Thursday, 8 November 2012
These weeds and waters, these walls
Walking through Oxford this morning, I had Gerard Manley Hopkins's description of the city swimming through my memory: 'Towery city and branchy between towers / Cuckoo-echoing, bell-swarmèd, lark-charmèd, rook-racked, river-rounded'... There are no cuckoos and larks in November, but there were, this sunny morning, plenty of towers, branches, rooks and rivers - and many bells, as always. The lines are from Hopkins' poem 'Duns Scotus' Oxford', and as today is the anniversary of the death of Duns Scotus (in 1308), here is the poem, with one or two pictures of his, and Hopkins', and this morning's Oxford.
Towery city and branchy between towers;
Cuckoo-echoing, bell-swarmèd, lark-charmèd, rook-racked, river-rounded;
The dapple-eared lily below thee; that country and town did
Once encounter in, here coped and poisèd powers;
Thou hast a base and brickish skirt there, sours
That neighbour-nature thy grey beauty is grounded
Best in; graceless growth, thou hast confounded
Rural rural keeping—folk, flocks, and flowers.
Yet ah! this air I gather and I release
He lived on; these weeds and waters, these walls are what
He haunted who of all men most sways my spirits to peace;
Of realty the rarest-veinèd unraveller; a not
Rivalled insight, be rival Italy or Greece;
Who fired France for Mary without spot.