Literature


Just like a teenage girl collect Justin Timberlake artifacts – I have a great place in my heart (as well as in my wallet) for items connected to Gerard Manley Hopkins.


The great idol

I guess G.M Hopkins isn’t as sexy as Britney Spear or 50 cents. But I promise you, I’m just as excited over my 100 years old pictures of a shipwreck than any teenager could be over some record collection.

In the thirties GMH’s personal papers and journals first where published.  In the fifties there was a second edition of his papers published, but in over fifty years no new material by Hopkins hand has been published. Until last year. Today I found out that Oxford press has started to publish the complete works by Hopkins, forty-five essays which Hopkins produced during his undergraduate career at Oxford that haven’t been published before is reproduced in this volume… I’m so happy. If I have understood the publisher correctly there will eventually be eight volumes in this series.

Heaven on earth: The Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Volume IV: Oxford Essays and Notes 1863-1868)

The Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Volume IV: Oxford Essays and Notes 1863-1868)

 

But why do they start with volume four? I just can’t grip if i missed three volumes or if they started with it… And when will the next part in the series come out? What are the fans supposed to think? We couldn’t be more confused even if Robbie Williams had been involved. And most importantly:

– Will there be a poster?????

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Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room;
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,

Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth the prison, unto which we doom

Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;

Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.

                                                      William Wordsworth 1806.

 

Many people say they have a problem with poetry because they are not able to understand it. At the same time they have no problem appreciating a piece of music, even though they don’t “understand” it, but still are able to appreciate it.

Art is all about correspondence. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and art is all about beauty, sometimes as beauty of thought more than visual, but never the less: Art lies in between people.

I often find today’s poetry is written more for the poet’s sake than for the reader. Even though I love modern poetry, like Eliot or Sefaris’ I have found that too much liberty in how to write poems often hinders the poetry from taking wings and lifting off. I believe that poets need limitations to steer them from their personal horizons and into those what can be shared with others. Eliot and Seferis both made use of technical limitations in their writing even if they did not always use the classical metrical limitations… (However it would be interesting to read a comparison of prosody between Elliott and the Victorian English poets – G.M. Hopkins is a metrical key here -or between Seferis and the classical Greeks – Eliot is a key there)

Metrical poetry frees the verse. It’s not about Iambic Pentameter or Hexameter. It’s about making use of the tradition (as Catholics we should have a deeper understanding of this) It’s not even about having rhymes or not. There is a difference between free verse and stapling words. By finding your restrictions, you give yourself wings.

 

 

Wordsworth
William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

If you consider mental illness or even depression as a breakdown of sociological patterns, the “one-directional stigma”, (that insanity is foremost a concern for the individual) looses it’s importance and significance. Insanity is a two way street. “Art” is of course situated in a social context but I find it interesting that insanity most often is a outbreak from the very same social context, without regard for its borders: Maybe these artworks speak to us in a deeper and more individual sense because of this?

The rare beauty that sometimes are the result of sociological failure can be a successful artistic expression. Communication goes beyond social conventions and intellectual interactions. Here are three examples of great artists who’s artwork did not function in the context of their lifetime: Herbert Khaury a.k.a Tiny Tim (1932 – 1996), Carl Fredrik Hill (1849 – 1911) and Erik Johan Stagnelius (1793 – 1823).

I’m not in any way comparing their artistic values or their supposed degree of insanity: They all have my most sincere and deepest respect. Both for their psychological strength as well as for their emotional inability that led them their own way. They all speak to me in the most individual personal way. Solo Dei Gloria!

 

Herbert Khaury / Tiny Tim:

Tiny Tim sometimes expressed rare beauty; far more interesting than other things that may have achieved more recognition. The beauty lies in the brief moment, being truthful to his own expression.

As an artist Tiny Tim didn’t take personal social considerations. He did not equip us with the necessary tools to label him or his intentions.

Tiny Tim was during his most commercially successful years in the sixties considered as something of a circus sidekick, but he was so much more. His musical preferences where more rooted in the late Victorian popular culture than in the mid 20th century American. He often applied his falsetto, staccato pitched very rich voice to modern songs like in I got you babe, here below, but it was in performing traditional tunes from 1890 to 1940 (as the above) that his true love lied. He was an expert on music from that time period and he had about 3000 songs in his repertoire.

 

 

Carl Fredrik Hill:

The painter Carl Fredrik Hill made beautiful paintings charged with emotions until he fell into insanity and was locked up. During his illness he sketched and painted on everything he could get a hold on.

CF Hill CF Hill
Paintings by Carl Fredrik Hill, late 1900-century.

Compare the two paintings above, they are made some ten years apart, before and after his illness. CFH was famous for his tree-studies and if you look at the branches on most of his trees you will find they resemble each another a great deal. In the latter painting the tree is however no longer a tree, even though it still have the characteristic grouping of branches: It gets transformed into a deer with gnarled branches, screaming with erotic undertones, as in the rut cry of the artist himself. At the same time, if you compare the branches, you will find it is the same tree…

The perfect image of a communication breakdown: his work was not functional any longer, they where merely the gibberish of a lunatic. And still: the artistic cry is perhaps more revealing and truthful to the artists inner emotions in the latter version. As communication in an artistic context the expression of Carl Fredrik speaks to us today, hundred years after his death. The communicational breakdown was telling us more.

