Book #18

As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Gerard Manley Hopkins

As Kingfishers Catch Fire is a selection of Gerard Manley Hopkins' incomparably brilliant poetry, ranging from the ecstasy of 'The Windhover' and 'Pied Beauty' to the heart-wrenching despair of the 'sonnets of desolation'. 

As a literature lover, I pride myself on being able to analyse a piece of text and pick out themes, symbols, plot devices, and subtle 'between the lines' commentary. The fact that I am completely unable to do this with poetry is something I'm embarrassed of, and that I really want to work on. Reading this collection, however, didn't grasp me as much as prose would, and I struggled to motivate myself to finish the fifty pages. Maybe poetry just isn't for me.

Hopkins was a priest, so there's a lot of religious rambling going on in the poems. He also refers a lot to the beauty of nature and the benefits of enjoying this.  I found I could understand some of the poems, maybe five or six or so, but the rest utterly confused me.

It seems futile for me to continue with this review, given that I totally missed the point of the poetry, and came away feeling ignorant and underwhelmed. I'll leave you with my favourite one, which had me thinking a lot about people who come and go from your life:

The Lantern Out of Doors

Sometimes a lantern moves along the night,
That interests our eyes. And who goes there?
I think; where from and bound, I wonder, where,
With, all down darkness wide, his wading light?

Men go by me whom either beauty bright
In mould or mind or what not else makes rare;
They rain against our much-thick and marsh air
Rich beams, till death or distance buys them quite.

Death or distance soon consumes them: wind
What most I may eye after, be in at the end
I cannot, and out of sight is out of mind.

Christ minds: Christ's interest, what to avow or amend
There, eyes them, heart wants, care haunts, foot follows kind,
Their ransom, their rescue, and first, fast, last friend.