This world then is word, expression, news of God.
—Gerard Manley Hopkins
May 3, 1866
Ashes are out, only tufted with their fringy blooms. Hedges springing richly. Elms in small leaf, with more or less opacity. White poplars most beautiful in small grey crisp spray-like leaf. Cowslips capriciously colouring meadows in creamy drifts. Bluebells, purple orchis. Over the green water of the river passing the slums of the town and under its bridges swallows shooting, blue and purple above and shewing their amber-tinged breasts reflected in the water, their flight unsteady with wagging wings and leaning first to one side then the other. Peewits flying. Towards sunset the sky partly swept, as often with moist white cloud, tailing off across which are morsels of grey-black woolly clouds. Sun seemed to make a bright liquid hole in this, its texture had an upward northerly sweep or drift from the W, marked softly in grey. Dog violets. Eastward after sunset range of clouds rising in bulky heads moulded softly in tufts or branches of snow–so it looks–and membered somewhat elaborately, rose-coloured. Notice often imperfect fairy rings. Apple and other fruit blossomed beautifully…
Walked a new way at Finchley and saw Mr. Bickersteth on bridge over the Brent. On a windy day the leaves of trees, e.g. the plane, get and keep a certain pose of turning up from the pitch of the wind. Gable-shaped droop of firs, yews etc like that of an open hand from the wrist.
Oaks differ much, and much turns on the broadness of the leaf, the narrower giving the crisped and starry and Catherine-wheel forms, the broader the flat-pieced mailed or shard-covered ones, in which it is possible to see composition in dips etc on wider bases than the single knot or cluster. But I shall study them further….
I know now too what a tinkling brook is.
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 colour 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 after 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 hangers 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 middled with purple. After that, frost for two days.
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 at hand 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 that moment a great pang and I wished to die and not to see the inscapes of the world destroyed any more
–From the Journals of G.M. Hopkins, found in The Poetry of Earth, ed. by E.D.H. Johnson
5 Replies to “WE PAVED PARADISE”
I see why everyone likes him. Have a great day.
I've needed a long time to get into Hopkins, but now — I cannot read his words without my heart near bursting, without my throat catching…. thank you for sharing these, Heather.
Thanks for such moments of "aesthetic arrest," as James Joyce so beautifully described them.
Reading Hopkins, and about his deeply sacramental view of the world, its 'inscape' and 'instress', I never fail to wonder why he wasn't a Franciscan.
" 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 after 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."