Friday, 20 February 2015

Poem for the Day: The Starlight Night by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins - English poet  -  1844  -  1889

Look at the stars! look, look up at the skies!
O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!
The bright boroughs, the circle-citadels there!
Down in dim woods the diamond delves! the elves' -eyes!
The grey lawns cold where gold, where quickgold lies!
Wind-beat whitebeam! airy abeles set on a flare!
Flake-doves sent floating forth at a farmyard scare!-
Ah well! it is all a purchase, all is a prize.

Buy then! bid then! - What? - Prayer, patience, alms, vows.
Look, look: a May-mess, like on orchard boughs!
Look! March-bloom, like on mealed-with-yellow sallows!
These are indeed the barn; withindoors house
The shocks.  This piece-bright paling shuts the spouse
Christ home, Christ and his mother and all his hallows.

A couple of years before he wrote 'The Starlight Night' Hopkins described a visit to Ugbrooke Park, the Devon home of a Catholic peer, Lord Clifford:  "As we drove home the stars came out thick: I leant back to look at them and my heart opening more than usual prised our Lord, to and in whom at that beauty comes home."
Hopkins described this poem and 'God's Grandeur' to his mother (March 1st 1877) as 2two sonnets I wrote in a freak the other day ... They are not so queer, but have a few metrical effects, mostly after Milton".  And to Robert Bridges he added the note "to be read, both of them, slowly, strongly marking the rhythms and fetching out the syllables."