Monday, November 21, 2005

Thou art indeed just

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Justus quidem tu es, Domine, si disputem tecum;
verumtamen justa loquar ad te: Quare via impiorum
prosperatur? &c.

Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners' ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?

Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,

Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now, leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes

Them; birds build -- but not I build; no, but strain,
Time's eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

* * *

Another of Hopkins's darker poems. Here he expresses frustration that, while secular poets find success, he "breeds not one work that wakes."

I had this discussion with a friend a week or so ago: Why do sinners' ways prosper? Why is it that we who love God suffer, while it seems those who don't care about Him never have to do anything hard?

Oddly enough, I think the answer is in the theology paper I just finished. It was about the sections of the Song of Songs in which the bridegroom hides from the bride. My conclusion was that God hides to make us seek Him, to inflame our desire to find Him, and to lead us out of ourselves. Suffering is a gift God gives us for our purification, while He does not give it to the wicked, for they will not let it purify them.

And in the end, Hopkins wrote many works that wake, while most of his contemporaries are long since forgotten. And on a higher level, he is probably shining like the sun in the kingdom of the Father, thankful now that he spent, sir, life upon His cause.

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