I came across this poem for the first time this weekend whilst flicking through an anthology at my Grandma’s house in London. Not an avid reader of poetry herself, I had to brush back a layer of dust from the cover before I could commence reading. That layer of dust concealed within its pages one of the most enlightening poems I have read for, well, rather a while. I opened the collection at random, not expecting anything really, and upon the open page lay this poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. I’m not sure whether I was in a contemplative mood, or if the luxury of time that I was afforded meant that I could really relax with the words facing me but I felt a connection to this poem immediately. I read the poem once, read it twice, read it three times and thought, ‘No this poem demands more than a reading, I’m not doing it justice’, standing alone, the images are beautiful but it demands some real time thinking about what the whole is conveying.
It’s like a puzzle sometimes, reading a poem, piecing together the clues and trying to solve the problem. Then like putting in the last piece of a jigsaw, you see the whole image, everything falls into place and a meaning (it’s not that it is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’) makes itself clear to you. To me, this poem reinforces my own beliefs in the interconnectivity of all life and how that life is born from and returns to a power that is beyond the material of our world but nevertheless a part of it. Possessing this power is not a passive state, we have a responsibility with it and with that we should all be able to realise a certain life for ourselves: if we are aware of the power, accepting of it and act in the way we believe to be the most affirmative of goodness for our lives; it will benefit not only us personally but all surrounding us.
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves-goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.
I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is-
Christ-for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
from Poems 1876 – 1889
Posted by Jen Tomkins