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Gerard Manley Hopkins

lunes, 19 de noviembre de 2012

Gerard Manley Hopkins

From The Short Oxford Companion to English Literature: 

Gerard Manley (1844-89). In 1863 he went to Balliol College, Oxford, where he wrote much poetry, including 'Heaven-Haven' and 'The Habit of Perfection'. He came under the influence of the Oxford Movement and Newman, and in 1866 was received into the Roman Catholic Church. In 1868 he resolved to become a Jesuit and symbolically burned his poems, though he sent some copies to his friend Bridges for safekeeping. He was professor of rhetoric at Roehampton 1873-4, then studied theology at St Beuno's in North Wales (1874-77), where he also learned Welsh.

A new phase of creativity began in 1876. Inspired by the loss of the Deutschland in December 1875, which had among its passengers five Franciscan nuns exiled for their faith, Hopkins wrote his most ambitious poems, 'The Wreck of the Deutschland'. In 1877 he composed some of his best-known poems, including 'The Windhover' and 'Pied Beauty'. After ordination he was sent to Chesterfield, then London, then Oxford, where he wrote 'Henry Purcell'. Work in various industrial parishes followed, including an exhausting spell in Liverpool (1880-1) where he was oppressed by a sense of his own failure as a preacher.naufragio

In 1884 he was appointed to the chair of Greek and Latin at University College, Dublin. There he became ill and deeply depressed, and wrote (mainly in 1885) a number of 'Dark Sonnets', powerfully expressing his sense of exile and frustration; these include 'Carrion Comfort' and 'No worst, there is none'. He also managed to produce in these last years less desperate poems, including 'Harry Ploughman' and 'That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire'. He died of typhoid.

Apart from work in anthologies (including Poets . . . of the Century, 1893, and Bridges's own The Spirit of Man, 1916), nothing was published until 1918, when Bridges produced his Poems; Bridges had judged the public not ready to receive Hopkins's 'oddity', but initial bewilderment was followed by steadily rising admiration. His poems, letters, and journals reflect his sense of vocation (sometimes conflicting) as priest and poet, his technical interest in prosody, and his search for a unifying sacramental view of creation. His concepts of 'inscape', 'instress' and 'sprung rhythm' have given rise to a large body of aesthetic theory. By 'inscape' he seems to have meant 'the individual or essential quality of the thing'; 'instress' refers to the energy which sustains an inscape, and flows into the mind of the observer. Both words were coined by Hopkins. 'Sprung rhythm' he considered less an innovation than a return to the rhythms of speech and of earlier forms of verse. But the great (though delayed) impact of Hopkins's work may be seen less in terms of technical innovation than as a renewal of poetic energy, seriousness, and originality, after a period marked by much undistinguished and derivative verse.

Sprung rhythm
(or 'abrupt rhythm'), a term invented by G. M. Hopkins to describe his own idiosyncratic poetic metre, as opposed to normal 'running' rhythm, the regular alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables. Hopkins maintained that sprung rhythm existed, unrecognized, in Old English poetry and in Shakespeare, Dryden, and Milton (notably in Samson Agonistes). It is distinguished by a metrical foot consisting of a varying number of syllables. The extra, 'slack' syllables added to the established patterns are called 'outriders' or 'hangers'. Hopkins demonstrated the natural occurrence of this rhythm in English by pointing out that many nursery rhymes employed it, e.g.

Díng, Dóng, Béll,

Pússy's in the wéll

He felt strongly that poetry should be read aloud, but seems to have felt that the words themselves were not enough to suggest the intended rhythms, and frequently added various diacritical markings. Some critics have suggested that sprung rhythm is not a poetic metre at all, properly speaking, merely Hopkins's attempt to force his own personal rhythm into an existing pattern, or recognizable variation of one, and that his sprung rhythm is in fact closer to some kinds of free verse or polyphonic prose.

From Andrew Sanders,
Short Oxford History of English Literature
("High Victorian Literature"):

To Dickens and other Victorian progressives, the assertiveness of the Oxford Movement and the magnetism of the revived Roman Church seemed to be dangerous examples of 'Ecclesiastical Dandyism', an undoing of national history and a self-indulgent withdrawal from more urgent concerns. The career of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89) might certainly have suggested the impropriety of such a withdrawal had the nature of his twin vocations to the Jesuit priesthood and to poetry been more widely known to his contemporaries. His converstion to Roman Catholicism at Oxford, and his decision to enter the Society of Jesus in 1868, efectively cut him off from the mainstream of contemporary English life. The failure of his Jesuit superiors to recognize and encourage his idiosyncratic poetic talent also severed him from the body of prospective readers to which he most earnestly sought to appeal. He burned much of his early work on his ordination and took up poetry again only in 1875 with the startingly radical 'The Wreck of the Deutschland', a poem which the editor of the Jesuit periodical, The Month, decided that he 'dared not print'. No representative edition of Hopkins's poetry appeared until 1918.

