The Contemplative Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins

The Contemplative Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins

MARIA R. LICHTMANN
Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 242
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zv7p3
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Contemplative Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins
    Book Description:

    In 1989, the centenary of his death, Gerard Manley Hopkins continues to provoke fundamental questions among scholars: what major poetic strategy informs his work and how did his reflections on the nature of poetry affect his writing? While form meant a great deal to Hopkins, it was never mere form. Maria Lichtmann demonstrates that the poet, a student of Scripture all his life, adopted Scripture's predominant form--parallelism--as his own major poetic strategy. Hopkins saw that parallelism struck deep into the heart and soul, tapping into unconscious rhythms and bringing about a healing response that he identified as contemplation. Parallelism was to him the perfect statement of the integrity of outward form and inner meaning.

    Other critics have seen the parallelism in Hopkins's poems only on the auditory level of alliterations and assonances. Lichtmann, however, builds on the views held by Hopkins himself, who spoke of a parallelism of words and of thought engendered by the parallelism of sound. She distinguishes the integrating Parmenidean parallelisms of resemblance from the disintegrating Heraclitean parallelisms of antithesis. The tension between Parmenidean unity and Heraclitean variety is resolved only in the wordless communion of contemplation. This emphasis on contemplation offers a corrective to the overly emphasized Ignatian interpretation of Hopkins's poetry as meditative poetry. The book also makes clear that Hopkins's preference for contemplation sharply differentiates him from his Romantic predecessors as well as from the structuralists who now claim him.

    Originally published in 1989.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5998-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-6)

    In the years since Robert Bridges’ publication of the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins,¹ scholarship has grown immensely in its understanding of Hopkins’ genius. Yet, scholars and students have continued to ask the questions, what major strategy informs Hopkins’ oeuvre and how did his own reflections on poetry affect his writing of it? It is obvious both that form meant a great deal to him and that it was never mere form. To provide some answers to these questions I have concentrated on the interplay between form and spirit, between parallelism and contemplation, in Hopkins’ poetics and poetry. I examine...

  5. CHAPTER 1 “Exquisite Artifice”: Parallelism in Hopkins’ Poetics
    (pp. 7-60)

    Hopkins continually turned to parallelism as his point of departure for discussing poetry.¹ As an undergraduate at Oxford (1863–1867), a teacher at John Henry Newman’s Edgbaston Oratory (1867–1868), and a Jesuit teacher of rhetoric at the Roehampton Novitiate (1873–1874), he explicitly invoked parallelism in constructing his poetics. Sprung rhythm, the prosodic innovation Hopkins singled out in what Bridges titled the “Author’s Preface,”² does not exhaust his poetics, as his essays and notes, written over a ten-year span, attest. In light of these essays, we must come to see chiming, alliteration, assonance, and sprung rhythm as aspects of...

  6. CHAPTER 2 “Meaning Motion”: Parallelism in The Wreck of the Deutschland, Part the First
    (pp. 61-99)

    When one turns from Hopkins’ critical theory to his actual poetry, especially toThe Wreck of the Deutschland,the first poem to break his seven-year self-imposed silence as a poet, one may well ask, How much, if at all, does his literary theory influence his own writing of poetry? How much, therefore, do his thoughts about parallelism inform his own poetry? Almost anyone who reads his essays, his letters, and his spiritual writings would concur with the early reaction to the publication of his prose writings—his work is all of a piece. Indeed, his own thought, whether expressed in...

  7. CHAPTER 3 “Thoughts Against Thoughts”: Antithesis in Hopkins’ Sonnets
    (pp. 100-128)

    The notion of antithesis pervades the thought of Gerard Manley Hopkins. If we are to understand him fully, we must recognize the antithetical character of his anthropology, his cosmology, and his poetics. His vision of human nature and even of the perfect human, Christ, is marked by this antithesis. In an 1865 essay, speaking of Wordsworth as a contradiction to the spirit of the age rather than its representative, he states:

    It is these contrasts and disparities which give complexity and interest to the lives or writings of great thinkers so clearly beyond what they would otherwise have had, making...

  8. CHAPTER 4 “The Ecstasy of Interest”: Contemplation as Parallelism’s Praxis
    (pp. 129-169)

    Hopkins wrote parallelisms of resemblance and of antithesis into his poems to integrate and to disintegrate them, at times stretching their unity to the breaking point. As their unity recedes, the reader exercises an “energy of contemplation” to recapture it. This very experience of discovering a hidden wholeness amid apparent diversity and entropy was Hopkins’ own experience in the contemplation of nature. His attentiveness to the most minute aspects of nature, its lucent green wheat, moonlight dropping on treetops like blue cobwebs, the sea’s “walking wavelets edged with fine eyebrow crispings,” is contemplation. And the awe and astonishment that accompany...

  9. CHAPTER 5 “And But the Beholder”: Contemplation in Hopkins’ Poetry
    (pp. 170-214)

    Contemplation as a mode of response to nature afforded Hopkins the moment of recovery of the unity nearly lost to Heraclitean flux. In the same way, the “energy of contemplation” as a response to his poems was intended to resolve into the unity of paradox the “wider antithesis” left unresolved at the end of many of Hopkins’ poems. Here is the recuperative moment of Hopkins’ aesthetics, the moment when the unity that has receded into the framework of the poem, and has been pointed to by the parallelisms, becomes once again attainable. The poems invite a return, however, no longer...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 215-224)
  11. Index
    (pp. 225-231)