Friday, May 24, 2013

Hopkins' "Binsey Poplars" Manuscript

From Once I Was a Clever Boy, I see that the Bodleian Library has acquired the manuscript of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem, "Binsey Poplars". As the Bodleian Library website explains:

The Bodleian Libraries have acquired at auction a late autograph draft manuscript of the celebrated Gerard Manley Hopkins poem 'Binsey Poplars'. The last known major Hopkins manuscript to have been in private hands, ‘Binsey Poplars’ is the most significant Hopkins item to have come to the market in over forty years.
The acquisition was made possible by strong financial support from a number of individuals and funding bodies, including the Friends of the Bodleian, the Friends of the National Libraries and the V&A Purchase Grant Fund.
An Oxford alumnus, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89) is regarded as one the Victorian era's greatest poets. Very few of his poems appeared during his lifetime, and he owes his posthumous reputation to his friend poet Robert Bridges, who edited a volume of his Poems that first appeared thirty years after his death in 1918. His revolutionary ‘difficult’ style, characterized by new rhythmic effects, influenced the work of Modernist and later writers.
'Binsey Poplars' was written in response to the felling of trees running alongside the Thames in Binsey, a village on the west side of the city of Oxford. Hopkins had been an undergraduate at Balliol College, Oxford, and was a curate at St Aloysius Church in the city at the time he wrote the poem. The trees were replanted after the poem was first published in 1918 (the poem seems to anticipate the ravages of the Great War), and there was an outcry when they were felled again in 2004. The poem formed part of the successful campaign to replant the trees. The poem has a very particular local meaning but speaks to a much broader audience in its plaintive evocation of spiritual desolation through the destruction of nature.

 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 só 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 únselve
        The sweet especial scene,
    Rural scene, a rural scene,
    Sweet especial rural scene.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful poem. I have not read much Hopkins but what I have read, I love. I can particularly relate to this poem as they are cutting down all the ash trees in my neighborhood right now. The trees had been infested and were going to die anyway, but still to watch one being felled was a heart-rending sight.

    Thanks for sharing this!
    Mary Woods