Hopkins was fortunate in the poet-friends with whom he corresponded, Richard Watson Dixon and Robert Bridges (1844-1930), the latter his literary executor and editor. These non-Jesuit correspondents were the recipients of the theories that he attempted to articulate and of the often extraordinary poems that were developed in relation to these experimental ideas. After 1918 his work found the wide receptive audience which it had earlier been denied, but Hopkins's experiments, like the culture from which they emerge, remain essentially of the nineteenth century. As his Journals reveal, he observed nature in painstaking detail, patiently examining flowers and leaves, intently noting the effects of light and shade, and delighting in gradations of texture and colour. Given the stringency of his Jesuit surroundings, his immediate culture may have been of aesthetic deprivation, but his habits of observation and recording had been long acquired. His attention to the exactness of things is indeed akin to that of the Pre-Raphaelite painters (if not to Pre-Raphaelite poetry) and his methods of analysis indicate a scrupulous Ruskinian apprenticeship. Hopkins's intellectual disciplines certainly benefited from his study of theology, and in particular from his somewhat eccentric (given the prejudices of his teachers) pleasure in the thought of the thirteenth-century philosopher Duns Scotus ('who of all men most sways my spirits to peace'). His poetry may have been far too idiosyncratic to appeal to the somewhat saccharine tastes of his contemporary co-religionists, but his structures derive from highly disciplined and often traditional ways of thinking, seeing, translating, and writing.

Most of Hopkins's surviving poems are distinctly God-centred. His is a God who resolves contradictions as the fount of all that is and as the Creator who draws all the Strands of Creation back to himself. Created nature is in itself immensely precious, for the glory and wonder of God is implicit in it. In 'Pied Beauty' Hopkins celebrates harmonized oppositions, dapples and 'all things counter, original, spare, strange' because they express the energy and vitality of the visible world, a world held together by a divine force that constantly regenerates it. Undoing, desolation, and the 'problem of pain' are however never eliminated from his most searching poems. At times it is humankind which mars the integrity of beauty by unfeelingly trampling 'the growing green', by felling the 'especial' sweetness of a line of poplars, or by caging skylarks, but Hopkins is never simply or naïvely 'green'. His poems also explore the presence of violence in the realm of the parahuman. Despite the wonder of it, the windhover's ecstatic swoop is none the less predatorial, breaking lines and straining words as it falls.

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
  dom of daylights dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing

In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
  As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend; the hurl and gliding
  Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of, the mastery of the thing.

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
   Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

  No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-beak embers, ah my dear,
  Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

The windhover's beauty is 'brute', yet its 'brutality' is of the essence of its animal perfection. Hopkins's poem gasps at the wonder of a creature whose free movement and concentrated strength stir an awesome sense of the presence of the Creator-Redeemer (its subtitle directs it 'To Christ our Lord'). Elsewhere in his work, most notably in the complex theological framework of 'The Wreck of the Deutschland' and the parallel poem 'The Loss of the Eurydice', Hopkins ponders the mystery of human suffering by forging parallels with a paradoxical Christ, the Man of Sorrows, and the Suffering Servant who is, at the same time, the Divine Judge and the Merciful Redeemer. He pulls dissolution into resolution by seeing patterns, not simply in the seasons or in the forms of nature, but also in religious imagery, in the observances of the Christian calendar, and in the ultimate meaning of the universe. The very intricacy of his verse is an attempt to express and recvord something of the multifariousness of the visible and aural world. The very 'difficulty' and the contortion of his poetry, its intellectual leaps and its violent 'metaphysical' yoking together of images, offer a momentary statis and a fusion of divergent insights and impressions. Hopkins found order where other Victorians saw anarchy; he recognized purpose where many of his contemporaries begain to despair over what they presumed was an increasingly meaningless fragmentation. Even in his dark, straining, disappointing, despairing last sonnets ('No worst, there is none', 'To seem the stranger lies my lot', I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day', 'Patience, hard thing!', 'My own heart let me have more pity on') there still remains the conviction that somehow a barely comprehended God comprehends all things.

The Fates of Men

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