Reading poetry late at night

Them; birds build–but not I build; no, but strain.
Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

— “Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord, If I Contend” by G. M. Hopkins

I have a great respect for poet and priest Gerard Manley Hopkins. As I am reading his poetry now for my Modern Poetry class, I feel as if his words echo prayers and common sentiments. The desire for nourishment in one’s spiritual life is not a foreign one, nor  is it infrequent.

Present in this poem is the longing to do something that actually “breeds work that wakes,” or maybe do something that effects change. Perhaps there is the frustration of feeling as if one is not talented enough to do something significant. Rather than “building,” one is “straining.” A bit more than doing nothing, and a little less than successful. (Or at least one thinks so.)

There’s again the metaphor of a person as a tree, which desires growth. The fact that this poem ends on such a simple line (after me straining through the first three stanzas) is extremely effective.

We need rain.

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