Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Starlight Night

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

LOOK at the stars! look, look up at the skies!
O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!
The bright boroughs, the circle-citadels there!
Down in dim woods the diamond delves! the elves’-eyes!
The grey lawns cold where gold, where quickgold lies!
Wind-beat whitebeam! airy abeles set on a flare!
Flake-doves sent floating forth at a farmyard scare!—
Ah well! it is all a purchase, all is a prize.

Buy then! bid then!—What?—Prayer, patience, aims, vows.
Look, look: a May-mess, like on orchard boughs!
Look! March-bloom, like on mealed-with-yellow sallows!
These are indeed the barn; withindoors house
The shocks. This piece-bright paling shuts the spouse
Christ home, Christ and his mother and all his hallows.

* * *

This is the ideal poem to recite while walking back from the chapel beneath the stars, prayerbook in hand and dewy grass on bare feet . . . one of my favourite things to do.

The images here are so bright, so brilliant: fire-folk, elves' eyes, diamond mines, white flowers in springtime--images piled up one after the other so fast you can barely breathe between them.

The sestet is more confusing, and I'm not quite sure I understand it. But I think that the stars are compared to a great treasure, bought with prayer, stored up like shocked wheat in a barn. Then it seems the stars are the barn, the fence (paling) that holds heaven behind it. Think of the stars as a lattice, barely obscuring the glories of heaven.

Go out! Look at the stars! Isn't it true?

1 comment:

Seer Iavian said...

I can take a guess at what the set is... The stable at Bethlehem, with the star of the magi shining down upon it. The prize... I'm not quite as sure, but I'd wager that it is the Christ Child Himself.
This is a really lovely poem Sheila!