Sunday, December 23, 2007
Hopkins loved trees
Saturday morning I went out, as I always do, to greet the first sunrise after the winter solstice, and this year I was rewarded with a gentle gray and pink dawn. It wasn't long before the sun rose into the clouds and the sky turned leaden, but there was a brief moment when the thin fog reflected the light, and the air itself seemed to take on the sweet color of a dove's breast. The trees were black from the damp, and as I looked up through the tangle of bare branches I felt myself floating with them in the rosy mist.
This morning was a different story--dark and blustery, with little snow squalls that started and stopped without warning. After ten minutes out there my eyes were streaming from cold, and I said the hell with it and headed back down the trail toward my car. But something about the woods never wants to let me go. I turned around again and followed a more sheltered path that I don't take very often. It kept me out of the worst of the wind, but the the tall trees above me were getting the full force of it, swaying and crashing into their neighbors. It occurred to me that these were excellent conditions for getting brained by a falling branch, but I couldn't resist standing underneath to watch them battle the wind and each other.
This afternoon I was reading Hopkins, because something a friend said made me think of him, and in one of those serendipitous moments readers live for, I came across this unfinished poem:
Not of all my eyes see, wandering on the world,
Is anything a milk to the mind so, so sighs deep
Poetry tó it, as a tree whose boughs break in the sky.
Say it is áshboughs: whether on a December day and furled
Fast ór they in clammyish lashtender combs creep
Apart wide and new-nestle at heaven most high.
They touch heaven, tabour on it; how their talons sweep
The smouldering enormous winter welkin! May
Mells blue and snowwhite through them, a fringe and fray
Of greenery: it is old earth's groping towards the steep
Heaven whom she childs us by.
From The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, 4th ed. (Oxford University Press, 1967) 185.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons