By 19th century Jesuit standards, Gerard Hopkins’s life must have appeared fairly ordinary. Like many Jesuits before and since, he had eccentricities that his contemporaries recorded, more or less affectionately. But his career was normal and unexceptional. Entering the Society as a convert from Anglicanism a year after coming down from Oxford, he followed a normal course of training up till his ordination in 1877. Thereafter he served, without particular distinction, in parishes (notably Oxford and Liverpool) and at Stonyhurst. In 1884, he was seconded to the Irish province, as Professor of Greek at the nascent university college for Catholics. There he died in 1889, aged 44, of typhoid.
Fr Gerard Manley Hopkins S J can perhaps be best described using Winston Churchill s barbed attack on Russia made in a radio broadcast in October Adverts ie
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) was an English poet and convert from Anglicanism. He developed a love of the arts as a young boy, and continued to write and paint all of his life. When he chose to become a Catholic and then enter the Jesuits he destroyed most of his early poetic works, and for his early years as a Jesuit he stopped writing. Following encouragement from one of his Superiors, Hopkins began to write once more and he developed a poetic technique which he described as ‘sprung rhythm’ which he used to particularly good effect to describe nature. His use of language was innovative, employing ancient as well as dialect words, and even inventing new words. He ministered quietly in various schools and parishes in Britain before being sent as Professor of Greek and Hebrew at the newly-established Catholic University in Dublin. Few of Hopkins contemporaries appreciated his poetic gifts and it was only after his death when his friend, Robert Bridges, the Poet Laureate, published a volume of Hopkins work that his genius began to be recognised. He has a plaque in Poets Corner in Westminster Abbey.
1. Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) wrote his poem about the woodlark in 1876. The opening lines of the poem (reproduced below), sung by Belinda Evans, feature as a catchy chorus in the song version of the piece.
I think, on the other side of Gayton Rd and opposite the private Harrow High School, was St Square's Academy. There, boys were discouraged from wearing school caps whilst shortie raincoats and winklepicker shoes became mandatory uniform. Standard, dark blue gaberdine macks and toe-capped shoes were strictly forbidden. Flouting the rules by wearing these provocative garments triggered automatic canings. Smoking in the street, school toilets and on buses was much encouraged; the Headmaster, a hopeless nicotine craver. It is well known that the same gentleman insisted boys should wear what he termed 'woodpecker' shoes. I remember, with my mother, spending a hot, tiring and fruitless Saturday afternoon in Harrow High St searching for the alleged woodpeckers. Puzzled shopkeepers silently shook their heads and courteously suggested we might try other more specialist emporia, in London for instance. With no success we eventually found, to my relief, a woodpecker shoe manufacturer in Dunfermline.
In Gerard Manley Hopkins’ day, woodlarks were common in Wales and England but by the end of the 19th century, the species was in trouble and in some parts of the South West of England had been wiped out, ironically because of their song. So-called ‘bird catchers’ could command a high price for males in good voice.
Rob Watt, ed. Six concordances with wordlists, includes Gerard Manley Hopkins' First Edition, 1918. Also software to make your own concordance.
Sean said: ‘Gerard Manley Hopkins was an acute observer of the natural world, as poet and priest he saw God reflected in the beauty of his creation and sought to celebrate this through his poems. By setting them to music, I hope to bring them to a new audience and with it promote Hopkins’ passion for nature’
Urban legend. As I have said before, Bernie Marchant was very kind to me whilst I was at school( probably because I was Catholic) but he never tried to engage me in the faith at any depth. Many religions impose an obligation on its adherents to proselytise the faith but this is often no more than a theoretical obligation to do so by way of good example. Bernie belonged to that part of Catholicism which is profoundly intellectual and has much in common with the "High Church" of the Church of England. You will recall that when he passed away, I compared him to the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Bernie was intellectually rigorous and pushed me hard at Latin A level.
Sean recorded an album of Hopkins’ poems, entitled ‘The Alchemist’, with soprano singer Belinda Evans in 2005, but they decided to release The Woodlark as a single to coincide with this year’s national survey of the birds – and on the poet’s birthday 28 July.
Well done, Brian Hester. You are showing the way. Just one point on Simpson as a 'good manager'...in my years of Secondary and Primary teaching I wouldn't have got away with promoting only the elite and rubbishing the less academic. Picking up on your biblical quotation...Good Shepherd? Certainly not. I write as one of the sheep. BAA!
Sean O’Leary’s musical adaptation of the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem about the woodlark is also supporting the work of the RSPB, by raising the profile of the problems faced by the species.
