I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark, Not Day

Anguish

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.
What hours, O what black hours we have spent
This night! what sights you, heart, saw; ways you went!
And more must, in yet longer light’s delay.

With witness I speak this. But where I say
Hours I mean years, mean life. And my lament
Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent
To dearest him that lives alas! away.

I am gall, I am heartburn. God’s most deep decree
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me;
Bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse.

Selfyeast of spirit a dull dough sours. I see
The lost are like this, and their scourge to be
As I am mine, their sweating selves; but worse.

So sorry for the somber tone again today!  It is Lent, after all, so this poem seemed appropriate even though it’s hard to be too serious under warm blue skies filled with fluffy clouds. 

White clouds in a blue sky

Hopkins is truly one of my favorite poets in spite of the challenge his poems pose.  Maybe that’s partly why I like them so much, but I think mostly it’s the alliteration, the unexpected imagery, and the honesty of his emotions.  (Check here and here for some more cheerful bits of his poetry.)

This particular poem was new to me, and while it doesn’t describe where I find myself today, I can understand where he’s writing from…

It’s lines like these that I love,

…my lament
Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent
To dearest him that lives alas! away.

If you’ve ever cherished the chance to write letters (and now emails) to far-off dear ones, what a heart-rending image, “dead letters sent to dearest him [or her] that lives alas! away.”

And haven’t we all felt at some point that we can echo this disgust at our ownselves,

I am gall, I am heartburn. God’s most deep decree
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me;

But buried in the despair of one who wakes to the “fell of dark” is the hope that we can be rescued from “our sweating selves.”

After all, that’s what Lent and Easter are all about…

Find Scripture readings for Lent here.

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