Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Gerard Manley Hopkins. Binsley Poplars

The Jesuit priest/poet Gerard Manley Hopkins is remembered for his exquisite use of language and the depth of his poetic regard. Binsley Poplars was written in 1879 in response to his shocking discovery that a favourite stand of aspen trees which he had long enjoyed during his days at Oxford had fallen to the axe. At another level, the poem is a lament for the destruction of the natural world without thought for the beauties that it holds and without regard for the blighting of the landscape itself and of our minds when we behold such devastation.

Hopkins is acutely aware of the irreversibility of such assaults upon the natural world, and laments the loss to future generations of the mystic entrancement evoked by scenes of natural beauty.

Though written over 130 years ago, Binsley Poplars is presciently anthemic of the present day Green movement and of environmentalism more generally.

The music that accompanies this piece was written and performed (multi-track) by Nico Di Stefano


Binsley Poplars can be streamed using the media player above. A CD quality mp3 audio file is available for download here.

The Poem

Binsley Poplars

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