Friday, 4 May 2012

May: Gerard Manley Hopkins

Hopkins wrote more than one poem about the Blessed Virgin Mary and the month of May. 'Ad Mariam' is perhaps the least well known, partly because there are some doubts about its attribution.

Given the weather we've been having in the UK, I particularly like the second stanza. But the final one is great as well!

Ad Mariam

When a sister, born for each strong month-brother,
   Spring's one daughter, the sweet child May,
Lies in the breast of the young year-mother
   With light on her face like the waves at play,
Man from the lips of him speaketh and saith,
At the touch of her wandering wondering breath
Warm on his brow: lo! where is another
   Fairer than this one to brighten our day?

We have suffered the sons of Winter in sorrow
   And been in their ruinous reigns oppressed,
And fain in the springtime surcease would borrow
   From all the pain of the past's unrest;
And May has come, hair-bound in flowers,
With eyes that smile thro' the tears of the hours,
With joy for to-day and hope for to-morrow
   And the promise of Summer within her breast!

And we that joy in this month joy-laden,
   The gladdest thing that our eyes have seen,
Oh thou, proud mother and much proud maiden—
   Maid yet mother as May hath been—
To thee we tender the beauties all
Of the month by men called virginal.
And, where thou dwellest in deep-groved Aidenn,
   Salute thee, mother, the maid-month's Queen!

For thou, as she, wert the one fair daughter
   That came when a line of kings did cease,
Princes strong for the sword and slaughter,
   That, warring, wasted the land's increase,
And like the storm-months smote the earth
Till a maid in David's house had birth,
That was unto Judah as May, and brought her
   A son for King, whose name was peace.

Wherefore we love thee, wherefore we sing to thee,
   We, all we, thro' the length of our days,
The praise of the lips and the hearts of us bring to thee,
   Thee, oh maiden, most worthy of praise;
For lips and hearts they belong to thee
Who to us are as dew unto grass and tree,
For the fallen rise and the stricken spring to thee,
   Thee, May-hope of our darkened ways!

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