Hurrahing in Harvest–A Poem I Did Not Write

“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;
   And, eyes, heart, what looks, what lips yet gave you a
Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?

“And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder
   Majestic–as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet!–
These things, these things were here and but the beholder
   Wanting; which two when they once meet,
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.”                                                                                   Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1877

“Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) was a Jesuit priest whose poetry combined an awareness of material sensuousness with the asceticism of religious devotion.  His collected poems, published posthumously in 1918, exercised a profound influence on modern poetry.” (from the Dover Publications edition.)

I do not pretend to understand the meaning of all the words in this sonnet; but if I stopped at every unfamiliar word, I’d never enjoy the sound of them as they trip across my tongue–‘silk-sack clouds’, ‘azurous hung hills’, ‘very-violet-sweet!’ 

The bolded phrases are such powerful metaphors–‘to glean our Saviour’–to find the Creator through our vision of Him in the world He created–that is Hopkins’ goal, I think.

Sometimes the greatest joy of poetry is just the sound of the words, whether we know their meaning or not.  I don’t stop reading a novel or an article or even Scripture, for that matter, just because I don’t know a word.

Hopkins himself explained in a letter to a friend: (from the Introduction of the Dover edition, p. xii.)
“Clarity sometimes comes only with some hard looking…”  During a sermon in 1880, Hopkins ‘exhorts his brethren to pay close attention to the words he has to say’, for it is both “contemptible and unmanly…for men whose minds are naturally clear, to give up at the first hearing of a hard passage in the Scripture…to care to know no more than children know.”

Here’s to mining words and The Word for hidden treasure.  Keep on looking!
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Photo of Eastern Oregon hills by the author.

“Booked”–Karen Swallow Prior

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Karen Swallow Prior is a Professor at Liberty University in Virginia. ‘Booked–Literature in the Soul of Me’ is the story of her finding God (or perhaps being found by Him.)

I will say about ‘Booked’ “I liked this very much!” but may not be able to articulate exactly why. So, instead of writing a review I had the idea of typing a Letter to the Author, like my children did in Grammar School. This is what I would say:

“Dear Ms. Prior,

I want to let you know how much your words in “Booked-Literature in the Soul of Me” have resonated with me. 

I eagerly awaited the book’s release from TSPoetry Press, looking forward to your weaving some of the great classics of literature with your walk of faith. I, too have also found solace and a salvation of sorts through books, so I was interested in your story.

I had a Mrs. Lovejoy in 8th grade as well, but her name was Mrs. Jenkins. I fell in love with language because of her.

When I perused the Table of Contents I was delighted to see Jane Eyre and Tess of the D’urbervilles included. The other authors and selections listed I had heard of but never actually read (well, except for Charlotte’s Web—who hasn’t read Charlotte’s Web?) so I anticipated hearing your spin on them.

The great surprise to me was discovering ‘Booked’ was not about literature but about all of life–sex and marriage, God, romance and reality, faith and doubt–yes, all of life.

My copy of ‘Booked’ has a multitude of pages with folded down corners, underlines and highlighted sentences, plus a list of notes in the back, all to remind me of phrases and subjects I wanted to revisit later.

As I sat to write this letter I thought I’d catalogue some of those lines and phrases that spoke to me from each chapter, but it was clear there were just too many.  (YOU know what your book says, I needn’t remind you).

However, I was able to choose a passage from the 5th Chapter–Jane Eyre, which shows your remarkable ability of putting into words for me the power of why I choose to write.
The selection is about ‘Voice’:

“It is no coincidence that the term “voice” has come to mean in modern usage much more than just the sound made by the vocal organs, but also the means by which we make our individual selves known, not only to others but to ourselves.
For the connection between the self and language is inseparable:
it is through language that the self becomes.”

The self becomes itself through language (the written ‘voice’) shared with others.

Yes.

One more thing: should you live in a city nearby I’d gladly make the journey to whichever classroom you were in just to hear you speak about your passions. A good teacher who loves her subject can convince anyone to fall in love with wonderful, old books.

Yes, you could make a believer out of anyone, absolutely anyone.

Sincerely,

Jody Lee Collins”