A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Saturday, 23 February 2008

The Rhythm Of Spring

Since we're all looking forward so much to springtime, I really must quote one more sonnet by Hopkins.


Nothing is so beautiful as Spring -
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush's eggs look like little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring

The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. - Have, get before it cloy,

Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid's child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

Hopkins wrote in a kind of free verse he called 'sprung rhythm' - in which the 1st syllable of a foot is stressed, followed by any number of unstressed syllables. He claimed to have discovered this natural rhythm, the rhythm of natural speech, in English folk songs, oral poetry, Shakespeare and Milton.

This may seem rather surprising when we read the handful of dazzling sonnets he composed - for the brilliant linguistic artifice he creates seems at first a million miles from the organic nature and cadences of natural speech. Yet, if we concentrate on the rhythm only, rather than just being seduced by the poetic devices (of alliteration, onomatopoeia, repetition, assonance, rhyme etc) he employs to scorching effect, I think we can hear what he means ...

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