Gerard Manley Hopkins

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What I do is me: for that I came.
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

Gerard Manley Hopkins (28 July 18448 June 1889) was a Jesuit priest and English poet whose posthumous, 20th-century fame established him among the finest Victorian poets. His experimental explorations in prosody (especially in regard to sprung rhythm) and his vibrant use of imagery established him as both an original and daring innovator in a period of largely traditional verse.


  • On this day by God's grace I resolved to give up all beauty until I had His leave for it.
    • Journal entry (6 November 1865), as reported in In Extremity: A Study of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1978) by John Robinson, p. 1
  • 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.
    • "As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Dragonflies Draw Flame" (undated poem, c. March - April 1877)

Letters, etc[edit]

It is a happy thing that there is no royal road to poetry. The world should know by this time that one cannot reach Parnassus except by flying thither.
I think that the trivialness of life is, and personally to each one, ought to be seen to be, done away with by the Incarnation.
  • It is a happy thing that there is no royal road to poetry. The world should know by this time that one cannot reach Parnassus except by flying thither.
    • Diary (April 1864)
  • For I think it is the case with genius that it is not when quiescent so very much above mediocrity as the difference between the two might lead us to think, but that it has the power and privilege of rising from that level to a height utterly far from mediocrity: in other words that its greatness is that it can be so great.
    • Letter to A.W.M. Baillie (10 September 1864)
  • Do you know, a horrible thing has happened to me. I have begun to doubt Tennyson.
    • Letter to A.W.M. Baillie (10 September 1864)
  • I think that the trivialness of life is, and personally to each one, ought to be seen to be, done away with by the Incarnation.
    • Letter to E.H. Coleridge (22 January 1866)
  • I am surprised you should say fancy and aesthetic tastes have led me to my present state of mind: these would be better satisfied in the Church of England, for bad taste is always meeting one in the accessories of Catholicism.
    • Letter to his father, Manley Hopkins (16 October 1866)
  • I thought how sadly beauty of inscape was unknown and buried away from simple people and yet how near at hand it was if they had eyes to see it and it could be called out everywhere again.
    • Journal (19 July 1872)
  • All the world is full of inscape and chance left free to act falls into an order as well as purpose.
    • Journal (24 February 1873)
  • Every true poet, I thought, must be original and originality a condition of poetic genius; so that each poet is like a species in nature (not an individuum genericum or specificum) and can never recur. That nothing shd. be old or borrowed however cannot be.
    • Letter to Coventry Patmore, published in The Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins to Robert Bridges (1955), edited by C. C. Abbott, p. 263
  • No doubt my poetry errs on the side of oddness. I hope in time to have a more balanced and Miltonic style. But as air, melody, is what strikes me most of all in music, and design in painting, so design, pattern, or what I am in the habit of calling inscape is what I above all aim at in poetry. Now it is the virtue of design, pattern, or inscape to be distinctive, and it is the vice of distinctiveness to become queer. This vice I cannot have escaped.
  • The poetical language of an age should be the current language heightened, to any degree heightened and unlike itself, but obsolete one.
    • Letter to Robert Bridges (14 August 1879)
  • Take breath and read it with the ears, as I always wish to be read, and my verse becomes all right.
    • Letter to Robert Bridges (25 October 1879 )
  • Our Lord Jesus Christ, my brethren, is our hero, a hero all the world wants.
    • Sermon (23 November 1879)
  • For myself I make no secret, I look forward with eager desire to seeing the matchless beauty of Christ’s body in the heavenly light.
    • Sermon (23 November 1879)
  • Religion, you know, enters very deep; in reality it is the deepest impression I have in speaking to people, that they are or that they are not of my religion.
    • Letter to A.W.M. Baillie (22 May 1880)
  • I hold with the old-fashioned criticism that Browning is not really a poet, that he has all the gifts but the one needful and the pearls without the string; rather one should say raw nuggets and rough diamonds.
    • Letter to Richard Watson Dixon (17 October 1881)
  • I always knew in my heart Walt Whitman’s mind to be more like my own than any other man’s living. As he is a very great scoundrel this is not a pleasant confession.
    • Letter to Robert Bridges (18 October 1882)
  • By the by, if the English race had done nothing else, yet if they left the world the notion of a gentleman, they would have done a great service to mankind.
    • Letter to Robert Bridges (3 February 1883)
  • You do not mean by mystery what a Catholic does. You mean an interesting uncertainty: the uncertainty ceasing, interest ceases also... But a Catholic by mystery means an incomprehensible certainty: without certainty, without formulation there is no interest;... the clearer the formulation the greater the interest.
    • Letter to Robert Bridges (24 October 1883)
  • It kills me to be time’s eunuch and never to beget.
    • Letter to Robert Bridges (1 September 1885)
  • That is the great end of empires before God, to be Catholic and draw nations into their Catholicism. But our empire is less and less Christian as it grows.
  • A great work by an Englishman is like a great battle won by England. It is an unfading bay tree.
    • Letter to Robert Bridges (13 October 1886)
  • It seems then that it is not the excellence of any two things (or more) in themselves, but those two things as viewed by the light of each other, that makes beauty.
    • "On the Origin of Beauty: A Platonic Dialogue"
  • Beauty … is a relation, and the apprehension of it a comparison.
    • "On the Origin of Beauty: A Platonic Dialogue"

