Magazine article The Christian Century

Binsey Poplars. (Favorite Poems: An Ongoing Series of Poems, with Commentary, as Selected by Century Editors)

Magazine article The Christian Century

Binsey Poplars. (Favorite Poems: An Ongoing Series of Poems, with Commentary, as Selected by Century Editors)

Article excerpt

Binsey poplars

   felled 1879

   My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
   Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
   All felled, felled, are all felled;
   Of a fresh and following folded rank
   Not spared, not one
   That dandled a sandalled
   Shadow that swam or sank
   On meadow and river and wind-wandering
   weed-winding bank.

   O if we but knew what we do
   When we delve or hew--
   Hack and rack the growing green!
   Since country is so tender
   To touch, her being so slender,
   That, like this sleek and seeing ball
   But a prick will make no eye at all,
   Where we, even where we mean
   To mend her we end her,
   When we hew or delve:
   After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
   Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
   Strokes of havoc unselve
   The sweet especial scene,
   Rural scene, a rural scene,
   Sweet especial rural scene.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

From The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1948). Reprinted by permission of Oxford University Press.

I'M A PUSHOVER for poignancy, and Hopkins's "Binsey Poplars" is rife with it. Were it to be set to music, this elegaic lyric could serve as an anthem for the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club or the Wilderness Society (I'm a member of all three). …

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