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?????



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.



William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Found a photo from Port Meadow in Oxfordshire that I first thought was the actual poplars that Hopkins wrote about in his poem Binsey Poplars. The Binsey poplars where felled in 1879.

After a bit more research I found that Port Meadow is just beside Binsey. The Thames divide them. So it seems that these poplars where very very close, but is not the actual ones. After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.

The photograph is a picture of a similar copse, in the same area, in about the same time – as in the wonderful poem Binsey Poplars (see below) by Gerard Manley Hopkins S.J.


In the photograph you can see two young schoolgirls. They are crossing a small bridge over a stream in Port Meadow sometime between 1860 to 1922. (This is the time when the photographer Henry Taunt was active and the photograph must have been taken). *

Schoolgirls at Port Meadow



    MY aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
    Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
    All felled, felled, all are felled;
    Of a fresh and following folded rank
    Not spared, not one
    That dandled a sandalled
    Shadow that swam or sank
    On meadow and river and wind-wandering
    weed-winding bank.
    O if we knew but what we do
    When we delve or hew–
    Hack and rack the growing green!
    Since country is so tender
    To touch her, being so slender,
    That, like this sleek and seeing ball
    But a prick will make no eye at all,
    Where we, even when we mean
    to mend her we end her,
    When we hew or delve:
    After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
    Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
    Strokes of havoc unselve
    The sweet especial scene,
    Rural scene, a rural scene,
    Sweet especial rural scene.

* The photograph can be found at The English Heritage NMR. The reference number is BB72/06698. You can see some more recent photographs of the area here: Oxfordinciter

Between 1854 to 1863 Gerard Manley Hopkins was educated at the Highgate school. For a couple of months in 1861 – when Hopkins was sixteen -the English poet R.W. Dixon was an assistant master there and even though they did not really got acquainted at that time, Dixon made such an impact on Hopkins, that seventeen years later Gerard wrote a letter to Dixon in which he expressed his high regards towards his old master and especially for his writing.

In response Dixon wrote a letter which I think draws a colourful image upon Dixons perception of Gerard as a young boy.

I think that I remember you in the Highgate School. At least I remember a pale young boy, very light and active, with a very meditative & intellectual face, whose name, if I am not vastly mistaken, was yours. If I am not deceived by memory, that boy got a prize for English poetry. I may be deceived in this identification: but if you have time to write again, I should like to know. I little thought that my gift to Mr. Lobb, which I had quite forgotten, would bear such a fruit.

The gift Mr. Dixon is referring to was his book: Christ’s Company, published in 1861. A book Gerard referred to – in his previous letter to Dixon – as a part of my own mind. Dixons memory was not vastly mistaken. The pale young boy was indeed Gerard Hopkins. And GM wrote back: The correspondence between Dixon and Hopkins evolved to a deep friendship and lasted a decade, until the very end of Hopkins lifetime.

Gerard Manley Hopkins was a Victorian poet but he can’t really be placed in any particular literary school. Poets like T.S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas have both been influenced by him. The Auden generation with poets like Robert Graves held him in high esteem. Hopkins heralds the modernistic poetry. He is famous for his very rhythmic, almost musical, poetry. Consonance, Assonance, alliteration and internal rhymes are important part of his poetry. The use of prepositions, conjunctions and pauses are an instrument of rhythm.

He uses the words like no other. Verbs, often in present participle, is creating a drive, a running feeling in the text, he transforms words to different word classes. For example the verbification: Let him Easter in us. He also often makes use of displacement of meaning, e.g. he can let a predicate belong to two subjects and bring forth simultaneous alternatives of interpretation. He is creating a weave of sounds and rhythm, forming associations and meaning.

As Kingfishers Catch Fire

As king fishers 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.

Cardinal John Henry Newman commenced a profound spiritual influence on the Church of England as well as the Catholic communion in the nineteenth century. His writing is still of great importance, perhaps especially to people in religious difficulties. Sometimes Newman is referred to as: The Father of the Second Vatican Council. He was made Cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in 1879 and there is a movement to further his process towards beatification.

After a brief correspondence initiated by Gerard Manley Hopkins, in a letter dated the 28th of August 1866, Hopkins met Father Newman to discuss how to proceed with his conversion and how to deal with his masters at Oxford as well as with his parents. In contrast with what you may expect of a religious leader Newman advocated consideration. (Martin 1992). Afterwards Hopkins wrote to Bridges on his perception of the meeting:

Dr. Newman was most kind, I mean in the very best sense, for his manner is not that of solicitous kindness, but genial and almost, so to speak, unserious. And if I may say so, he was so sensible. He asked questions which made it clear for me how to act; I will tell you presently what that is: he made sure I was acting deliberately and wished to hear my arguments; when I had given them and said I cd. see no way out of them, he laughed and said ‘Nor can I’…. In no way did he urge me on, rather the other way…

No there were no arguments against his conversion and 21st October 1866 Gerard was received into the Roman Catholic Church.