As Kingfishers Catch Fire
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 What I do is me: for that I came.
I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is–
Christ. 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.
Father Gerard Manley Hopkins
Hopkins, like other poets, is a master of making a “joyful noise” from a tormented spirit (see Tennyson, In Memoriam, for example). Surrounded by various kinds of rejections and dejections, he was able to deal out “that being indoors” with splendid poetry that hardly seems stylistically Victorian.
Hopkins used dialect, archaic words, coined words, portmanteau words in his poems and they can astonish by their strangeness and their rightness. His heavy use of alliteration, repetition, rhyme, assonance and other poetry devices please me enormously.
One need not be religious to appreciate God and Christ and religious imagery in literature. The cultural and aesthetic ideals of religion are at their best when showcased in great art, in my opinion. It’s easy to love the artistic and humane achievement of poems such as this: “The achieve of, the mastery of” the language is exciting and compelling. I’d like to shout out an holla of gratitude to Robert Bridges, who arranged for the posthumous publication of most of Hopkins’s poetry. Very little had been published in his lifetime. This is what “Language poetry” should be, as opposed to the opaque and almost unreadable, to me, poetry of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E= poets. What Hopkins does with the English language is breathtaking. And, like a nostalgic Thomas Hardy, “wishing it might be so” (of the religious superstitions of his youth) Hopkins almost makes me with it might be so that the “just man justices” and “keeps all his goings graces.”