Tuesday, March 09, 2010

National Tree Week poem

This is National Tree Week, and Mr Swift's IIIb CSPE set have planted a mountain ash as their Action Project; see a report on the College site here. So it's appropriate to have as our 61st Poem of the Week one of the great poems about trees, Gerard Manley Hopkins's 'Binsey Poplars'.

As in his poem 'God's Grandeur' (on the Leaving Cert course), Hopkins was well ahead of his time in his concern for our environment (for him, of course, a manifestation of God's presence). He wrote this poem after seeing that trees near Oxford had disappeared. In the words of the biographer Robert Bernard Martin, 'the destruction seemed an emblem of the loss that man inflicts on the planet.'

Poster (above) by Lily Guinness.

'Binsey Poplars', by Gerard Manley Hopkins
felled 1879

My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
All felled, felled, are all felled;

Of a fresh and following folded rank
Not spared, not one

That dandled a sandalled

Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.

O if we but knew what we do
When we delve or hew—
Hack and rack the growing green!

Since country is so tender

To touch, her being so slender,
That, like this sleek and seeing ball

But a prick will make no eye at all,
Where we, even where we mean

To mend her we end her,

When we hew or delve:

After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
Strokes of havoc unselve

The sweet especial scene,

Rural scene, a rural scene,
Sweet especial rural scene.

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