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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Shapes of Sound, part six

Gerard Manley Hopkins is one poet who mastered the shapes of sounds and colors of words, to borrow Dylan Thomas’s phrases. His poems are striking for their vibrant images and their original rhymes and rhythms.

Hopkins is also famous for his use of language. He preferred words with Old English and Germanic roots, rather than the vocabulary of Latin and Romance language roots that landed with the Norman Conquest. If he couldn’t find a particular Anglo-Saxon word, he would coin a new word by linking two unrelated words with a hyphen, even joining a noun with an adjective.

Listen to the poem below. The words are short, sweet and full of a rush of richness of images.


Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-color as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. (1844-1899), British priest and poet whose work had a profound influence on modern poetry

1 comment:

Barbara Mangogna said...

So lovely. Here is one I keep on my desk.


Poets make pets of pretty, docile words:
I love smooth words, like gold-enameled fish
Which circle slowly with a silken swish,
and tender ones, like downy-feathered birds:
words shy and dappled, deep-eyed deer in the woods
come to my hand, and playful if I wish,
or purring softly at a silver dish,
blue Persian kittens fed on cream and curds.

I love bright words, words up and singing early.
Words that are luminous in the dark, and sing,
warm lazy words, white cattle under trees;
I love words opalescent, cool, and pearly,
like midsummer moths, and honied words like
gilded and sticky, with a little sting.

~ Elinor Wylie (1885-1928)