Tuesday Poem: Inversnaid by Gerard Manley Hopkins

This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fawn-froth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, fell-frowning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry hearthpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness?  Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 - 1889)

I love Gerard Manley Hopkins' poetry and I thought this one was quite a suitable Tuesday poem for someone about to go out into the wet and the wildness of extreme north west Canada.

One of the things I love about this poem is Hopkins' use of unusual words, some of  his own making, but some of them dialect terms.  I've been reading Robert McFarlane's book 'Landmarks', about the relationship between language and landscape.   Where now do you hear 'degged', 'flitches', 'twindles'? My father used the word 'degged'  or 'dagged' when talking about sheep fleeces.  'Braes' and 'burns' are Scottish, but 'fells' are Viking-speak - definitely from my own home territory in Cumbria.  The rivers and streams are 'horseback brown' here too at the moment, all roaring down to the sea.

Gerard Manley Hopkins was one of the writers who recorded an account of the 'Krakatoa Sunsets' - the amazing visual effects of the gigantic explosion of the Krakatoa volcano in 1883.  It was both poetic and scientifically exact - published in Nature magazine and you can read it here. 

The Tuesday Poets are an international group who all try to post a poem every Tuesday and take it in turns to edit the main website.  Why not click on this link and take a look at what the other Tuesday Poets are posting?


  1. Thanks Kathleen ...a wonderful post. I've never taken much notice of Gerard's poetry but he has a gift which I envy. I've always thought nature was so difficult to portray without using cliches but he makes it come alive.

  2. One of the less well-known Hopkins poems: good to read it again today.


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