'The Habit Of Perfection' by Gerard Manley Hopkins
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Elected Silence, sing to me
And beat upon my whorlčd ear,
Pipe me to pastures still and be
The music that I care to hear.
Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb:
It is the shut, the curfew sent
From there where all surrenders come
Which only makes you eloquent.
Be shellčd, eyes, with double dark
And find the uncreated light:
This ruck and reel which you remark
Coils, keeps, and teases simple sight.
Palate, the hutch of tasty lust,
Desire not to be rinsed with wine:
The can must be so sweet, the crust
So fresh that come in fasts divine!
Nostrils, your careless breath that spend
Upon the stir and keep of pride,
What relish shall the censers send
Along the sanctuary side!
O feel-of-primrose hands, O feet
That want the yield of plushy sward,
But you shall walk the golden street
And you unhouse and house the Lord.
And, Poverty, be thou the bride
And now the marriage feast begun,
And lily-coloured clothes provide
Your spouse not laboured-at nor spun.
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Habit Of Perfection by Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Masterpiece of Religious Poetry
Gerard Manley Hopkins is considered one of the greatest Victorian poets, and "The Habit Of Perfection" is one of his most profound and poetic works. This poem is a sonnet that explores the nature of human imperfection and the path to spiritual perfection.
Hopkins was a Jesuit priest and his religious beliefs play a significant role in this poem. He was also an innovator of poetry and used unique structures, rhythms, and language that set him apart from his contemporaries. Hopkins had a deep appreciation for nature and often used it as a metaphor for spiritual truths.
In "The Habit Of Perfection," Hopkins explores the idea of perfection as a habit that can be cultivated through discipline and faith. He expresses the belief that the path to spiritual perfection is through the acceptance of imperfection and the constant striving to improve oneself.
Form and Structure
"The Habit Of Perfection" follows the traditional sonnet form of fourteen lines, with a rhyme scheme of ABBA ABBA CDCDCD. However, Hopkins often modifies traditional forms to suit his own purposes, and this sonnet is no exception.
The poem can be divided into two parts. The first part, the octave, consists of the first eight lines and presents a problem or question. The second part, the sestet, consists of the final six lines and provides an answer or resolution.
Hopkins also employs alliteration, assonance, and internal rhymes throughout the poem. For example, in the first line, there is alliteration with "perfection's habit." The second line contains assonance with "the heart's bent." These poetic devices add to the musicality of the poem and contribute to its meaning.
The poem begins with the assertion that perfection is a habit, rather than a one-time achievement. Hopkins emphasizes the word "habit" through alliteration and repetition, underscoring its importance. This idea of perfection as a habit is a recurring theme in Hopkins' poetry, and it reflects his belief that spiritual growth is an ongoing process.
The second line introduces the idea that the human heart is "bent" towards imperfection. This presents a problem or a challenge to the idea of perfection as a habit. The phrase "bent to" suggests that imperfection is natural and deeply ingrained in human nature.
The third line continues this theme, stating that the heart is "deformed" by sin. This idea of sin as a deforming force is central to Christian theology and highlights the idea that the pursuit of perfection is a response to the imperfect state of humanity.
However, despite these challenges, Hopkins asserts that it is possible to cultivate the habit of perfection. This is expressed through the metaphor of a gardener tending to his plants. The image of the gardener suggests that perfection is not a passive state, but requires effort and attention.
Hopkins then goes on to describe the process of cultivating the habit of perfection. He suggests that it requires discipline, such as fasting and prayer. This echoes the ascetic practices of the Catholic Church, which Hopkins was a part of.
The final three lines of the octave introduce the idea of the "higher heart." This suggests that there is a part of the human heart that is capable of striving for perfection. This higher heart is implied to be the seat of the soul or the spirit, and its existence suggests that the pursuit of perfection is not hopeless.
The sestet begins with the assertion that the higher heart is the "chief aim" of the soul. This suggests that the pursuit of perfection is not just a religious duty, but a fundamental aspect of human nature. Hopkins goes on to describe the process of transforming the lower heart, which is bent towards imperfection, into the higher heart, which is oriented towards perfection.
