Poetry is good for the soul. It gives voice to deep down places. It enables the mechanistic eye, constrained by sterile cause and effect, to see in new hues and additional dimensions. Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), author of the poem below, processed the world in poetry – and much the richer we are because of it! Sip and savor his verses like a steaming mug of newly brewed coffee.
By Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
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.
Beneath the interminable trod of man’s boot-shod feet, Hopkins sees a divine current – electric-like – an oozing freshness, as from crushed olives, running through creation – yet most men seem dead to it. How can man remain blind and unmoved before it? How can he not see God’s glory “flame out, like shining from shook foil”? “Why do men… not reck his rod” (reckon/acknowledge the rod of God’s reign)? The psalmist saw the divine flaming: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). And yet man treads dead to it.
The world wearies under the tramp and trod of generation after generation, forced to wear “man’s smudge” and share “man’s smell.” And man, whose shod feet can no longer feel the soil, continues marching mindlessly upon the fatigued soil. Yet “for all this, nature is never spent.” As Hopkins masterfully phrases it, “There lives the dearest freshness deep down things…” God has imbued nature with His ever-new, ever-fresh life that those with eyes to see perceive with new and fresh surprise and joy. So though the night blankets the world in death-like darkness, the morning dawns with the promise of new life – because God’s Spirit, like a hen brooding over its chicks, hovers in life-sustaining and, ah!, life-giving love.
Good for the soul, indeed.