THE LANTERN OUT OF DOORS
Sometimes a lantern moves along the light,
That interests our eyes. And who goes there?
I think; where from and bound, I wonder, where,
With, all down darkness wide, his wading light?
Men go by me whom either beauty bright
In mould or mind or what not else makes rare:
They rain against our much-thick and marsh air
Rich beams, till death or distance buys them quite.
Death or distance soon consumes them: wind
What most I may eye after, be in at the end
I cannot, and out of sight is out of mind.
Christ minds: Christ's interest, what to avow or amend
There, éyes them, heart wánts, care haúnts, foot fóllows kind,
Their ránsom, théir rescue, ánd first, fást, last friénd.
Hopkins has a note (written to his friend and editor Robert Bridges I think) about his use of "wind" in this poem:
I mean that the eye winds only in the sense that its focus or point of sight winds and that coincides with a point of the object and winds with that. For the object, a lantern passing further and further away and bearing now east now west of one right line, is truly and properly described as winding.
This kind of precision is typical of him. If you get the Penguin Classics Poems and Prose, you can read selections from his notebooks which are full of extremely detailed descriptions, mainly of nature. I mean extremely. I would quote one, but I've discovered in the process of doing this series that there are a lot of books which it is nearly impossible to lay flat and hold there with some object so that you can see the page and type at the same time.
Hopkins is another one whom I expected from the first to include in this series. But I wanted to do one of his lesser-known poems. I think every Catholic with any literary inclination has probably read "God's Grandeur" and/or "Pied Beauty" ("Glory be to God for dappled things..."). And maybe "The Windhover." I like this one as well as any of those, though it isn't as immediately striking. It occurs to me that this image of a single small light moving through general darkness is not something most of us see very often at all. There are in fact probably millions of people who never have seen it.
There's an excellent biographical sketch of Hopkins at the Poetry Foundation. I started reading it and realized that although I've been reading Hopkins since I was in college I really knew almost nothing about his life, apart from the fact that he was a Jesuit, and nothing at all about his family and upbringing.
--Mac is the proprietor of this blog.