Thursday, March 11, 2010

Victorian Tree Poem

I had the pleasure of teaching Gerard Manley Hopkins recently, a poet who stands among one of the greats in English literature (he even coined his own poetic term: Sprung Rhythm). We honor Hopkins today for his deep-hewed tree poem: Binsey Poplars. This poem is not only a meditation on what is lost in nature when we allow instrumentalism to determine our way of being in the world, but also what we lose within ourselves.

Binsey Poplars
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

felled 1879
  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 só 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.
  Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
     Strokes of havoc unselve
           The sweet especial scene,
     Rural scene, a rural scene,
     Sweet especial rural scene.

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