Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) was, first and foremost, a man of the cloth. He seems to have set his gifts in musical composition, drawing, and poetry at a distant second to his ecclesiastical duties for most of his life, causing him to experience terrible bouts of depression. Hopkins poured out this depression in what are known as the Sonnets of Desolation, including "I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day," "Not, I'll carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee," and "No Worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief." In his 1970 essay entitled "The Dark Night of the Soul," Paul L. Mariani tells us that "while [Hopkins' friend Robert] Bridges thought that Carrion Comfort was probably the sonnet Hopkins told him in May was written in blood," No worst, there is none was probably meant" (59). "No Worst" seems to be set rather firmly in the lowest valley of that depression, and the cumulative effect of unrealized professional goals, political visions, and artistic skills contributed to its construction. The very finality of the phrasing Hopkins chose to open the sonnet with brook no argument; things can get no worse.
Part of this despair sprung from Hopkins' abstinence from writing. He was a Jesuit who converted to Catholicism in 1866. Due to his religious beliefs, he attempted to deny his talents; he felt that the level of pleasure he derived through poetic expression approached the sinful and "burned his youthful verses, determining 'to write no more, as not belonging to my profession'" (Britannica 1). Yet Hopkins seems to have been drawn uncontrollably to poetry. By 1875 he had begun to write again; stirred by the death of five nuns who drowned ...
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...iterature, History, and Culture in the Age of Victoria (Brown University's Context 61). Ed. George P. Landow. 1995 http://landow.stg.brown.edu/victorian/hopkins/hopkins12.html
Mariani, Paul. "The Dark Night of the Soul." Originally appearing in A Commentary on the Complete Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Cornell University Press, 1970. From Modern Critical Views: Gerard Manley Hopkins, Harold Bloom, ed. Chelsea House Publishers, New York. 1986.
Hopkins, Gerard Manley. "No Worst, There is None," "I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark," and "My own heart let me more have pity on" 1918. London: Humphrey Milford, 1918. New York, Bartleby Online Oct. 1999. http://www.bartleby.com/122/45.html
Reid, John Cowie. "Hopkins, Gerard Manley," Encyclopedia Britannica Online. (c) 1999- 2001 Britannica.com Inc. http://www.britannica.com/ed/article?idxref=503256
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