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Old 11-01-2000, 02:48 PM
Caleb Murdock Caleb Murdock is offline
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In my top-ten list of favorite poems, this one is near the top. This is the kind of poetry I aspire to write, with unusual and beautiful rhythms, a creative use of language, and a gentle, mature message. But it also took me a long time to understand all the lines, especially towards the end.


Spring and Fall: To a Young Child

Márgarét, are you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! BANNED POSTás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow's spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Gerard Manley Hopkins
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Old 11-05-2000, 03:04 AM
Caleb Murdock Caleb Murdock is offline
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Is it possible that I am the ONLY PERSON on this board who likes this poem???
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Old 11-05-2000, 07:43 AM
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RCL RCL is offline
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You're not alone, Caleb. I love this poem, and most of Hopkins. Obviously, though, even to those who know something about "sprung rhythm," this would be a metrical mystery--suggesting, as you have elsewhere, that magic sometimes matters more than meter.
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Old 11-05-2000, 12:15 PM
Richard Wakefield Richard Wakefield is offline
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Caleb, I like it very much, and it's an excellent choice to illustrate the limits of analysis -- or of any analysis we're likely to accomplish in our off-hand, spontaneous discussions. This poem seems to me almost seamless: form and content simply can't be divided. Anything I could say about the form would be post-hoc, that is, descriptive rather than explanatory, although it might also be instructive to those of us seeking ways to express ourselves. The greats discover forms that work. I think that's part of what makes them great. And then, not infrequently, legions of imitators write bad poetry trying to make the magic their own. If someone does manage to mine some more gold from the vein, though, I suppose it's worth the mountains of tailings. Good selection.
Richard
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Old 11-06-2000, 02:04 AM
Caleb Murdock Caleb Murdock is offline
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I guess my reason for posting this poem is obvious to everyone -- I wanted to show that high art can be written without "strict" meter, and that there is value to such art. Hopkins was clearly tuned to his own music, and he imparts it to the poem so stunningly that everyone can see it (which is my eventual goal for myself).

However, I'm also wondering how you all would interpret these lines:

Quote:
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
I think I know what Hopkins means, but I'm not sure.


------------------
Caleb
www.poemtree.com


[This message has been edited by Caleb Murdock (edited 11-06-2000).]
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Old 11-06-2000, 06:08 AM
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Caleb, who knows for sure? The second nor- phrase is a bit confusing, but I take it that as the speaker observes the child's grief, he's assuring himself that at her age it may not have been thought or said to her (or articulated by her?)that she and all things are mortal, but her heart and soul know it instinctively. What do you think?
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Old 11-06-2000, 07:06 AM
Josh Hill Josh Hill is offline
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Caleb,

My take on it is--

Neither speech nor thought had expressed what the heart knew, and the spirit guessed:

I wanted to add my voice to those who think this is a great poem and a good choice for discussion. My main problem is that I have too much to say about it, rather than too little, and that by way of raising questions rather than positing solutions.

As far as the rhythm question is concerned--I don't think there are any rules in poetry, except that if you break one you had better know what you are doing.

Josh
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Old 11-06-2000, 07:37 AM
Josh Hill Josh Hill is offline
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Caleb,

OK, I confess, you have me hooked. I keep sitting here noticing new things about this poem.

It's far more conventional than it looks, really an amalgamation of conventional forms with a few irregularities thrown in. Eight syllable rhymed couplets, with a few exceptions in rhyme and syllable count; the rhetorical form of an English sonnet, with quatrains and couplet, but with an extra line; antsy sprung rhythm, really just a complex meter, and great liberties with syntax and accent.

It's as if Hopkins had said to form and language, "OK, I've had it with your limitations--do what the *poem* wants!"
And it's all very much in keeping with the tendencies of early modernism.

The success of such efforts depended I think on the familiarity of both artist and audience with the traditional forms, and as such I think provides backing for Alan's assertion (which, as I think I've said, I've made many times myself) that whatever form he ultimately chooses, a poet will gain if he first becomes proficient in traditional craft.

And while as I said I love the poem, I have to ask myself whether Hopkins has signed a pact with the devil here--for we start to see the difficulties of form and obscurity that cost serious art its audience--and I can't help but notice that the lines I find most moving are the most conventional and easily parsed.

Josh
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Old 11-06-2000, 08:32 AM
Richard Wakefield Richard Wakefield is offline
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Caleb, I paraphrase the lines as "neither mouth nor mind had expressed what the heart heard and the spirit guessed." The nor / nor form is archaic, where we'd say neither / nor. Of course, if a poem's any good then a paraphrase always falls short. This poem's good, and this paraphrase does. But the lines go right to the heart of your point in posting the poem, I think: they assert that we apprehend things emotionally and spiritually without being able to parse them intellectually, perhaps because they don't originate in intellect.
Richard
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Old 11-06-2000, 02:47 PM
Caleb Murdock Caleb Murdock is offline
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Josh and Richard, I agree with your interpretations of those lines; I just needed to hear it from someone else.

Josh, it's hard to say how conventional the poem is. I can't quite scan it metrically, and I also can't scan it as accentual meter (since the number of accented syllables varies from 2 to 5, though in most cases there are 4). It is clearly a sonnet.

I am ready to concede one point: The more a poet knows, the better he will write. In fact, I've been saying that to free-verse poets for years: Learn meter, and then write free verse, because good free verse uses many of the same techniques. I guess we disagree, however, on what constitutes proficiency in meter. I continue to rebel at the thought of practicing iambs.

But when you suggest that Hopkins allowed the poem to take the form that the <u>poem</u> wanted, then you are supporting my point of view. My feeling is: by all means, write in meter, but don't ignore your instincts, even if your instincts violate the rules. Let the poem have its own life!

I disagree that this poem in any way contributed to the obscurity of poetry in general, or that it cost poetry any of its audience. Except for those two lines quoted above, the poem is very clear. Those two lines present a challenge to the reader, a challenge which most readers, I think, are willing to take up, given that the overall beauty of the poem. I love those lines as much as the rest of the poem. I also tend to prefer the lines with unusual melodies.

One of the reasons I've been so Manichean (as Alan says) on the subject of meter is that I've just reviewed the poetry of two "iambicists". Both are regarded by the formalist community as good poets, but both of them bored me to tears (one more than the other). I think the trend toward metrical rigidity is not good for poetry in general, especially since it was a similar type of Victorian rigidity that gave rise to the Modern movement. I feel that we have an opportunity to do what the early Modernists said they intended to do, but didn't do: loosen the yoke of meter without abandoning it.

One final point: Practicing iambs doesn't necessarily result in the writing of good poetry, if the poetry I've just read is to serve as an example. Sometimes it just results in boring poetry. At least, it is not poetry that I like.

On the other hand, Alan, Tim Murphy, Mike Juster and Rhina Espaillat have all written poetry that I love, so perhaps metrical formality isn't the issue. But I still love the wild rhythmic excursions that Hopkins, Dickinson and even Shakespeare engaged in, and I regret that there isn't room for those excursions in the New Rigidity.

------------------
Caleb
www.poemtree.com


[This message has been edited by Caleb Murdock (edited 11-06-2000).]
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