Oct 15, 2011

"Hurrahing in Harvest" by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Hurrahing in Harvest by Gerard Manley Hopkins

In previous autumns, I've not posted "Hurrahing in Harvest" because some readers might be put off by Hopkins' use of natural beauty an excuse to extol a Christian God. It seems obvious to me that one can easily substitute for that deity whatever source of inspiration one prefers, and that includes the possibility of not going beyond the beauties and ecstasy provided by the world of matter. Maybe joy can be explained physiologically. So what? It's still joy. It still feels good.

No, by definition, joy and ecstasy are more than feeling vaguely good. The issue gets into psychological territory that's difficult to articulate. It's hard to be logical about rapture, which is probably the reason that so many find it an avenue to religiosity.

The natural, material world leads Hopkins to Jesus. If it leads you to the Lord of Happy Barley, so what? The fact remains that nature--in this case autumn--can (should?) provide an explosion of intense sensuous delight if one is honestly looking. Witnessing.

One time when I was naively enthusing about southern Ohio hills, my more cynical college roommate argued that nature was full of mosquitoes and predation, and I needed to wake up to that. Well, yes. And there's the charming story of some politician's wife who remarked, "Nature is so pretty--what a shame it has to be outdoors."

But if one does not see and hear and smell nature's majesty as well as its quieter splendors, along with its pain and murders, one is needlessly eliminating a major source of both the calming and the dramatic varieties of joy. Humans seem to like Either-Or, Black-and-White in a world that's full of grey shades of contradiction. Why not rise to the grey occasion in which we find ourselves?

So I encourage everyone to read all of Hopkins' nature poetry with such things in mind. Nature, among other forces, led Hopkins to Catholicism (he converted and became a Jesuit priest). At least once in awhile, the same scenes can also lead to Happy Barley. Wallow in it. Call it magic.

(The photos are from a spot on a dirt road near Rt. 12 and the village of Jonesville in south-central Michigan).

Hurrahing in Harvest by Gerard Manley Hopkins


Birdman said...

Irene destroyed my crop too. GMH I can agree.

Hannah Stephenson said...

I love the point you make about Hopkins's poems...Hopkins points out beauty, so who cares what he credits that beauty to?

Do you know Sufjan Stevens's music? Gorgeous, ecstatic stuff ("Romulus" is a good place to start: http://youtu.be/zUwuT6m5roU or "Casimir Pulaski Day" http://youtu.be/9EzeW5KoPUI)....he has some religious stuff going on, but I very much appreciate his own reverence for his experiences....when the artist is so focused on their own inspiration and observation, and not on converting listeners, it can make for great art. (Sufjan's gone back to electronic-ish stuff in his most recent work---I still love it a lot but it's not for everyone).

Kelly said...

...loved your last photo of the autumn leaves. It's the essence of nostalgic autumn--beautiful!

Gothpunkuncle said...

Did you ever get that Hopkins book by Mariani? (And this "Romulus" tune is probably on Stevens' Michigan CD, or am I mistaken?) Lots going on but Fridays stay pretty clear.

Anonymous said...

Here's another case where I appreciated your discussion more than the poem. Wasn't because of the god-thing. I, for one, am all for the anthropomorphism of nature -- brings it down to our level.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

We've learned to arm ourselves against nature. By default, it's allowed us to romanticize it ... much preferable.

btw: I love cornstalks. I think their the palms of the mid-west

Banjo52 said...

Hannah and Kelly, thanks.

Birdman, not sure . . . ?

I do not know Stevens's music, but I intend to look into it. I don't want GPU getting so far ahead of me. Well, he already is, but . . .

GPU, yep, got it. Haven't read it, of course . . .

AH, yeah, I always wonder what "pure scientists" or whoever is asking when they criticize anthr-ism. Of course, it's probably inaccurate, but how does one void what one is when it comes to understanding anything.

PA, I think "arm ourselves against" vs. "romanticize" it is a fascinating way to think about the whole thing. And cornstalks as palms or vice versa . . . Wow. Wish I liked palms better--maybe if I'd grown up with them. Do they make spooky sounds in wind the way cornstalks do?

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