A twisted picture

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins had an attentive eye on the glories of the world around us, as his poetry demonstrates. He had a love of the malleability of language, yet he also suffered from depression, a state exacerbated by his position within the Catholic Church as a priest in the Jesuit order. Within the order he was deemed a failure, because he didn’t assert the primacy of Aquinas, and was sent into parish work, rather than teaching, which he was better suited at, being a shy but academically minded fellow, and, obviously a literary genius. His ground-breaking poetry was not recognised by his fellow Jesuits until after his death. (Yet another example of genius being shunned in its own lifetime – Van Gogh, Teilhard de Chardin, etc.) Additionally, the strictness and poverty of life within the order, while supposedly geared towards refining the soul, surely is a twisted picture of how a life inspired by God should be.

While there is a recent biography of Hopkins by Paul Mariani, Robert Waldron has produced a less formal, more diary-like book (Walking with Gerard Manley Hopkins) on Hopkins that is, at times, sad reading, because of the loneliness and desolation that Hopkins obviously felt. Waldron associates with Hopkins’ depression but also shows how Hopkins’ poetry flowered from within the dark circumstances of his life.

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