Wessex Poems and Other Verses (1918)[edit]

Online at
A comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.
  • I have desired to go
    Where springs not fail
    To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
    And a few lilies blow.
    And I have asked to be
    Where no storms come,
    Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
    And out of the swing of the sea.
  • Elected Silence, sing to me
    And beat upon my whorlèd ear,
    Pipe me to pastures still and be
    The music that I care to hear.
  • Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb:
    It is the shut, the curfew sent
    From there where all surrenders come
    Which only makes you eloquent.
  • Thou mastering me
    God! giver of breath and bread;
    World’s strand, sway of the sea;
    Lord of living and dead;
    Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh,
    And after it almost unmade, what with dread,
    Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh?
    Over again I feel thy finger and find thee.
  • Hope had grown grey hairs,
    Hope had mourning on,
    Trenched with tears, carved with cares,
    Hope was twelve hours gone.
    • "The Wreck of the Deutschland", lines 115-118
  • Abel is Cain's brother and breasts they have sucked the same.
    • "The Wreck of the Deutschland", line 160
  • The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
  • Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
    Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
    • "God's Grandeur", lines 5-8
  • There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.
    • "God's Grandeur," line 10
  • 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!
  • Nothing is so beautiful as Spring—
    When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush
    Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
    Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
    The ear, it strikes like lightning to hear him sing.
  • I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
    dom of daylight’s 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!
  • Glory be to God for dappled things—
    For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim.
  • All things counter, original, spare, strange;
    Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
    He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
    Praise him.
    • "Pied Beauty", lines 7-11
  • Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks arise
    Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour
    Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier
    Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?
  • I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,
    Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour.
  • "Hurrahing in Harvest", lines 5-6
  • Lovely the woods, waters, meadows, combes, vales,
    All the air things wear that build this world of Wales.
  • Ask of her, the mighty mother:
    Her reply puts this other
    Question: What is Spring?—
    Growth in everything.
  • My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
    Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
    All felled, felled, are all 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 but knew 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 where we mean
    To mend her we end her,
    When we hew or delve:
    After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
    • "Binsey Poplars", stanza 2
  • When, when, Peace, will you, Peace? I’ll not play hypocrite
    To own my heart: I yield you do come sometimes; but
    That piecemeal peace is poor peace. What pure peace allows
    Alarms of wars, the daunting wars, the death of it?
  • Felix Randal the farrier, O he is dead then? my duty all ended,
    Who have watched his mould of man, big-boned and hardy-handsome
    Pining, pining, till time when reason rambled in it and some
    Fatal four disorders, fleshed there, all contended?
  • Poor Felix Randal;
    How far from then forethought of, all thy more boisterous years,
    When thou at the random grim forge, powerful amidst peers,
    Didst fettle for the great grey drayhorse his bright and battering sandal!
    • "Felix Randal", lines 11-14
  • Margaret, are you grieving
    Over Goldengrove unleaving?
  • Ah! as the heart grows older
    It will come to such sights colder
    By and by, not spare a sigh
    Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
    And yet you will weep and know why.
    • "Spring and Fall", lines 5-9
  • Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
    What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
    It ís the blight man was born for,
    It is Margaret you mourn for.
    • "Spring and Fall", lines 12-15
  • 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.
  • How to keep—is there any any, is there none such, nowhere known some, bow or brooch or braid or brace, lace, latch or catch or key to keep
    Back beauty, keep it, beauty, beauty, beauty, … from vanishing away?
  • Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God, beauty's self and beauty's giver.
    • "The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo: The Golden Echo, line 19
  • Wild air, world-mothering air,
    Nestling me everywhere,
    That each eyelash or hair
    Girdles; goes home betwixt
    The fleeciest, frailest-fixed
    Snowflake; that’s fairly mixed
    With, riddles, and is rife
    In every least thing’s life.
  • I say that we are wound
    With mercy round and round
    As if with air.
    • "The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe", lines 34-36
  • World-mothering air, air wild,
    Wound with thee, in thee isled,
    Fold home, fast fold thy child.
    • "The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe", lines 124-126
  • Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
    Not untwist—slack they may be—these last strands of man
    In me or, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
    Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
  • That night, that year
    Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.
    • "Carrion Comfort", lines 13-14
  • No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
    More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
  • O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
    Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
    May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small
    Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
    Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
    Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.
    • "No Worst, There Is None", lines 9 -15
  • I am gall, I am heartburn. God's most deep decree
    Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me;
    Bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse.
    Selfyeast of spirit a dull dough sours. I see
    The lost are like this, and their scourge to be
    As I am mine, their sweating selves; but worse.
    • "I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark, Not Day", lines 9-14
  • My own heart let me have more have pity on; let
    Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
    Charitable; not live this tormented mind
    With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
  • Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
    With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
    Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must
    Disappointment all I endeavour end?
  • Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.
    • "Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend", line 14
  • The widow of an insight lost she lives, with aim
    Now known and hand at work now never wrong.
    Sweet fire the sire of muse, my soul needs this;
    I want the one rapture of an inspiration.
  • The best ideal is the true
    And other truth is none.
    All glory be ascribed to
    The holy Three in One.

