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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

May Magnificat via Phatmass?

I really should be translating the Exultet for Latin class, but I think I'll slack off and post Gerard Manley Hopkins instead.

(Bwa ha ha! Only at Christendom could I be so weird and seem so normal... ::accelerated radio anouncer voice mumbles the names of TAC, Steubenville, Ave Maria etc. to preempt the indignant comments::)

I love Hopkins' "May Magnificant," and so does my friend Sheila. However, we have an odd way of showing it.

How could I know that Sheila had such an irreverent streak? This is someone who has memorized all 280 lines of "Wreck of the Deutschland." So I was stunned when she started rapping "May Magnificat" out of the blue one day.

I joined in, and now we will rap it in unison at the slightest provocation.

The May Magnificat

MAY is Mary’s month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season—

Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May,
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honour?

Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?
Is it opportunest
And flowers finds soonest?

Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring?—
Growth in every thing—

Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and greenworld all together;
Star-eyed strawberry-breasted
Throstle above her nested

Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.

All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathising
With that world of good,
Nature’s motherhood.

Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord.

Well but there was more than this:
Spring’s universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May.

When drop-of-blood-and-foam-dapple
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
And thicket and thorp are merry
With silver-surfèd cherry

And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
And magic cuckoocall
Caps, clears, and clinches all—

This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ’s birth
To remember and exultation
In God who was her salvation.

There's something beautifully medieval about the poem:

"Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring?—
Growth in every thing—"

Hopkins has a sort of innocence and un-self-consciousness about his poetry that expresses itself in the most innovative and artful language. One of the wonderful paradoxes of Hopkins.

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