Sunday, September 16, 2007


I'm convinced that poetry can only be fully appreciated when it is read out loud. I've often tried to read poetry at home or online, with faltering success. I have a book of Francis Thompson's poetry that sometimes speaks to me. Or Rainer Maria Rilke. But it's not the same as hearing the poem read by a born orator.

I'm also convinced that poetry can only be fully appreciated by those who have endured the crucible of suffering. That seems to explain the reason why I've paused in the poetry section of various bookstores this week, looking for relief, or the right words, or... what? I don't know. But the poems I happened upon have seemed more, well, alive to me these past two weeks.

One of those poems captured something of the spiritual battle that is going on inside of me. It's called Thou Art Indeed Just by the Victorian poet and Jesuit priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins. It's a plea to God, written during a time of deep spiritual depression.

Listen to the poem if you can. Or read it below.

Thou Art Indeed Just

THOU art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?

Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,
Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build—but not I build; no, but strain,
Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

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