The Principle or Foundation[edit]

An address based on The Spiritual Exercises, written by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Spanish founder of the Society of Jesus.
  • He is so great that all things give him glory if you mean they should. So then, my brethren, live.
  • Any day, any minute we bless God for our being or for anything, for food, for sunlight, we do and are what we were meant for, made for — things that give and mean to give God glory.
  • It is not only prayer that gives God glory but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God some glory if being in his grace you do it as your duty.

Comments on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola[edit]

  • When I compare myself, my being-myself, with anything else whatever, all things alike, all in the same degree, rebuff me with blank unlikeness.
  • I find myself both as man and as myself something more determined and distinctive, at pitch, more distinctive and higher pitched than anything else I see.
  • Searching nature I taste self but at one tankard, that of my own being.
  • I consider my selfbeing … that taste of myself, of I and me above and in all things, which is more distinctive than the taste of ale or alum, more distinctive than the smell of walnutleaf or camphor, and is incommunicable by any means to another man.
  • For human nature, being more highly pitched, selved, and distinctive than anything in the world, can have been developed, evolved, condensed, from the vastness of the world not anyhow or by the working of common powers but only by one of finer or higher pitch and determination than itself.

Quotes about Gerard Manley Hopkins[edit]

  • There are basically three kinds of poetry: first, poetry which is divine (inspired); secondly, poetry which is crafted; and thirdly, poetry which is inherited. It reminds me of Gerard Manley Hopkins. He has a letter to a friend of his in which he speaks of writing and how there are three voices of the poet: the Olympian (inspired); the Parnassian (when you're really a good poet, you don't write bad poetry but sometimes you write so-so poetry), and finally, there's jargon.
    • 1978 interview in Conversations with Audre Lorde (2004)
  • The tension of Hopkins is nearer to activity: it is activity, muscular, violent, and formal.

External links[edit]

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