Carl Fredrik Hill
Another painting by CF Hill

 

Erik Johan Stagnelius:

Erik Johan Stagnelius wrote romantic poems about misery & madness some 200 years ago. Most of his poems where found in a sack in his apartment, after he had died.

In one poem he speaks about who we can turn to when our inner soul is laid out in darkness and we even can’t sigh anymore… Who can help in desolate times? In perfect despair? Only the One Powerful Being, that from the darkness of the night made suns dance, the world creating Word…

Therefore, rejoice, O friend and sing in the deep dark of sorrow:
Night is the Mother of Day; Chaos the Neighbor of God.

God is more close, the farther away he seems. It’s like Jesus sleeping in the storm (Mark 4:35-41): This is where we can truly put our trust in Him; This is where we can be ruled to the fullest; Chaos is the neighbor of God.

Erik Johan Stagnelius

The poet Stagnelius
early 1900-century

 

 

To me insanity breaks out when you no longer can bear not being able to communicate from within the Chaos, the unbearable silence that keeps trying to express itself. The emotional numbness ridden by emotions.

I rather listen to people who live on the border, than those knowledgeable who know where they are. It’s the sense of being lost, that keep us out of regular vanities… (Instead we, madly, show off our vanity like we would a new born child)

– It’s the inability to express something that burst through limitations. Madness and depression is being deaf and mute to the mute and deaf. It’s the mutual agreements that keep us from meeting and agreeing. We should make an effort to let the mute be heard and speak to the deaf. No matter what side of the asylum walls we currently reside, we both needs to listen over the walls and trespassing the borders. Let’s sleep in the midst of the storm…

 

St Dymphna
St Dymphna, patron Saint of
mental and nervous disorders:
– Pray for us.

And just let me add these words of hope… 😉

– Let’s embrace emotional numbness, let us rejoice in abandoned hope: You must be really close now, at the least you’re very far off.

Cardinal John Henry Newman

God, our father, your servant John Henry Newman
upheld the faith by his teaching and example.
May his loyalty to Christ and the Church,
his love for the Immaculate Mother of God,
and his compassion for the perplexed give guidance
to Christian people today.

 

We beg you to grant the favors we ask through his intercession
so that his holiness may be recognized by all
and the Church may proclaim him a Saint.

 

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

 

Amen

Prayer to obtain the beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman composed by Archbishop G. P. Dwyer of Birmingham, England.

You can find Cardinal Newmans books and articles here: The Newman reader

This article is written by Newmans biographist Father Ian Ker:
The Mind of Newman

Two articles from The Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Modern Western Theology written by Derek Michaud and Philip N. LaFountain on Newman as a theologian.
Biography, Context and Theology and Biographical Sketch

On Wikipedia you can find this articles:
John Henry Newman and The Oxford Movement

John Beaumont has written this explanatory article about Newmans view on the Church:
Cardinal Newman on the Church: A Guide for the Perplexed.

 

In honor of the day here’s a small quote from the Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius of Loyola. It is the beginning of the final contemplation in the Spiritual Exercises.

 

The Contempaltion to gain Love
The Contemplation to gain Love
Picture from a book produced in 1673
by early fathersof the Society of Jesus.

CONTEMPLATION TO GAIN LOVE

Note. First, it is well to remark two things: the first is that love ought to be put more in deeds than in words.

The second, love consists in interchange between the two parties; that is to say in the lover’s giving and communicating to the beloved what he has or out of what he has or can; and so, on the contrary, the beloved to the lover. So that if the one has knowledge, he give to the one who has it not. The same of honors, of riches; and so the one to the other.

Prayer. The usual Prayer. (The Preparatory Prayer is to ask grace of God our Lord that all my intentions, actions and operations may be directed purely to the service and praise of His Divine Majesty.)

First Prelude. The first Prelude is a composition, which is here to see how I am standing before God our Lord, and of the Angels and of the Saints interceding for me.

Second Prelude. The second, to ask for what I want. It will be here to ask for interior knowledge of so great good received, in order that being entirely grateful, I may be able in all to love and serve His Divine Majesty.

First Point. The First Point is, to bring to memory the benefits received, of Creation, Redemption and particular gifts, pondering with much feeling how much God our Lord has done for me, and how much He has given me of what He has, and then the same Lord desires to give me Himself as much as He can, according to His Divine ordination. And with this to reflect on myself, considering with much reason and justice, what I ought on my side to offer and give to His Divine Majesty, that is to say, everything that is mine, and myself with it, as one who makes an offering with much feeling:

Take, Lord, and receive
all my liberty, my memory,
my intellect, and all my will
all that I have and possess.
Thou gavest it to me:
to Thee, Lord, I return it!
All is Thine,
dispose of it according to all Thy will.
Give me Thy love and grace,
for this is enough for me.

 

St Ignatius
St. Ignatius of Loyola.

 

You can read the online version of the spiritual excercises here

You can find the online Spiritual Exercises in pictures by Joseph MacDonnell, S.J. here.

