Poetry Friday: 1930

1930 is an exceptionally good year for poetry, especially for two of my all-time favorites.  In 1930, Gerard Manley Hopkins (long since deceased) made his second appearance in the marketplace, as Charles Williams (an Inkling, for those of you who know what that means) released an expanded edition of his poetry that published a few more poems of Hopkins’s that no one had ever seen.  Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Wystan Hugh Auden released his first “real” book (he’d self-published a small edition two years previously) entitled simply Poems.  Auden would go on to write some of the finest poems of the century, and helped create the modernist style (admittedly, few of his imitators have his natural grace and talent).  So, with Hopkins (the incomparable) and Auden (the remarkable) in the mix, I thought it would be good to give you one of Auden’s poems of 1930, in which he attempts Hopkins’s style of “sprung rhythm” and nearly gets it right, in my opinion.  Enjoy this untitled poem from August of 1930:

Doom is dark and deeper than any sea-dingle,
Upon what man it fall
In spring, day-wishing flowers appearing,
Avalanche sliding, white snow from rock-face,
That he should leave his house,
No cloud-soft hand can hold him, restraint by women;
But ever that man goes
Through place-keepers, through forest trees,
A stranger to strangers over undried sea,
Houses for fishes, suffocating water,
Or lonely on fell as chat,
By pot-holed becks
A bird stone-haunting, an unquiet bird.

There head falls forward, fatigued at evening,
And dreams of home,
Waving from window, spread of welcome,
Kissing of wife under single sheet;
But waking sees
Bird-flocks nameless to him, through doorway voices
Of new men making another love.

Save him from hostile capture,
From sudden tiger’s spring at corner;
Protect his house,
His anxious house where days are counted
From thunderbolt protect,
From gradual ruin spreading like a stain;
Converting number from vague to certain,
Bring joy, bring day of his returning,
Lucky with day approaching, with leaning dawn.


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