‘Discovering truth in an ever changing landscape’
Today is National Poetry day, a wonderful opportunity for me to reminisce about my time as an English Literature student and share with you one of my favourite English poets Gerard Manley Hopkins (1854–1863)
For many including myself poetry has always been a bit of a mystery. I have long been in awe of anyone who can write poetry and even more so of those who can help others understand the meaning and truth behind the stanzas. Interestingly enough the theme for this year’s poetry day is ‘Truth’.
I remember in the early 90s my English teacher Mr Kenny, passionately introducing me to Hopkins poetry and I have been hooked ever since. There was something in words of this Jesuit priest that struck a chord with me and I very much hope that as you read my chosen autumnal poem you too may feel it stirs something of the truth of life, God and nature in your inner being.
Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
(Gerard Manley Hopkins Penguin Classics 1985)
Pied beauty is a rich poem that highlights the season of autumn and all its imperfections whilst praising God’s natural omnipotence. In the poem Hopkins is able to identify that the beauty of creation comes from a single source – God. So often in life we strive for perfection in ourselves and in those around us and yet as this poem highlights in ‘dappled things’ we only have to look at the sky, animals, plants to see blemishes and flaws. Even looking at the beautiful carpet of conkers surrounding the vicarage garden this morning their deformities and discolorations are clear to see. Amazing!
And then we have the landscape, which often looks like a patchwork quilt intentionally stitched together recently ploughed, temporarily fallow ready for the next season of planting and constantly changing before our eyes.
And so why choose this poem above all the other thousands for my contemplation today. Well because I think it speaks the truth about who God is. ‘He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change’. Quite simply despite the constant chaos and political unrest we are facing as a country right now God remains the same. He is the constant; He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. So no matter the mystery of life or the human imperfections we encounter let us remember that there is one who is perfect, beyond all time, a constant presence in a changing landscape. Discovering the truth about God and all he offers is a personal quest and can be difficult. So in light of this we offer an open invitation to our ‘Christianity Explored’ course starting Monday 14th October 7:30pm in Christ Church Ministry Centre for seven weeks. Come and ask questions and discover more about the God that Gerard Manley Hopkins is praising in this poem!