‘Inversnaid’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins

(Poem No.41 of my favourite short poems)

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‘The Mountain Stream’ … WHB – Pen & Wash – 2000

While in his twenties, Hopkins’s trained as a Jesuit priest, gave up writing poetry at one stage, but returned to it later in his life.  His poems are highly rhythmical and often ‘difficult’ on first reading .   In his poem ‘INVERSNAID’ he looks in wonder at a stream in the Highlands of Scotland near the small Scottish village of that name on the ‘bonnie’ banks of Loch Lomond, where a waterfall plunges down the hillside into a dark pool.

In his poetry, Hopkins developed a number of ground-breaking techniques, including ‘sprung rhythm’, where stresses are counted rather than syllables in a line. His use of language is robust, energetic and, at often experimental.  Like most of his poems, ‘Inversnaid’ is composed using a variety of poetic constructions – alliteration, assonance, repetition, personification, compound words, dialect and archaic words, effects that bring considerable force and energy to his poetry.  Dylan Thomas had a similar feel for language and for the construction of compound words.


Inversnaid

This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

Gerard Manley Hopkins …  (1881)

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The Beck

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THE BECK

the beck
my beck
North England
Old English bece
Dutch beek
German bach
my beck
my early life
my once-upon-a-time world

it was all things to me
my territory
my front line
against the outside world
fell in
fished out
fished in
fishes out
tiddlers
minnows
sticklebacks
 countless times
jumped it daily
dammed it
constructed waterfalls
floods flooded
floods receded
dredged
repaired
renewed

succoured my imagination
my Coliseum
 my Olympic stadium
succeeding
my umbilical chord
as my link to the world
it ran through my heart
and past my house
gave me a ballpark
my own adventure playground
complete with running water
subterranean tunnels
waterfalls
dams
stepping stones
overhanging trees
to climb
to suspend myself
dangling
over the running water
sandstone-walled bridges
for carving initials
routes to explore
in both directions
crossings to navigate
ledges to crawl along
overgrown banks
forbidden sections
Rubicon for gang warfare
Lethe at dusk

above all
suspending my belief
in dreams
for this was my reality

once upon a time

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NOTE:   North England.  BECK … A brook, especially a swiftly running stream with steep banks.

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The fire and the rose

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The ‘Unknown Remembered Gate’,  Weybridge, Surrey,UK. … Photo – WHB – 2015

By T.S.Eliot

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always –
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

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The above is an extract taken from the very end of the last of  T.S.Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets’, called ‘Little Gidding’.    Little Gidding itself is a small Anglican community in Huntingdonshire, England, and was established there in the 17th century. just before the English Civil War, during which the community was broken up and scattered.

‘The Four Quartets’is a series of 4 poems which discuss time, perspective, humanity, and salvation. It was first published in September 1942 after being delayed for over a year because of the air-raids on Great Britain during World War II and Eliot’s declining health.

The poem uses the combined image of fire and Pentecostal fire to emphasise the need for purification and purgation. According to the poet, humanity’s flawed understanding of life and turning away from God leads to a cycle of warfare, but this can be overcome by recognising the lessons of the past.

Little Gidding focuses on the unity of past, present, and future, and claims that understanding this unity is necessary for salvation. In Eliot’s imagery the resolution of mankind’s turmoil will be achieved by the coming together of the fire and the rose.

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The Waterfall

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Canonteign Falls, Dartmoor, Devon . . .  Pen & Wash by WHB

THE  WATERFALL

Humble in its origins
on the heather moor
rolling gently down towards
the valley’s deep green floor

Suddenly the land gives way
beneath its watery tread
and  leads it down the rocky face
towards the river bed

Down the limestone outcrop
over mossy stones
beside the yellowing bracken
it bubbles sighs and moans

Until at last its downward race
is given a pause for rest
before it has to carry  on
with renewed force and zest.

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