None of the poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 -1889) were published during his lifetime. In 1939, W. H. Auden declared him to be a major poet and that commendation has stood the test of time. Born into an English Anglican family, Hopkins became a Catholic and was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1877. He was very taken with the sacramental principle whereby ordinary objects and experiences can become a sign of the Divine. For Hopkins, attention was a form of prayer and he trained his senses on the natural world. The Creator spoke to him through creation.
Two phrases from his poetry say it well:
- “The world is charged with the grandeur of God
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.”
— “God’s Grandeur”
- “For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.”
— “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”
A fine biography of Hopkins by Robert Bernard Martin: Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Very Private Life
A collection of poetry and other pieces by Hopkins: Hopkins: The Mystic Poets, including the excerpt, Hopkins’s poem “That Nature Is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection”
Celebrate Gerard Manley Hopkins’s birthday by giving your full attention to an object nearby or by taking a walk in nature. Notice signs of the Divine Presence and give thanks in a way that is most meaningful to you.