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CHAPTER 40. G. M. Hopkins

Paul S. Fiddes

Subject Literature, Religion

People Aeschylus

Key-Topics Bible

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131605.2009.00040.x


            He hath abolished the old drouth,             And rivers run where all was dry,             The field is sopp'd with merciful dew.             He hath put a new song in my mouth,             The words are old, the purport new,             And taught my lips to quote this word             That I shall live, I shall not die,             But I shall when the shocks are stored             See the salvation of the Lord. ( Hopkins, 1967 , pp. 18–19) These lines from an early poem by Hopkins (July 1864) foreshadow the way he later draws upon Scripture in poetry soaked in scriptural images and phrases, a style that might well be expected from someone who was first a devout Anglican and then a Jesuit priest. His earlier verse is more explicit about his use of the Bible than the later, however, and so provides us with clues as to the way to read all his work. In this poem, for example, Hopkins deliberately draws attention to his use of Scripture to illuminate his own experience – “the words are old, the purport new” – and he immediately quotes “this word” from Psalm 118:17: “I shall not die, but live.” This is the “new song” that God has put in his mouth, a phrase taken from Psalm 40:3. But he also implicitly alludes to another Psalm, 65, in beginning with the picture of the running rivers and the fields sopping with water (Psalm 65:10–13), a reference confirmed when ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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