Sunday, February 26, 2006

As Kingfishers Catch Fire . . .

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.

Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

* * *

This sonnet of Hopkins is rather metaphysical. First he deals with creation: what is creation's goal, its end? Each creature is what it does (agitur sequitur esse): it fulfills its purpose and is nothing more.

Man, on the other hand, is more. He is the same as the creatures in that he also fulfills his purpose -- but when he fulfills his purpose, he is so much more than just a man. Since Christ became man, when man is what he ought to be, he is like Christ. This is pleasing to the Father far above anything a kingfisher or a dragonfly could ever do.

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