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The Hopkins Sequence

Poems based on the life of Gerard Manley Hopkins Written in his style

Kate Bernadette Benedict


Umbrella Editions Umbrella Publishing Group New York City Copyright Š 2014 by Kate Bernadette Benedict All rights reserved.


The Hopkins Sequence


His Dryness Punishment: brute-birch, and riding whips, mean-wielded by a jealous headmaster with smacking lips and you, Gerard, most Godgifted of all Highgate, gut-glutted then by hatred’s poison: gall. Amansstrength-lashed, in spite of being small. Prevail a while: find mastery, though flesh rips. You’re seaman-sturdy, so!, you make a bet, a three-weeks’ free-made agon to bear thirst. Dryness the drive of it, dryness sole the goal, no juice or drop in all a world of wet, blacktongue-parched, wretchèd-scorched of soul. And that was the launch of it, pinch of it, that was the first.


Dolben Magnificat I remember a boy whose gleamglass soul Reflected me, who, ah, who, gazed into it deep, And gaze of his pierced past my padlocked keep: My heart in hiding stormed—or fanned perhaps, as coal. In Christ we two were tied, as well we would, In Christ, our fair and furious passions fused. Thence the release of it, manshape all suffused: We, wrecked or roused or wrung, beneath Him stood. Fearsome the grasp that I alone, not he, composed the lovehymn. Not he, never we!— And I whose hamfist playing’s all to blame! God, maestro of souls, master of measure and key, Make tuned thy instrument, child then, ruined me: Whose selfstuff’s all cacophony and shame.


His Six-Months’ Custody of the Eyes as a young novice

Gentle Hop, are you nodding, Eyes cast down, austerely plodding? Blind to all that splendor near you, Blind to landscape, inscape, are you? You? Is your faith so zealous, Your heav’nly Father sorely jealous Of and for, His own galore That you of all men prize and shore? And yet you look down, and shun more. Bow your head then, peer at nought Beauty charms but beauty’s fraught: When eyes yearn, then spirit’s stressed, Resolve’s undone by soul’s unrest. It is not right for priests to burn so. It is Gentle Hop you spurn so.


Endeavor Ends To be downdaunted lies my lot, these ventures Thwarted. My Deutschland dear, called queer and crude, All-reading-eye-unfathomed, misconstrued— I wave red rag and yield now to all censures. Better, I deem, to disavow that reaching, Bold-better! to obey the canon’s bell, Abide the hairshirt, self-scourge in cold cell— For all abhor my poems and my preaching. And yet, shall I, do dare I, Lord, stay firm, Not let despair untwist fine strands of flash in me, Not feed my lines to the sepulchral worm? They kindle—do they not?—the arid ash in me. I cede them hence to Thee, warder theirs, and germ. Ah, am I stallion-swift still, is there dash in me?


A Pool So Pitch Black Liverpool

Soot-stained, soil-spoiled, spit-smeared, scandalous, | bleary, bituminous, tremendous Squalor reigns in gríme’s crámmed | hub-of-all, hole-ofall, hell-of-all slum Where blow-billow smokestacks blot black the sky, | where scurvid and starving and dissolute come, Haste; here dreariest mars, manmars, | mars manifest, rend-torment us, Sin-sullying ever. Foul filth, | its essence is all around, its moulder is at a bloom, as-pray or aflood, within-all, withal; | full and fell sour the mash is—scum A heart-withering, God-smothering | crust now. Gloom, you have me hum So: Vile taint oozes through us, me rather, | seeps, weeps a steady pus. Lonely in swarmdense frenzied parish | I tell in highstrung futile pulpit Gospel I waver on. Mary immaculate, | fond mother of me, how shall I last This dismal, drained, feigned, spite-soul-reinèd duty! | Given in gold cup, rank gall, I gulp it.


What’s hope this spell but lark-caged and throat-slashed | or heart’s wimpling wing held fast By gross glue. And more must, as O massive, | as O blind lionjaws hungrily pulp it. Carrier-witted I once was, lit by, alit by, stirred by | mild dove but He quavered and passed.


To His Portraitist Of late I’ve become Haggard and frail Dull-eyed, careworn, though the hair is fair, And couple-coloured some. Longer in tooth Squatter in spine— ‘T’would be a counterfeit most benign To paint me in youth.


The Lingering Out These years all flashed and spent, world without event, while without recompense! What shape of man is he whose missteps wreck so, trick his stable strides, Whose every sally’s sullied by failure, fully the slender ones swords in sides. As now a last poem bleeds from my poor pen, inkleaking, in trickling tides. Contagion!: I fail once more, I am prey of a (pray for me) base pestilence, Typhus, borne that way we know, sewer-surgèd foam, on a foam it rides: Disease, a deggèd doggèd thing, a thievery, a keeper also; it abides. I succumb to it. Ah, here is a grace perhaps, here is a lovely providence. This being sick, it assuages the mind, it rests the spirit its futile exploits. Father, brother that is, light the beeswax, tender me extreme anoints, Untie me at last, for there are, have been alway, heavy irons binding me. I am happy, so happy! Me, no one, wayward one, me He appoints


And I am happy: simple, ample word I utter at last. Who there, what there? Who points? What hand is that, whose cordial open palm? Whose finger, finally finding me?


Just One More

A Bonus “Imitation”


Carnal Beauty Glory be to God for fleshly things— For thighs like pliant earthloam under working plow. For “those”-moles pushing upward out of secret rim. Fresh-creamroll buttock-mounds: pinches bring! Skinscape hairless or fleeced—fold, fulling, and brow. And all breasts, their dear and dangle and brim. All things female, labial; male, aswing. Whatever is yeasty, juicy (you know how)— With deft, soft, sweet, brash and dazzling whim, They fuse; it’s a holy, ordering thing. Praise them.


The Hopkins Sequence  

Poems based on the life of Gerard Manley Hopkins and written in his style by Kate Bernadette Benedict

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