Literature: GMH’s Binsey Poplars

I just returned from a long weekend visiting my folks in Louisville, Kentucky. In Kentucky, tobacco is a major cash crop, bourbon is the beverage of choice, and green hills roll along like ocean waves. Being there reminded me of the contrast between the mountains I live in now and these wide-open spaces from my younger days. Mountains are amazing, sublime spaces, but sometimes I feel cramped living in a tight valley. The rolling hills and horse farms surrounding Louisville felt vast, and being there gave me some room to breathe. I also stumbled upon a book of poetry written by Gerard Manley Hopkins on the dresser in my old room, and he seems to express some of my love of these special rural scenes. “Binsey Poplars, felled 1879” struck me as I was already thinking about these things, so I’ll post it here:

MY aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
All felled, felled, are all felled;
Of a fresh and following folded rank
Not spared, not one
That dandled a sandalled
Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.

O if we but knew what we do
When we delve or hew—
Hack and rack the growing green!
Since country is so tender
To touch, her being só slender,
That, like this sleek and seeing ball
But a prick will make no eye at all,
Where we, even where we mean
To mend her we end her,
When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
Strokes of havoc únselve
The sweet especial scene,
Rural scene, a rural scene,
Sweet especial rural scene.

Hopkins, Gerard Manley. Poems. London: Humphrey Milford, 1918;, 1999. [December 15, 2009].


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