I have to thank my friend Wan Hui for introducing me to the poetry of Gerald Manley Hopkins, back in 1985. She read him for ‘A’ level English Literature, while my tutor chose Wilfred Owen’s war poems, which I also fell in love with.
Spring and Fall (my favourite Hopkins poem) was one of a collection of poems and nursery rhymes set to music by Natalie Merchant several years ago. I think she did justice to its mood and meaning, even if she had to modify certain phrases so that the poem would still scan within the confines of the melody she had written for it.
[Documentary footage of Natalie recording “Spring and Fall: to a young child” with a chamber orchestra at Legacy Studios in NYC in autumn 2009. Conducted by Sean O’Loughlin. Filmed by Michael Skolnik. Edited by Anne Barliant. Poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins.]
Spring And Fall: To A Young Child
MARGARET, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
By Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 – 1889)