meanings of words according to their etymology and through them revealed important oonnections.He had a love for all that is wild, and untouched by humanity: 'What would the world be, once bereft / Of wet and wildness?' He had a highly developed sense of awe. He realized the importance of the leap of intuition, as opposed to the unbroken line of rationality: 'it is a happy thing that there is no royal road to poetry', he wrote, 'one cannot reach Parnassus except by flying thither'.

He saw that the ground of beauty was sameness within difference, and difference within sameness; and stressed the importance of the relationship between things over the things themselves. And he was subject to sudden inspiration in which many of his greatest poems came to him: 'I shall shortly have some sonnets to send you, five or more. Four of these came like inspirations unbidden and against my will."