Category Archives: Hopkins

Figs

I thought autumn was coming but summer’s lingering, the sun still has life to give. The berries, apples and pears are ripening of course, and we found a fig tree in the cemetery with its secretive bulbous fruits growing softer to the touch, more and more like breasts, turning from green to mottled purple.

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Uneven time between seasons, quietly dramatic, like the indifferent dramas in the sky between the days and nights.

Later… the sky all swollen greys. Cloudburst. Sodden earth. The water runs like cables along the side of the path and tumbles out of the spout into the rain barrel at the corner of the cottage, reminding me I need to borrow T.’s ladder and clean the gutters.

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Bare branches against a sky the colour of cigarette smoke. Cold damp air. Leaves turning all kinds of colours from grey to auburn.

Autumn: the year’s dusk. The usual sense of slow decline and foreboding. Endless grey skies. How do I get through it this year?

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‘All is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil’ wrote Hopkins from deep inside an industrial England spreading its greyness across the world. ‘And for all this, nature is never spent / There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.’

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We bring home our bounty from the fig tree literally grown out of graves. The fruits are the size of S.’s fist and heavy, their rubbery skin bulging with goodness. We devour two each on the way back, skin and all, ripping open the obscenely red flesh with our teeth and wiping our hands on the grass and our jeans. What was it D.H. Lawrence called them? I look it up: ‘womb-fibrilled.’

The way autumn fruits ripen, come into their own as the weather turns cold and grey and everything else wilts, remember that.

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Carrion comfort

Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Nor untwist – slack they may be – these last strands of man
In me or, most weary, cry, I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.

But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
They wring-earth right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
With darksome devouring eyes my bruised boned? and fan
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?

Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.
Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart, lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, cheer.

Cheer whom though? The hero whose heaven-handling flung me, foot trod
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? that night, that year
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God

— Gerard Manley Hopkins