Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Change & the Comfort of the Resurrection

(from the longer poem "That Nature is a Heraclitean (1) Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection.")

...Vastness blurs and time beats level. Enough! the Resurrection

A heart's clarion (2)! Away grief's grasping, joyless days, dejection.
Across my foundering deck (3) shone
A beacon, and eternal beam. Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; world's wildfire, leave but ash (1):
In a flash, at a trumpet crash (4)
I am all at once what Christ is, since He was what I am, and
this Jack(5), joke poor potsherd, patch(6), matchwood, immortal diamond
Is immortal diamond.(7)
---Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1888


(1) Heraclitus [(c) 535-(c) 475 B.C.); Greek philosopher who taught that the basis of all existence was change or "fire." "Strife" changes fire into water, water into earth, and then the process reversed. Hopkins didn't truly believe this philosophy but used it to symbolize the change of the corrupted nature and of the corrupting body in the grave into something immortal & beautiful (Diamonds also come out of the earth & are processed by fire.)
(2) Clarion--a clear, trumpet-like, beckoning call
(3) Foundering deck: shipwreck as a symbol of death. (Again, the "water.")
(4) Trumpet: borrowed directly from II Corinthians 15:25.
(5) "Jack": common fellow; this name was well-used in England.
(6) Patch (archaic): fool, ninny; also, a detached piece, a make-shift fragment, such as the potsherd Job used to scrape his sores (Job 2:8)
(7) "Immortal Diamond": Hopkins, as a Roman Catholic, believed that people carried the "scintilla", the spark of original good, within themselves, even after Sin entered the world. As a Lutheran, I take the immortal diamond, already there alongside the corrupt things, to be the new person that is created in Christ when the person is saved. (The term "immortal diamond" has also been used as a title for Hopkins himself.)

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