Why Hopkins’ Poetry?

Back to Beauty’s Giver and The Golden Echo

by Richard Austin

Gerard Manley Hopkins by Forshaw and Coles, albumen carte-de-visite, 1880, from the National Portrait Gallery in London.The main reason to perform Hopkins’ poetry is that this was what the poet himself so obviously wanted. He wrote:

 “…poetry, the darling child of speech, of lips and spoken utterance…must be spoken; till it is spoken it is not performed, it does not perform, it is not itself. Sprung rhythm gives back to poetry its true soul and self.”

Both my titles are adapted from ‘The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo’ –

“Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God, beauty’s self and beauty’s giver.”

In September 1883 Hopkins gave his verses over into the keeping of God:

“I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions, not to preserve them from being lost, or coming to nothing, for that I am very willing that they should…that he would have them as his own and employ or not employ them as he would see fit. And this I believe is heard.”

We know from Gerard’s letters that he wanted his work to be “followed up” and that he wished for there to be a “record” of what he termed “fine spoken utterance”. “The phonograph may give us one,” he wrote. We have employed the latest digital technology to create just such a record.

None of Hopkins’ poetry was published in his lifetime but he died still believing that there was a chance that his work might do the good in the world that he always hoped it could: “…since, as Solomon says, there is a time for everything, there is nothing that does not some day come to be, it may be that the time will come for my verses.”

The few friends who read the poems in his lifetime, including Robert Bridges, returned to him an Echo that was largely Leaden in nature. My heartfelt wish is to be his “Golden Echo” and hence the naming of my website: www.goldenecho.ca

I first encountered Gerard’s poems when I was very young and I have grown up with them. His work has had a tremendous impact on my life. This project is my way of giving back: Back to Beauty’s Giver.

-Richard Austin

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