Poems for Pleasure 2
This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam,
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.
A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.
Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.
What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
I’m almost sorry I started this small project as I find it rather hard to refine my favourites down to a certain number. There are so many gems to pick from. I have included this second one from Hopkins because it is such a beautiful nature poem – almost in the Gaelic tradition. It is no wonder that Hopkins should have picked a Scottish locale for the setting of this wonderful poem. Both Wales and Scotland, both lands of the Celt, were dear to Hopkins’s heart.
Inversnaid is a spectacular and historic reserve on the banks of Loch Lomond. “Old (ancient West Atlantic) oak woodlands run down the hillside to the loch shore while clearings and more open areas allow views to the Arrochar Alps and other surrounding mountains. Tumbling burns add variety to the scene, while the damp conditions are ideal for ferns and mosses.” So says the official site, q.v., at http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/i/inversnaid/about.asp .
When I read this poem aloud I hear the sounds of the small stream becoming bigger and bigger as it rushes down into the Loch. Hopkins had a wonderfully musical ear and was a good musician – all his life he was composing songs and melodies and particularly loved the music of the composer Purcell. The musicality of his language is so obvious here even to the untrained ear like my own. As per normal I love his compounding of words – always a trait of Hopkins as it was of the great Gaelic poet Seán Ó Ríordain a century later who also has a fine ear for music – “darksome” instead of “dark”; “horseback” rather than simple “horse”; “windpuff-bonnet” and “fawn-froth” etc. I don’t need to go on. With Hopkins there is never a redundant word – all are there for the sound and rhythm and the musicality of the whole enterprise.
I simply love the power of the line which is ever so graphic and so physical or rather physiological: “the groins of the braes that the brook treads through.” Wonderful stuff!
And then the final stanza is especially dear to me as it sings of that Celtic wildness beloved of Synge and portrayed so well in his wonderful Playboy of the Western World. (Is it any wonder that Synge was a musician too? See a previous post on Synge and wildness in these pages). This stanza is a strong plea for the wildness and sheer strength of nature. Pure Romanticism no? No harm to indulge ourselves a little. I shall leave G.M. Hopkins there. God rest you Pater Gerardus S.J.!