Nothing is so beautiful as Spring––
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing of timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.––Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.
In honour of spring, I let Hopkins do the talking. I discovered him in a course on Victorian literature this very spring. (And now I’ve read the word spring one time too many, and giggle haplessly when I see it.)
Hopkins is difficult to grasp at times, because he writes so densely: he plays with syntax, creates compounds to suit his needs, and wallows in synonyms and forked meanings. He is worth the detective work.
I love his wordplay, in particular: ‘the sweet especial scene, / rural sene, a rural scene, / sweet especial rural scene’ (from ‘Binsey Poplars’); ‘Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?) / With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;’ (from ‘Pied Beauty’).
He was devout, and much of his poetry is religious, though not all overtly. If you’re interested, his theories about inscape and instress are edifying. In short, he believed that each human being is an individual by divine design, which he called inscape. Recognising the inscape of another individual is instress. The fact that every human has instress was to Hopkins a sign of divine creation. His poetry celebrates this, and aims to capture the individuality he sees all around him, reflecting in his characteristic style. It becomes a kind of estrangement: to reflect the individual wonder he discovers through instress he must create a new kind of language and poetry.