How do you solve a problem like Gerard Manley Hopkins?
August 21, 2006 2:37 PM   Subscribe

The poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins set to music. Demo list here. It's a pity they haven't adapted my favourite poem, Spring and Fall, although it's pretty exciting to hear Hopkins's poetry which I studied at school, presented in this format, especially since he was already trying to create a kind of music using the rhythms of the words. On a random note, featuring the vocal talents of Belinda Evans who was recently voted off the BBC's Saturday night tv extravaganza, How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?. Her blog is here. [via]
posted by feelinglistless (17 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Huh! Hopkins has been a secret guilty joy of mine since I first read The Windhover, and I was sad to not see that in the demo list. I can understand why though, and why this project might just not work - his "sprung" verse is so tricky and folded and flowing in wierd ways, I could see it feeling really forced as a song.

Nonetheless, the "Glory to God for dappled things" as a Gospel song was inspired, and seemed to come off alright in the 5 second clip. Many poets don't translate well to song, but I'll withold judgement - besides, I'm just stoked that someone else out there likes ol' G. Manly.
posted by freebird at 2:48 PM on August 21, 2006

Mine, O Lord of Life
Send my roots rain.

-Big Up to GMH-
posted by isopraxis at 2:55 PM on August 21, 2006

Ah - I take it back, The Windhover *is* on the album, just not on the samples...rereading it, I'm intrigued by how it could be set to music!

—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!
posted by freebird at 3:19 PM on August 21, 2006

freebold -- my other email address is springandfall -- and this is why...
posted by feelinglistless at 3:41 PM on August 21, 2006

freebird -- my other email address is springandfall -- and this is why...
posted by feelinglistless at 3:42 PM on August 21, 2006

> his "sprung" verse is so tricky and folded and flowing in wierd ways, I could
> see it feeling really forced as a song.

Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.

freebird (or anyone), how do you accent the "Sorrow's springs" line?
posted by jfuller at 4:23 PM on August 21, 2006

It's funny, freebird, Hopkins is a guilty pleasure of mine. Funny, being as how he was so religious. Thanks for the link, feelinglistless!
posted by frecklefaerie at 4:35 PM on August 21, 2006

The Bartleby version has what I take to be accent marks:
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
which is pretty close to what I hear in my head, though I'd have the emphasis just on "Sorrow's" and "are" I think. Now I need to go reread the whole thing outloud to hear it in context - for some reason declaiming sprung-rhythm victorian-modernist nature poetry in my cube really freaks out my fellow engineers, and it must needs await my return to Ithaca.
posted by freebird at 5:10 PM on August 21, 2006

Good to see that my favorite GMH, Heaven-Haven, is on the track list.

I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow...

Of all his stuff, it'd probably work best as a song.
posted by Iridic at 5:36 PM on August 21, 2006

*cue beatboxing and wiki-wiki-wiki sample*

"Brute beauty and valour and act, HUH!
air totha pride totha plume, here Buckle!"

posted by freebird at 5:42 PM on August 21, 2006

cool! Thanks!
posted by blahblahblah at 6:40 PM on August 21, 2006

Incidentally, The Alchemist (O'Leary) sounds straight from a Nick Cave albumn.
posted by blahblahblah at 6:42 PM on August 21, 2006

What is all this juice and all this joy over Hopkins? I share it, I am a closet Hopkins fan, too - it's so nice to finally find *my people*!

Stellar post, feelinglistless, great finds - thank you. Spring & Fall is also my favorite, followed closely by Pied Beauty. "Glory be to God for dappled things" - what a wonderful sentiment. I am sure I appreciate dappled things and take joy in them more just for having known that poem.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:37 PM on August 21, 2006

jfuller, if one were to put it in musical notation, I generally read it as two quarter notes followed by a triplet of quarter notes. "Sorrow's" and "springs" are more measured, and the emphasis in "sorrow's" is on the first syllable; each word in "are the same" goes by slightly faster, with emphasis on the "are."

Very disappointed by the version of "I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark, Not Day." It's far too mild; the poem itself is such a devestating poem. It's not a wistful sort of sadness at all.
posted by ubersturm at 9:02 PM on August 21, 2006

I've been holding my tongue since 0 comments, but this is my first exposure to Hopkins (sorry!) and this has to be by far the worst musical rendition, of anything I've ever heard. Ever

Really. Really. Really really. Really really really really really. Bad. Really bad. Bad bad really bad.


Perhaps I'd enjoy Hopkins had this not been my first exposure, and I promise to seek his out his prose at a later date when I don't feel so violated by the obscene vibrato or the terribly formulaic harmonics.

In short, perhaps an amazing poet, but some really terribly shitty singers.
posted by crunchyk9 at 11:47 PM on August 21, 2006

Yikes! That's some crap music!

I feel bad for you, crunchyk9, because now you might forever associate Hopkins with that shite semi-country&western, semi-fiddlydiddly music. Just walk away and pretend this thread never happened. That's what I'm going to do.
posted by pracowity at 12:18 AM on August 22, 2006

I prefer Hopkins's earlier poems. They can be hard to find, since some of them were about his love for another Oxford student and he didn't want them distributed. An example:

The Beginning of the End

My love is lessened and must soon be past.
I never promised such persistency
In its condition. No, the tropic tree
Has not a charter that its sap shall last

Into all seasons, though no Winter cast
The happy leafing. It is so with me:
My love is less, my love is less for thee.
I cease the mourning and the abject fast,

And rise and go about my works again
And, save by darting accidents, forget.
But ah! if you could understand how then

That less is heavens higher even yet
Than treble-fervent more of other men,
Even your unpassion'd eyelids might be wet.


I must feed Fancy. Show me any one
That reads or holds the astrologic lore,
And I'll pretend the credit given of yore;
And let him prove my passion was begun

In the worst hour that's measured by the sun,
With such malign conjunctions as before
No influential heaven ever wore;
That no recorded devilish thing was done

With such a seconding, nor Saturn took
Such opposition to the Lady-star
In the most murderous passage of his book;

And I'll love my distinction: Near or far
He says his science helps him not to look
At hopes so evil-heaven'd as mine are.


You see that I have come to passion's end;
This means you need not fear the storms, the cries,
That gave you vantage when you would despise:
My bankrupt heart has no more tears to spend.

Else I am well assured I would offend
With fiercer weepings of these desperate eyes
For poor love's failure than his hopeless rise.
But now I am so tired I soon shall send

Barely a sigh to thought of hopes forgone.
Is this made plain? What have I come across
That here will serve me for comparison?

The sceptic disappointment and the loss
A boy feels when the poet he pores upon
Grows less and less sweet to him, and knows no cause.
posted by amber_dale at 7:44 AM on August 22, 2006

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