Immortal Diamond: Studies in Gerard Manley Hopkins

Immortal Diamond: Studies in Gerard Manley Hopkins

Immortal Diamond: Studies in Gerard Manley Hopkins

Immortal Diamond: Studies in Gerard Manley Hopkins

Excerpt

A century has elapsed since the birth of Gerard Manley Hopkins, and over twenty-five years have passed since the posthumous publication of his poems in 1918. Yet it has been only in the last fifteen years that his place in the stream of English poetry has been analyzed and assessed. Enthusiasm for his work has grown, but it has been refined and tempered, and the influence of his poetry has become ever deeper and more subtly pervasive.

The main outlines of the history of his life are now the common property of a large body of readers and admirers. They know that this sensitive and artistic young man, precocious with so many gifts and so much promise, was born into Victorian England amid the warring schools of the aesthetic movement and of religious turmoil; that at Oxford he turned his back on his family and his friends and, following Newman's lead, became a convert to Rome. They know, too, that he entered the Jesuit novitiate and spent his short life, so full of joy and so desolate with pain, as a Jesuit fulfilling carefully and scrupulously the duties of his high office until he met his death unacclaimed and unsung, yet believing always that "Immortal beauty is death with duty."

And they have grown also to realize that his real life was an inner life, was "in hiding," but that in his poetry particularly is revealed the exaltation as well as the struggle which really was his life:

But be the war within, the brand we wield
Unseen, the heroic breast not outward-steeled,
Earth hears no hurtle then from fiercest fray.

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