I have been a big fan of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ for a long time. What first excited me about him was his “sprung rhythm.” Hopkins was a Jesuit priest who wrote sonnets. Unlike traditional sonnets, however, he wrote in a different type of meter, one he made up. If he were alive today I’d say he was a Millennialist poet. But Hopkins was born in 1844 and died in 1889.
He has more than just one poem worthy of mention. He has several, actually. But I’m going to reprint one titled “God’s Grandeur.” In my opinion, Hopkins is one of the best religious poets in history, though he is really considered a minor poet. I still think his sonnets are some of the best in the English language.
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 Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod? 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. And for all this, nature is never spent; There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; And though the last lights off the black West went Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs— Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Masterful alliteration, expert use of enjambment, rhymes that click like the ticking of a clock, and imagery that is beautiful, original, and bold, and a meter that creates its own rhythm that has never been matched. What more could we ask for?