EH | ET Student
Gerard Manley Hopkins burned all of his early poetry. He was to become a Jesuit priest and he felt that he could not be a poet and a priest; the two passions would not coincide. So he chose what he believed was his most important calling and went to live at St. Bueno’s Theological College in Wales to study and be ordained. He had lived there for about a year when a passenger ship, the SS Deutschland, sank and took many lives. Soon after this tragedy, in the meeting room at St. Bueno’s, Hopkins heard one of the priests remark that someone should write a poem about this event, and Hopkins took that comment as permission to write poetry once more. He wrote a poem called The Wreck of the Deutschland, and thence opened the proverbial floodgates of his poetic inspiration.
Hopkins wrote some of his most jubilant poetry whilst living at St. Bueno’s. He loved Wales and was surrounded by the inspiration of nature there. “The world is charged with the grandeur of God…” he wrote, and “Glory be to God for dappled things…” Hopkins’s lyrical poetry demonstrates the way he saw God in every created thing, and begs the reader to join in that recognition.
I had the privilege of visiting St. Bueno’s, walking the halls Hopkins walked, admiring the gardens Hopkins admired, drinking tea where Hopkins drank tea. I stood in the very room where Hopkins heard the request for a poem about the Deutschland tragedy, where he decided to be a poet once more. Today, those hallway walls are bedecked with Hopkins’s portraits and several of his poems. “As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame…” I read as I strolled through the hall, and I was struck anew with the presence of God in all things, including us, his image, whom he dearly loves. The kingfishers poem ends with a reflection on the image of Christ in people who have accepted his salvation, and I felt a great sense of peace as I myself reflected on that in the same place that Hopkins wrote those words.