The Holy Ghost and Gerard Manley Hopkins

…the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.
“God grandeur”

This year the feast of Pentecost falls on the anniversary of the death of the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins on June 8, 1889.

Holy Spirit window, St. Peter's, the Vatican

Holy Spirit window, St. Peter’s, the Vatican

“God’s grandeur” is one of my favorite poems, celebrating the presence of God in the world. It is also a poem with a very ecological flavor.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God

But Hopkins laments what we humans have done to the earth

And all is seared with trade: bleared, smeared with toil;
And wear’s man’s smudge and shares man’s smell…

We have even forgotten how to experience the earth:

    …the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

Yet Hopkins maintains hope

And for all this, nature is never spent;
     There lives the dearest freshness deep down things

How can this be?

      Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
            World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

The Spirit of God renews the face of the earth, renews us, and offers us hope. There is a freshness – the dearest freshness – deep down things – if we would open our hearts.

No wonder the last words of Gerard Manley Hopkins, after a life filled with melancholy, were

I am so happy!

The full text of the poem can be found here.

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2 responses to “The Holy Ghost and Gerard Manley Hopkins

  1. Jeff, That is a great story. I once met Dave Dellinger – on a peace march in Vermont. I also had appreciated his writings. It’s great to know that Hopkins inspired him.

  2. jeff colledge

    Hi John, Whenever I see or hear this poem I’m reminded of a story. In 1987 I was on trial for 6 weeks in Washington, DC with a group of people who had been arrested in the Capitol Rotunda for protesting against contra aid in 1986. A member of the group was Dave Dellinger. One day before trial, meeting in a room in the courthouse, I don’t remember how it came up, he said was an agnostic, and then proceded to recite, from memory, the entire poem. It was very impressive. Date: Sun, 8 Jun 2014 12:36:55 +0000 To: jeffcolledge@hotmail.com

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