Gerard Manley Hopkins
(July 28, 1844 – June 8, 1889)
Gerard Manley Hopkins is considered to be one of the greatest poets of the Victorian era. However, because his style was so radically different from that of his contemporaries, his best poems were not accepted for publication during his lifetime, and his achievement was not fully recognized until after World War I.
Born into a devout High Church Anglican family, Hopkins read from the New Testament daily at school. His family encouraged his artistic talents when he was a youth in Essex, England. In 1864, Hopkins first read John Henry Newman’s Apologia pro via sua, which discussed the author’s reasons for converting to Catholicism. Two years later, Newman himself received Hopkins into the Catholic Church, which led to his becoming estranged from his Protestant family.
It can be said that it was his encountering Cardinal Newman’s seminal apologetic work, Apologia, and the Catholic Church’s teachings about The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and the Virgin Mary, that drew Hopkins to Catholicism. In 1867 he joined the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) at the age of 23. Hopkins was ordained in 1877 and for the next seven years carried his duties teaching and preaching in London, Oxford, Liverpool, Glasgow, and Stonyhurst.
In 1884, he became a professor of Greek at the Royal University College in Dublin. He died five years later from typhoid fever. Although his poems were never published during his lifetime, his friend poet Robert Bridges edited a volume of Hopkins’s Poems that first appeared in 1918.
(Credit: The Poetry Foundation, Chicago; Poets.org)
The May Magnificat
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
May is Mary’s month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why :
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season—
Candlemas, Lady Day ;
But the Lady Month, May,
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honour ?
Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her ?
Is it opportunist
And flowers finds soonest ?
Ask of her, the mighty mother :
Her reply puts this other
Question : What is Spring?—
Growth in every thing—
Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and greenworld all together ;
Throstle above her nested
Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within ;
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.
All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathizing
With that world of good
Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord.
Well but there was more than this :
Spring’s universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May.
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
And thicket and thorp are merry
With silver-surfèd cherry
And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
And magic cuckoocall
Caps, clears, and clinches all—
This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ’s birth
To remember and exultation
In God who was her salvation.
Madonna of the Magnificat
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
– Gerard Manley Hopkins
Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always. Holy Family pray for us. Amen.