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Gerard Manley Hopkins: Inscape & the Glory of God


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Gerard Manley Hopkins only lived a short life and he never published a single poem during his lifetime. However, this intense and brilliant Jesuit priest revolutionised forever how poetry was written and laid the foundations for twentieth-century poetry. He is arguably the greatest religious poet of all time, and yet some psychiatrists also believe that nobody wrote about depression with such penetrating insight as he did. He was a true manic genius. The theory of ‘inscape’ underpinned lots of his poetic philosophy and inspired such greats as Tolkien. In this talk, Tony will open up the wondrous world of Hopkins for us.

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Gerard Manley Hopkins: Inscape & the Glory of God

  1. 1. Gerard Manley Hopkins: Inscape & the Glory of God
  2. 2. ‘In the beginning was the word’ “Each venture Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate With shabby equipment always deteriorating In the general mess of imprecision of feeling Undisciplined squads of emotion”
  3. 3. Job 38 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: 2 “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? 3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. 4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. 5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 6 On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone— 7 while the morning stars sang together and all the angels[a] shouted for joy? Hopkins Expands ‘Creation’ gospel …. 1 John 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.
  4. 4. His life – The Recluse who forged a revolution 4 Family & Friends Faith & Priesthood Short and intense life: 1844 – 1889 Family of artists and musicians Life long friendship with Robert Bridges Died of typhoid fever (‘I am so happy’) Published posthumously in 1918 1866 Conversion to Catholicism : (22 yrs old) 1868 Entered Jesuit order (burned poems) 1872 Encountered Duns Scotus (28 yrs ) 1866 – 75 No poetry but great journals 1875 Wrote ‘Wreck of Deutschland’ (31 yrs) 1885 – Chair of Classics in Dublin 1885 – 89 ‘Terrible sonnets’ – his crowning achievement?
  5. 5. What is ‘inscape’… 5 Soul & Spirit of a thing…. ‘Thisness’ of a thing (haecceitas) in its particularity not in universal categories…. A name for the individually-distinctive form (made up of tangible qualities) which constitutes the rich and revealing ‘oneness’ of any natural object…. Outward reflection of inner nature of a thing ‘All the world is full of inscape … and chance let free to act Falls into an order as well as a purpose’ 1873
  6. 6. Materials = Universal Forms = Universal If we were standing at the side of God what would we see?
  7. 7. We see the glories of the earth░ But not the hand that wrought them all: Night to a myriad worlds gives birth, Yet like a lighted empty hall Where stands no host at door or hearth Vacant creation's lamps appal. ‘Nondum’ (Not yet) 1866
  8. 8. Now in the upper Grindelwald glacier between the bed or highest stage was a descending limb which was like the rude and knotty bossings of a strombus shell Journal 1867
  9. 9. I have now found the law of the oak leaves. It is of platter shaped stars altogether; the leaves lie close like pages, packed and as if drawn tightly together
  10. 10. I do not think I have ever seen anything more beautiful than the bluebell I have been looking at. I know the beauty of the Lord by it. Its inscape is mixed of strength and grace like an ash tree.
  11. 11. 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. God’s Grandeur: “In Him all things hold together” Colossians 1:17
  12. 12. As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; As tumbled over rim in roundy wells Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name; 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 Whát I dó is me: for that I came. I say móre: the just man justices; Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces; Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is — Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places, Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his To the Father through the features of men's faces. As Kingfishers catch fire: “Through us he makes the fragrance of his knowledge manifest in every place ” 2 Corinthians
  13. 13. Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows | flaunt forth, then chevy on an air- Built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs | they throng; they glitter in marches. Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, | wherever an elm arches, Shivelights and shadowtackle ín long | lashes lace, lance, and pair. Delightfully the bright wind boisterous | ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare Of yestertempest's creases; | in pool and rut peel parches Squandering ooze to squeezed | dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches Squadroned masks and manmarks | treadmire toil there Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, | nature's bonfire burns on. But quench her bonniest, dearest | to her, her clearest-selvèd spark Man, how fast his firedint, | his mark on mind, is gone! Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark Drowned. O pity and indig | nation! Manshape, that shone Sheer off, disseveral, a star, | death blots black out; nor mark Is any of him at all so stark But vastness blurs and time | beats level. Enough! the Resurrection, A heart's-clarion! Away grief's gasping, | joyless days, dejection. Across my foundering deck shone A beacon, an eternal beam. | Flesh fade, and mortal trash Fall to the residuary worm; | world's wildfire, leave but ash: In a flash, at a trumpet crash, I am all at once what Christ is, | since he was what I am, and This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond, Is immortal diamond. That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection: