Jan. 4, 1869
We have had wind and rain, so that floods are out, but in temperature the weather mild to an unusual degree.–The other evening after a very bright day,the air rinsed quite clear, there was a shalsh of glowing yolk-coloured sunset.–On the 1st frost day (which otherwise I do not remember for a long time), the air shining, but with vapour, the dead leaves frilled, the Park grass white with hoarfrost mixed with purple shadow.–Today–another clear afternoon with tender clouding after rain–one notices the crisp flat darkness of the woods against the sun and the smoky bloom they have opposite it. The trees budded and their sprays curled as if dressed for spring.

March 12, 1870
A fine sunset: the higher sky dead clear blue bridged by a broad slant causeway rising from right to left of wisped or grass cloud, the wisps lying across; the sundown yellow, moist with light but ending at the top in a foam of delicate white pearling and spotted with big tufts of cloud in clour russet between brown and purple but edged with brassy light. But what I note it all for is this: before I had always taken the sunset and the sun as quite out of gauge with each other, as indeed physically they are, for the eye looking at the sun is blunted to everything else and if you look at the rest of the sunset you must cover the sun, but today I inscaped them together and made the sun the true eye and ace of the whole, as it is. It was all active and tossing out light and started as strongly forward from the field as a long stone or a boss in the knop of the chalice-stem; it is indeed by stalling it so that it falls into scape with the sky.

The next morning a heavy fall of snow. It tufted and toed the firs and yews and went on to load them till they were taxed beyond their spring. The limes, elms, and Turkey-oaks it crisped beautifully as with young leaf. Looking at the elms from underneath you saw every wave in every twig (become by this the wire-like stem to a finger of snow) and to the hangars and flying sprays it restored, to the eye, the inscapes they had lost. They were beautifully brought out against the sky, which was on one side dead blue, on the other washed with gold.

At sunset the sun a crimson fireball, above one or two knots of rosy cloud muddled with purple. After that, frost for two days

September 24, 1870
First saw the Northern Lights. My eye was caught by beams of light and dark very like the crown of horny rays the sun makes behind a cloud. At first I thought of silvery cloud until I saw that these were more luminous and did not dim the clearness of the stars in the Bear. They rose slightly radiating thrown out from the earthline. Then I saw soft pulses of light one after another rise and pass upwards arched in shape but waveringly and with the arch broken. They seemed to float, not following the warp of the sphere as falling stars look to do but free though concentrical with it. This busy working of nature wholly independent of the earth and seeming to go on on in a strain of time not reckoned by our reckoning of days and years but simpler and as if correcting the preoccupation of the world by being preoccupied with and appealing to and dated to the day of judgment was like a new witness to God and filled me with delightful fear

July 19, 1872
Stepped into a barn of ours, a great shadowy barn, where the hay had been stacked on either side, and looking at the great rudely arched timberframes–principals (?) and tie-beams, which make them look like bold big As with the cross-bar high up–I thought how sadly beauty of inscape was unknown and buried away from simple people and yet how near it was if they had eyes to see it and it could be called out everywhere again…

April 8, 1873
The ashtree growing in the corner of the garden was felled. It was lopped first: I heard the sound and looking out and seeing it maimed there came at the moment a great pang and I wished to die and not to see the inscapes of the world destroyed any more

Gerard Manley Hopkins, Journal Excerpts, found in The Poetry of Earth: A Collection of English Nature Writings from Gilbert White of Selborne to Richard Jeffries, ed. by E.D.H. Johnson [all punctuation sic]


  1. Heather, there are no words. I'm so sorry — and outraged.

    Even the efficacy of prayer seems dubious in the face of such abhorrent violence against a young girl.

  2. Our Lady of Sorrows, Immaculate Heart of Mary pierced seven times, pray for and comfort her. :_(

  3. Heather, I'm so sorry. What a horrible, terrible thing to have happened. The lopping of a beautiful tree in the garden, this great pang, truly. Do you know, my tears join yours for this young girl, and her family, and then for all the others too.

  4. What stunning, powerful language Gilbert White enjoys! I know of him only through Timothy, Notes of an Abject Reptile, but not Mr. White's own words. I doubt a sunset will ever seem the same now that I've seen it through his eyes. Thanks for sharing these excerpts, Heather.

  5. Beth in Portland says: Reply

    I just started reading GMH's journal yesterday, by chance, and I have been thinking what absolutely glorious language, what a glorious world he saw, how could I not have read this before? Hold tight to your faith and know that there truly is that glory to be found in God's beloved world, despite the horror that man himself inflicts in it.

  6. May you and your dear friends draw near to Our Lord's Heart and find healing in His Wounds.
    You are not alone.