Sunday, February 16, 2014

What good poetry is

File:Gerard Manley Hopkins, Rowan Gillespie.jpg
Sculpture and photograph by Rowen Gillespie
I am periodically suffering keenly these days along with a dear friend who's in the worst of the chronic illnesses, profound depression.  I can be too empathic, having experienced that myself.  It was long ago, but it was a long trek out of that landscape.

And I hate not being able to help someone else much.  You aren't, you know.  I was taken aback when I read in Bernie Glassman's book, Instructions for the Cook, that a bodhissatva goes to the well for a teaspoon of water, climbs the hill, gives a thirsty person that water, goes back to the well.  What?  I thought surely one could do more than that for the world.  Glassman himself keeps trying to do grand things - he once vowed to end homelessness - but I'm not sure how much they work out.

I found myself remembering the last line of this poem.  I, of course, would revise the penultimate line to read, "It is the blight we were born for."  I really dislike the use of "man" to represent the species.  It's part of that invisible water of patriarchy we all swim in:  men are human, women, are - other.

Hopkins was a deeply spiritual man (who has been described as "gloomy.")  I imagine he would appreciate the correction.  They didn't know better back then.

But how the good Jesuit nailed it in this poem.  It is ourselves we mourn for.


Spring and Fall
     by Gerard Manley Hopkins

to a young child
Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

1 comment: