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While Dublin was certainly an uneasy place for an Englishman at the height of the Home Rule controversy a country where it was only necessary to belong to the Roman Catholic 'tribe' to feel religiously justified , Hopkins was equally distant from his native England — a country where the cult of philosophical 'reasonableness' was deemed sufficient for salvation.

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Neither provided a home for the yearning which drew Hopkins into the priesthood. His comments on the respective spiritual states of the two countries occur in his retreat notes on the Spiritual Exercises written in , where Hopkins reflects, childlike, on the wondrousness of his being:. Nothing explains it or resembles it, except so far as this, that other men to themselves have the same feeling. The development, refinement, condensation of nothing shews any sign of being able to match this to me or give me another taste of it, a taste even resembling it.

Whatever constraints Hopkins may have felt as a result of his vocation, there is no sense here of an imagination cowed into religious self-deprecation or submissiveness.


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Rather, it is helpful to recall the dialectical dynamic of the Spiritual Exercises in order to discern a distinctive patterning in Hopkins' verse, which offer a repeated drama of God's offer of grace eliciting human resistance. With very little effort, much of Hopkins' verse can be mapped onto this framework, above all the opening and closing meditations of the Exercises. The Ignatian dynamic of alternating light and dark, of grace offered and refused, only to be offered again, is an interpretive key for many of the major poems.

It becomes all the clearer why Hopkins' poems are never simply a 'romantic' rejoicing in the natural world.

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Nature is indeed celebrated, but only as the theatre of God's ceaseless, gracious activity. Hopkins feels the fissure which runs through modern human existence as strongly as any other poet of his century - our rupture from the transcendent - but there is no question of nature or indeed, poetry substituting for religion.

But in the case of Hopkins, is the attempt to combine the two callings successful? They are the children of God, who possess something of the luminous darkness of their Father.

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According to Rahner, the words of the true poet cross borders endlessly. Spoken in powerful concentration, these words bring all reality into the light, redeeming it from the imprisonment of separation and into a world 'charged with the grandeur of God. The poet and priest are connected: one utters the poetic question, the other the divine answer.

Rahner's essay was written in honour of a priest colleague who was also a poet. Their convergence, he suggests, may be thought of 'eschatologically' - we can imagine a point of future convergence where the priest proclaims poetically, and the poet, satisfied by the answer he receives, tells what he hears. It is possible for us to see the priest becoming a poet and the poet a priest, even if, as in the case of Hopkins, their coexistence is not at all straightforward.

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In any case, says Rahner, such a fortunate coincidence is rare. If you have any queries about republishing please contact us. Please check individual images for licensing details. Projects Close Close Please type and press enter Submit. Michael Kirwan.

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Gerard Manley Hopkins: Priest and Poet

This is a work in development. The following themes and issues need to be addressed or expanded upon. I can; Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be. But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me Thy wring-world right foot rock? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear. Nay in all that toil, that coil, since seems I kissed the rod, Hand rather, my heart lo! Cheer whom though?

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O which one? That night, that year Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with my God! Gerard Manley Hopkins was both a great poet and a Jesuit priest. Religion influenced every aspect of his life, and many considered Hopkins the priest and Hopkins the poet to be one inseperable entity. In some of his later poems, however, a dichotomy seemed to be developing between the two, with his poetry dealing with more earthly subjects than God and religion. But in "Carrion Comfort," a sonnet written in his waning years, he refutes the idea that his creative i. His poem "Carrion Comfort" in particular seems to stress a self-doubt concerning how his poetry might affect his relationship with God.

In this poem Hopkins is faced with a decision concerning his poetic imagination and its association with his relationship with God.


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  4. What is most interesting about this poem is that it not only serves as a key to understanding Hopkins' work, but it also appears to have been a cathartic experience for him.