Thank you, Graham Cutts, from New Zealand for your flattering comments on the speed of my bowling at cricket, circa 1963. This the first time in my life I have been 'hallowed' (I quote) and is likely to be the last. Actually, it feels quite good being up there with the angels but may take some time getting used to.I was very interested in the second part of your piece that seemed to imply that, after my time, you were invoved with a school soccer club. Have I got this right? It seems very unofficial and definitely unSimpson. Curiously, in 1962, a group of us started a renegade soccer side that caught on like wildfire. It was called Gayton Rovers (my idea as I was, and still am, a dedicated Doncaster Rovers supporter.) Our 'home' pitch was the mud of Kenton Recreation Ground. No showers, only two buckets of cold water kindly supplied by the groundsman. I had tried to persuade the Head of PE, Gordon Underwood, to start a proper team. After all, out of 930 boys only about 100 were involved with Saturday morning School rugger and cross-country. He was mighty negative and off-putting, explaining that if that was the sort of thing I wanted to do I could always leave and go to 'the Secondary Modern down the road.' Not prepared to take 'no' for an answer, we arranged a match against Harrow High School (private) over the road from HCS and beat them 6-3 and 7-1. The next match was played on a Sunday aftenoon, at Kenton, against a Jewish Boys' Youth Club. They were wonderfully kitted out. We wore differently coloured shirts, non-matching socks and shorts. The score ended up 15-0...to us and I remember scoring a double hat-trick from the left wing. After that a Jewish boy, at school, arranged for his father (a tailor) to run up two sets of shirts. These were white with red trimmings (senior team) and white with blue trimmings (juniors.) He charged us two shillings each, at no profit to himself. The red and white was significant as it represented my beloved Doncaster Rovers. However, it proved a life-saver as Underwood soon caught on to what was happening, unofficially, at week-ends. He went absolutely spare with me, in a corridor, when he discovered Tim Rutter, his rugger captain, Middlesex County and ENGLAND U18 had been turning out for us! Tim was an outstanding footballer. I was accused of illicitly using the School's name and playing in school colours (blue and green.) When I explained we played at week-ends, in our own free time, used red and white shirts and called ourselves Gayton Rovers he went potty and threatened (quote) to use 'my guts as garters.' (Now a rather out-dated concept.) Ironically, the rude 'Secondary Modern' comment he had previously made rebounded on him. The next season, 1962-63, two boys joined HCS from...Secondary Modern Schools. They had done well at 'O'Level and came to HCS, for the Sixth Form. We immediately swooped on both...Julian Speed and Stuart Thompson...as they were far better footballers than any of us. Thus, that season we won every single match although only able to play 8 as the 1963 cold winter swept in and took out sport and the rest of the country for abot 12 weeks. There were stirring wins against Harrow Weald Grammar School, Harrow Technical College, Abbotsbury Sec. Mod. and various Youth Clubs. We really proved the point that HCS could so easily have provided official soccer and would have enjoyed great success. It was pure Simpsonian snobbery that prevented such a possibility. Now for names...oddly enough a number of Underwood's rugby aces played when they were available, in Sunday matches...Rod Addington (centre forward), Frank Tyrell (goal), Tim Rutter (inside right)...very old fashioned terminology but this was just pre-Alf Ramsey and Bobby Moore and the boys. Some boys had left the school the year before but came back to play for us...Terry Brigden and Dave Taylor - both of whom ended up refereeing for us which was very helpful, and the excellent Dave Godleman (left half.) Mick Udall, in my own year, played at left back. Our reserve goalkeeper was Roger Bowman, who made a blinding save against Harrow Tech to put us on the road to victory. Up front, we had Graham Reeve and his skills on the right wing and his mate (Geoff?) Thompson at inside right. Tony Arkey scored a pile of goals at centre forward. He and I combined well to lay on goals for each other. I also remember the diminutive Harry Levine, a Spurs supporter, and Jimmy Greaves look-alike but skilled performer. Some of the younger boys got into the senior team, according to availability. Chris Esmond was one of these. Sadly, I can't recall other names and to them I must apologise as we had a very strong set-up, with terrific team spirit. Perhaps any former Gayton Rovers player will write in? It would be good to hear more reminiscences and where they are now. Of course, to play any form of soccer on the School premises was strictly forbidden and some of us were caned for doing so. But punishment failed to stamp it out and ultimately caused us to set up at week-ends, totally untouchable. Because of that, tennis balls were banned in the playground so, in Summer, we had to arrange mad cricket games, at Break, played with a table tennis ball and wooen, twelve inch ruler. Truly, I'm not making this up. This is what it was like in the old regime - but huge fun!