Saturday, February 20, 2010

and we, we should have lost it

Tonight,  in the midst of grieving some losses, and realizing that there are more to come, I remembered vaguely that there was a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins that talked about loss. And I went and reread it, and was so glad I did. It's ostensibly about the loss of physical beauty, but "age's evil", really, is death, and that's the deeper meaning, I think.  The poem, "The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo" starts with the question:
HOW to kéep—is there ány any, is there none such, nowhere known some, bow or brooch or braid or brace, láce, latch or catch or key to keep
Back beauty, keep it, beauty, beauty, beauty, … from vanishing away?

And the answer soon comes:

No there ’s none, there ’s none, O no there ’s none,
Nor can you long be, what you now are, called fair,
Do what you may do, what, do what you may,
And wisdom is early to despair:
Be beginning; since, no, nothing can be done
To keep at bay
Age and age’s evils . . .

 (Emphasis mine, here and throughout.)
It's hard for me to excerpt this poem, to skip over any of it, but soon comes the even further answer:
There ís one, yes I have one (Hush there!);
Only not within seeing of the sun . . .
Somewhere elsewhere there is ah well where! one,
Oné. Yes I can tell such a key, I do know such a place,
Where whatever’s prized and passes of us . . .
Never fleets móre . . .

And later yet:
. . . beauty-in-the-ghost, deliver it, early now, long before death
 Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God, beauty’s self and beauty’s giver
See; not a hair is, not an eyelash, not the least lash lost . . .
O then, weary then why
When the thing we freely fórfeit is kept with fonder a care,
Fonder a care kept than we could have kept it, kept
Far with fonder a care
(and we, we should have lost it) finer, fonder
A care kept . . . 

That is it: "and we, we should have lost it."
Thank you, Lord, for your servant Gerard Manley Hopkins.
peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell


Amy said...

I'm sorry for your losses--praying for you this evening. Glad to be introduced to a new and thought-provoking Hopkins poem.

Jessica said...

Amy, thank you.

I do want to make sure I'm not misleading anyone: some of what I was thinking about was death of loved ones, but not anything new or recent. The rest had to do with losses of health and absences of loved ones (also hard, but not nearly the same).