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


Anonymous said...

Here's Thomas Hardy's ambiguous take on Christmas:

Christmas Eve, and twelve of
the clock.
"Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
"Come; see the oxen kneel,

"In the lonely barton by yonder
Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that lovely Hopkins poem, which I'd never read before. He is a favorite of mine.

BitterGrace said...

I love that poem, Bozo. Thanks for posting it. It's new to me. And I must say, reminds me of my church-raised self.

Renee, you know I had you in mind when I posted the Hopkins. I'm glad you liked it.