Oct 16, 2009

Poem of the Day: “Spring and Fall” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Once again poetryfoundation.org, has a wealth of poems and commentary on poetry. I highly recommend the site.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

“Spring and Fall”
to a young child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Although Hopkins could be accused of being mean to a little kid here, “Spring and Fall” is one of his most accessible and most anthologized poems. It might miss my target of presenting feel-good poems, but maybe it's still a chunk of beauty to “set against evil.” (Professor Ralph Williams’s choice of verb—see Banjo52, Sept. 8, 2009 ). And surely "Spring and Fall" is in the running for the October poem. Shall we set it against Keats's "To Autumn" and "La Belle Dame sans Merci"? And what else?

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Brenda's Arizona said...

Autumn Day by Rainer Maria Rilke? It is certainly bleak one... but I recall one by Shelley that bothered me more than Keats' ever did. Thank you for your photos/poemetical thoughs.

Gothpunkuncle said...

I think this plays nicely against (and with) the James Wright poem discussed earlier -- that little reminder that we only rent, never own, our individual points of view from the dust. (It's autumnal INDEED when those poor wives in Ohio realize that the very act of pro-creation has been given up by their husbands. Here's a little thing that equates autumn to political oppression to add to your collection:

When Autumn Came
by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Translated by Naomi Lazard

This is the way that autumn came to the trees:
it stripped them down to the skin,
left their ebony bodies naked.
It shook out their hearts, the yellow leaves,
scattered them over the ground.
Anyone could trample them out of shape
undisturbed by a single moan of protest.

The birds that herald dreams
were exiled from their song,
each voice torn out of its throat.
They dropped into the dust
even before the hunter strung his bow.

Oh, God of May have mercy.
Bless these withered bodies
with the passion of your resurrection;
make their dead veins flow with blood again.

Give some tree the gift of green again.
Let one bird sing.

Lovers' Lane