On Learning that Hopkins Meant to Destroy His Own Poetry

for Diane Ravitch

The great historian of education (and generally great all-round person) Diane Ravitch has written that her favorite poem is one by Gerard Manly Hopkins. So, I wrote this for her, about Hopkins, in Hopkins’s own style. The phrase noli me tangere, in the poem, is the Latin “touch me not,” spoken to Mary Magdalene by the risen Jesus. The line also occurs in Sir Thomas Wyatt’s sonnet “Whoso List to Hunt.” And, importantly for this poem, touch me not is the name of a flower whose seed pods burst, scattering their seeds, when those pods are touched. Hopkins, a Jesuit priest and one of the greatest poets of his generation, worried, as Chaucer did, that his obsession with writing poetry verged on sinful sensuality. LOL.

If a fairy tale begins with a prohibition, you know it’s going to be broken .

The Word was charged anew with the grandeur of Gerard
Hopkins’s bold bald conjugal rhythms that sprang so
springingly sprung across the page and marveling mind
like one of those flowers–noli me tangere—that blows then bursts
raining, dappled, down such confettilike windfall seedpod
images that one might drown in their festive falling,
so scattering round about in lambent Monet-made lily-light
as to make one wonder, bebrindled, seduced, fallen again,
whether to win such a world were worth the fell first fall
after all. Our first father’s, mother’s Eden lost to gain
another. If this be sin, go and sin some more, beautiful brother.

Copyright 2020, Robert D. Shepherd. All rights reserved. For more poetry by Bob  Shepherd, go here: https://bobshepherdonline.wordpress.com/category/poetry/


About Bob Shepherd

interests: curriculum design, educational technology, learning, linguistics, hermeneutics, rhetoric, philosophy (Continental philosophy, Existentialism, metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, epistemology, ethics), classical and jazz guitar, poetry, the short story, archaeology and cultural anthropology, history of religion, prehistory, veganism, sustainability, Anglo-Saxon literature and language, systems for emergent quality control, heuristics for innovation
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