Academic journal article Victorian Poetry

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Academic journal article Victorian Poetry

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Article excerpt

Three points, among others, stand out in the Hopkins-related work published in 2016. The first is a thematic one: the question of perception, be it philosophical, physiological, or mental. This constitutes a major dimension of Hopkins's writing and language, but it may also reflect contemporary (twenty-first-century) fascination with all things visual. The second is an abiding interest in Hopkins's spirituality as well as his thought. The third relates to the connections or otherwise between Hopkins's poetry and his prose and the ways in which researchers either draw on his prose to attempt to illuminate study of the poetry or, more rarely, take the prose writings as texts worthy of scrutiny in their own right. Though Hopkins himself wrote in 1873-1874, "We must not insist on knowing where verse ends and prose (or verseless composition) begins, for they pass into one another," the studies under discussion in the following pages suggest that the two modes of expression are sometimes less porous than Hopkins suggested.

Even though we begin with a flashback to 2015, Hopkins in translation is always to be cherished. Neil Davidson's El ceno radiante: Vida y poesia de Gerard Manley Hopkins (Santiago de Chile: Ediciones Universidad Diego Portales, Coleccion Vidas Ajenas, 2015) combines a critical biography of the poet, liberally sprinkled with translations from Hopkins's poetry and prose, and complete translations of forty of his poems. A series of nine chapters relies on place for its tracking of Hopkins's life as it unfolded. Davidson thus devotes his nine chapters to (1) Stratford and Hampstead; (2) Oxford and Newman's influence; (3) Hopkins's vocation to the priesthood, the chapter being titled "Extra ecclesiam nulla sallus"; (4) Roehampton and Stonyhurst; (5) Wales; (6) from Spinkhill to Bedford; (7) Liverpool and Glasgow; (8) Roehampton and Stonyhurst; and (9) Dublin. Davidson's stated aim with regard to the translations was to recover something of the violence and abruptness of the originals since, to his mind, previous Spanish translations of Hopkins had transformed him into a rather decorous Latinate poet, therefore misinterpreting him in his drive away from Latin and French influences toward Anglo-Saxon and indeed Welsh roots. Mario Murgia's review of Davidson's book in the Hopkins Quarterly (42, nos. 3-4 [2015]) commends Davidson for being "a daring translator" (how rarely is that adjective collocated with that noun!) for trying to bring some of Hopkins's rhythmic complexities into Spanish versions of the poems. Not the least interesting aspect of Davidson's work, as Murgia points out, is his hypothesizing that the "mystic experience" described in the first stanzas of "The Wreck" may draw on "the myths depicted in ancient Welsh poetry"; and the title of Davidson's work means "The radiant brow," the English translation of the name of the early Welsh bard Taliesin. The book is probably the first Spanish-language biography of the poet.

Another sign of the fecundity in the present time of Hopkins's writing and poetic and spiritual legacy may be found in The World Is Charged: Poetic Engagements with Gerard Manley Hopkins, edited by Daniel Westover and William Wright (Clemson, S.C.: Clemson Univ. Press, 2016). The volume offers 146 poems by some seventy living poets. With a few exceptions, these poets are mainly American but also include the Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis, ,the Irish poet Desmond Egan, and R. K. R. Thornton, the British Hopkins scholar and editor. The volume is first of all a tribute to Hopkins in the sense that it constitutes an engagement with the art of poetry as it is today, the reading of it as well as the writing of it. These poets integrate Hopkins into poetry that both manifests a strong feeling for Hopkins and is absolutely contemporary. That said, apart from occasional compound nouns and epithets and echoes of Hopkins's rhythms (though even they are not always present), some of the poems included here intrigue and puzzle because their link with Hopkins is not always evident. …

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