Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rilke & Hopkins: Hawks & Gods

I live my life in growing rings
which move out over the things around me.

Perhaps I'll never complete the last,
but that's what I mean to try.

I'm circling around God, around the ancient tower,
and I've been circling thousands of years;
and I still don't know: am I a falcon, a storm
or a great song?

                                   - Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Book of Hours (1899-1903)

The Windhover

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
  dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
  Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
  As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend the hurl and gliding
  Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird -- the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
  Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

  No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
  Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

                        - Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1918, subtitled "To Christ Our Lord"

Even if you are not one to believe in a God, the beauty here seems well worth the investment of imagining you could believe in some unifying spirit, if only for a few moments...

Many thanks to Jim Burke for offering the first excerpt from Rilke on his blog,

The orality of Hopkins has long captured my fancy, despite its perhaps over-intricacy.  If this one's too much, try "Pied Beauty" (nifty text-flow just beneath the print on this site - wait for it!) or "As Kingfishers Catch Fire" (and this link offers you the "Poem in Your Pocket" PDF so you can drag it along...) both of which I memorized long ago and still find solace in trotting out from time to time.  Also, both links come from, a site that just gets better and better.  What a space for solace.


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