There lives the dearest freshness

National Poetry Month, Day 11  //  We’re well into spring here in Western New York. Even the occasional snow that falls – it has now retreated to the higher elevations – may protest but can’t forestall the shift of seasons. Morning birdsong entering through slightly open bedroom windows is as likely to awaken us as is the alarm clock. Throughout the neighborhood, emerging spears of green and fresh earthworm castings are commonplace sightings on our increasingly long walks with the dogs. “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts,” Rachel Carson wrote in Silent Spring. “There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” Our spirits sigh with relief.

That nature renews itself perennially is for me a sign of hope. If we humans would commit ourselves to first doing no harm, and if we would quit the harm we are doing now, I have no doubt that nature would heal itself, its force for renewal is that strong. Compensating for the damage we have done would, no doubt, take decades longer than the lifespan of anyone living today. And the promise of renewal is no promise that nature would be restored to its previous state. But scars of the damage we have inflicted would be folded into a new if very different wholeness.

In the meantime, signs of nature’s persistent renewal abound, even in winter’s stubborn retreat. “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote in one of my poem-scriptures; “nature is never spent; / There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.” I hope it reminds you, as it reminds me, to look with fresh eyes at the brand-new things God is doing in the world.

“God’s Grandeur,” by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1899)

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


One comment

  1. […] nothing like the “shining from shook foil” that George Manley Hopkins describes in “God’s Grandeur.” Annie Dillard writes that nature “conceals with a grand nonchalance” and that vision “is […]

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