The Jesuits arrange retreats for lay man all over the world. Contact a Jesuit house for more information.

Comforter, where is your comforting?

 

As a hobby I translate GM Hopkins poetry to Swedish. It’s an impossible task and I will never be able to satisfyingly complete this project. His poetry is far to interlinked with the English language and how he perceived things in his time… But this is why I enjoy it so much. It’s not about accomplish something. It’s about being close to my favorite poet.

Poems and texts are living things and you should keep changing them and letting them evolve until you grasp what was meant to be said. This is my way of keeping his poetry alive. At least for me.

I used to be quite keen on writing my own poetry, but I haven’t for more than a decade. In my previous post on this blog, I finally wrote one… Well this wasn’t much of a poem to start with. It was more one of those things, when you need to formulate something and you don’t now beforehand what will come out.

I guess this one reflects the strange mood I’ve been in lately. I think it’s a response to all that has happened to me and my family this past year. My mothers disease, which have been really hard for us all in the family, (she’s better now) and I guess all other things that has happened, like my conversion, what I’m good at and what I’m not good at, people I met and a lot of thoughts on where I’m heading in life. To me life seems to be an on going lesson in humbleness. I guess thats why I’m where I’m at. I Don’t know if there’s any reminiscence left of this in the text though.

I find that poems have a habit of taking their own turns after a while. There are things that triggers the writer so he/she writes a text. The produced text triggers change to conform to that someone else will read it. This is what I find most interesting. Hopefully this process eventually end up in a text that triggers a reader. Text as interaction.

The title “Comforter, where is your comforting” in my poem is a quote from one of GMH’s “terrible sonnets”. The question – as I interpret it – is not whether there is a comforter, but when, how and where the comforting will come.

Some people misinterpret his late poems as being a record of lost faith. To me this is not grasping the texts at all. Then they would have lost their worth. Hopkins saw Gods beauty and presence in everything, not just in his wonderful descriptions of a God charged nature, as in his most famous poems, but also in patterns of urine in the snow, over a little child’s first communion, the death of five nuns in a shipwreck, in music and paintings, in Duns Scotus and a lot more that we will never know about; until his naked and bare stripped poems from his depression, at the end of his life. His poems do not deal with lost faith at all, as I see it. Rather the opposite. In all of his poems the world is charged with the grandeur of God.

Sometimes it’s like Christians can’t be depressed misfits or rational humans with ups and downs… It’s like we are supposed to be those cheerful, innocuous proper groups of people overfilled with joyful feelings from an ever happy and harmless Holy Spirit.

Measure-The-Presence-Of-Christ-By-The-Smile-On-Your-Face kind of folks… Otherwise someone comes along and tells us that we are doubting our faith.

Well, I was feeling moody late one night, pondering Hopkins, me and my mum, thinking about my faith and my world. 😦 Then I wrote this poem and posted it here on the blog. The next day, on the same day we celebrated John the Baptist btw, Ann from Poetry, Prayer and Praise made a reference to John 3:30 in a comment. This clarified a lot to me of what it was about.

And as I spoke earlier of living texts, well, I just had to change the text in the poem.

People often speak of the importance to “kill your darlings” when you write a text. Well, sometimes you have to incorporate them. 😉

So here’s the new and improved comforter poem.

I hope someone will find it enjoyable. It’s alive and kicking. 🙂

 

 

 

The Good Soldier Švejk

The Good Soldier Švejk

Well I have been tagged by Paula for some book recommendations. There was some really interesting literature there. I mostly appreciate litterature that makes the most of the language. Sadly this means that most of it can’t really be translated to other language’s. Well, here is my attempt, anyhow:

Three non-fiction books everyone should read:
The faith explained, by Leo J Trese A wonderful book, with extensive, in depth, explanations of the Catholic faith. It explain in a very pedagogic manner topics such as Grace, the Trinity, the Creation and so on and so forth. The Nineteenth century Sonnet by Joseph Phelan A detailed account of the revival of the sonnet during the Victorian epoch. Scholasticism by Josef Pieper A great introduction for us that do not know to much about the Scholastic thinkers.

Three works of fiction that everyone should read:
Poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins Because they are divine. The Christmas Oratorio by Göran Tunström A good reading tip for those interested in Sweden. A very poetic book. The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek Because it makes you smile.

Three authors everyone should read:
August Strindberg. His prose is as interesting as his plays. The book black banners is a settlement with the cultural elite of his time, but it works just as fine today. Franz Kafka. Because even despair can be funny. Gunnar Björlin Well you would have to learn Swedish to read this author – but it’s totally worth it! 😉

Three books that nobody should read:
There are to many of them, but Sara Lidman, a famous Swedish author once gave me this tip on how to determine if you should read a book or not: Open the book in three places and read three lines at each place. Two out of three got to be interesting if the book should be worth the effort. – Than she picked up her then latest book, the stone of Nabot, and tried it. First she didn’t pass it, and then she gave her a second chance and passed the test.

So I tag the following bloggers, if you do find the time that is: Marie and Ginny, Leah, Therese, Zach, and all the ladies at dcf ladies blogring

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