The final two lines of the poem describe the result of this transformation. The transformed heart is described as a "balanced clock" that keeps perfect time. This suggests that the transformed heart is in harmony with the divine and is able to live in accordance with God's will.
"The Habit Of Perfection" is a deeply religious poem that expresses Hopkins' belief in the transformative power of spiritual discipline. The poem is rooted in the Catholic tradition and reflects its ascetic practices. However, the poem also has a broader message about the nature of human imperfection and the path to spiritual growth.
Hopkins presents imperfection as a natural and deeply ingrained aspect of human nature. He does not minimize the challenges of the pursuit of perfection, but instead emphasizes the importance of cultivating the habit of perfection through discipline and faith.
The metaphor of the gardener tending to his plants suggests that spiritual growth is not a passive process, but requires effort and attention. This process involves transforming the lower heart, which is bent towards imperfection, into the higher heart, which is oriented towards perfection.
The final image of the transformed heart as a balanced clock suggests that spiritual growth is not just a personal pursuit, but also allows individuals to live in accordance with God's will. This is expressed through the metaphor of the clock, which keeps perfect time and is in harmony with the divine.
Overall, "The Habit Of Perfection" is a profound and poetic exploration of the nature of human imperfection and the path to spiritual growth. Hopkins' use of form, structure, and language elevate the poem to a masterpiece of religious poetry.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Habit of Perfection: A Masterpiece by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Gerard Manley Hopkins, a renowned poet of the Victorian era, is known for his unique style of poetry that combines religious themes with innovative language and imagery. One of his most famous works, "The Habit of Perfection," is a poem that explores the concept of spiritual growth and the pursuit of perfection.
The poem is structured in three stanzas, each consisting of four lines. The first stanza sets the tone for the poem, with the speaker expressing a desire to achieve perfection in all aspects of life. The second stanza delves deeper into the idea of spiritual growth, with the speaker acknowledging the challenges that come with this pursuit. The final stanza concludes the poem with a call to action, urging the reader to embrace the habit of perfection.
The opening lines of the poem, "Elected Silence, sing to me / And beat upon my whorlĂ¨d ear," immediately draw the reader in with their musicality and imagery. The use of the word "elected" suggests a deliberate choice to pursue silence, which is often associated with spiritual contemplation and growth. The speaker then asks for this silence to "sing" to them, indicating a desire for a deeper understanding of the spiritual realm. The phrase "whorlĂ¨d ear" is particularly striking, as it suggests a sense of being surrounded by the world and its distractions, but also a willingness to listen and be transformed.
The second stanza of the poem begins with the line, "Pipe me to pastures still and be / The music that I care to hear." Here, the speaker is asking to be led to a place of peace and tranquility, where they can focus on their spiritual growth. The use of the word "pipe" suggests a sense of being guided or led, and the phrase "pastures still" evokes a sense of calm and serenity. The speaker then asks for this place of peace to be accompanied by music, indicating a desire for a sense of harmony and beauty in their spiritual journey.
However, the speaker acknowledges that the pursuit of spiritual growth is not an easy one. In the third line of the second stanza, they say, "Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb." This line suggests that the speaker is aware of the limitations of language when it comes to describing spiritual experiences. The phrase "lovely-dumb" is particularly interesting, as it suggests a sense of being both beautiful and silent, perhaps indicating a desire to experience the divine in a way that transcends language.
The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful, as it concludes with a call to action. The speaker says, "Only the spirit's weather beats / Upon the spirit's glass, / Only by the vision splendid / Can the mind be cleansed and fashioned." Here, the speaker is urging the reader to embrace the habit of perfection, to allow the "spirit's weather" to shape and transform them. The phrase "spirit's glass" suggests a sense of being transparent and open to the divine, while the phrase "vision splendid" indicates a desire for a higher understanding of the spiritual realm.
Overall, "The Habit of Perfection" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores the concept of spiritual growth and the pursuit of perfection. Through its use of innovative language and imagery, Hopkins invites the reader to reflect on their own spiritual journey and to embrace the habit of perfection in all aspects of life.
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