Monday, July 02, 2012
Earth, Sweet Earth
Earth, sweet Earth, sweet landscape, with leavés throngHopkins, letter to Richard Watson Dixon (June 25, 1883): "In the sonnet enclosed 'louched' is a coinage of mine and is to mean much the same as slouched, slouching. And I mean 'throng' for an adjective as we use it here in Lancashire."
And louchéd low grass, heaven that dost appeal
To, with no tongue to plead, no heart to feel;
That canst but only be, but dost that long—
Thou canst but be, but that thou well dost; strong
Thy plea with him who dealt, nay does now deal,
Thy lovely dale down thus and thus bids reel
Thy river, and o’er gives all to rack or wrong.
And what is Earth’s eye, tongue, or heart else, where
Else, but in dear and dogged man?—Ah, the heir
To his own selfbent so bound, so tied to his turn,
To thriftless reave both our rich round world bare
And none reck of world after, this bids wear
Earth brows of such care, care and dear concern.
Joseph Wright, English Dialect Dictionary, s.v. throng, sense 7: "adj.. Crowded; pressed for space; numerous; thick..."
Joseph Wright, English Dialect Dictionary, s.v. louch, sense 1:
Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. reave, v.1, sense 2.b: "To rob (a place or district) of goods or valuables by force; to raid" (citing this poem).
In Hopkin's manuscript, Romans 8.19-20 is quoted in the Vulgate, as a sort of motto. Here is Romans 8.19-22, first in English (KJV):
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.then in Latin:
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
19 nam expectatio creaturae revelationem filiorum Dei expectat.I have trouble understanding Hopkin's poem and the Biblical motto he chose for it. J.F.J. Russell wrote A Critical Commentary on Gerard Manley Hopkins's Poems (London: Macmillan, 1971), which is unavailable to me. To my obtuse mind, it's sometimes helpful to disentangle the word order and paraphrase the meaning. A simplistic and ham-fisted approach to those who are more sophisticated and sensitive, I'm sure, but one which I'll try here.
20 vanitati enim creatura subiecta est non volens sed propter eum qui subiecit in spem,
21 quia et ipsa creatura liberabitur a servitute corruptionis in libertatem gloriae filiorum Dei.
22 scimus enim quod omnis creatura ingemescit et parturit usque adhuc.
The first four lines I take to be an address to the Earth:
"Earth, sweet earth, sweet landscape, full of leaves and low, drooping grass, you appeal to Heaven, despite your lack of a tongue to speak and a heart to feel. You can only be, which you have done for a long time."The next four lines continue the direct address to Earth:
"You can do nothing but exist, but you do that well. Strong is your complaint against man, who has in the past placed your lovely dale in subjection and continues to do so now. He also commands your river to reel and gives everything over to rack and ruin."I hesitantly interpret "deal down" to mean "place in subjection." The meaning of the verb "reel" here is also unclear to me, because I don't know the history of the River Ribble. Was it dammed (OED s.v. reel, sense 4: " Of an army, rank, line of battle, etc.: to waver, give way, draw back")? Or was its flow somehow obstructed and caused "to whirl or wheel around; to go with a whirling or rolling motion; to spin or appear to spin" (OED s.v. reel, sense 1.a), perhaps by placement of a waterwheel that drove a mill?
The final sestet seems to mean something like the following:
"What else, or where else, are Earth's eye, tongue, or heart, unless in man, dear and greedy as he is? [God's] heir, man is so attached to his crooked self, so trapped in his vicissitudes, that he wastefully strips bare our rich round world and cares nothing about that world's future. So he forces Earth's brow to furrow with worry and concern."For man as God's heir, see Romans 8.16-17:
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.Update: Compare Adam Cooper's paraphrase.