04 October 2014

Nota Bene: Hopkins

Reading a so-so book is suddenly worthwhile when one learns something new about one's favorite poet.

Kenny, Anthony: God and Two Poets. Arthur Hugh Clough and Gerard Manley Hopkins. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1988. p. 93

"This poem {Barnfloor and Winepress} was one of the last written by Hopkins as an Anglican. The richness of its allusive use of the Authorized Version caused him some problems when he became a Roman Catholic, because of the Catholic prohibition on using vernacular versions of the Bible which had not been made from the Latin Vulgate. In January 1867 he promised to send a copy of the poem to his friend E.W. Urquhart. By 15 August he had still not sent it, and he explained in a letter:

"Such an absurd little hindrance prevents my sending you... there are quotations or quasi-quotations from the Bible and I must check them by the Douay before I can reproduce the verses, but a Douay I have not got." (L, III:41)

The result was that he thoroughly recast the poem, though he admitted in a later letter that as a version of the Bible the Douay was inferior to the Authorized Version.
The embarrassment of feeling obliged by ecclesiastical law to make use of an English version which he knew to be inferior may be one reason why, in Hopkins's Catholic poetry, allusions to the Bible are rarer, and less explicit, than they were in his Anglican poetry. Another reason... is that sacramental symbolism and liturgical language became for his, as vehicles for the expression of religious emotion, more important than the language of either the Old or the New Testaments."

This "later letter" is dated 21 August 1867 and appears on p. 28 of my copy of Further Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins... edited with notes and introduction by Claude Colleer Abbott. Oxford U. Press, 1938.

"About Barnfloor and W.--the Douay is of course an inferior version but the differences we. mostly likely be unimportant and I shd. like the thing to be correct. However I will bring it: I have thoroughly recast it."

I am, perhaps, too emotionally involved with GMH. It breaks my heart that he never got to read The Jerusalem Bible which is one of my favorite versions, especially for the Psalms and other poetic passages.

I am also well aware of the frustrations of working with a church who prefers what I consider and "inferior version." I really, really hate the NIV.

No comments: