St Alphonsus Rodriguez

Laybrother of the Society of Jesus

Honour is flashed off exploit, so we say;
And those strokes once that gashed flesh or galled shield
Should tongue that time now, trumpet now that field,
And, on the fighter, forge his glorious day.
On Christ they do and on the martyr may;
But be the war within, the brand we wield
Unseen, the heroic breast not outward-steeled,
Earth hears no hurtle then from fiercest fray.

Yet God (that hews mountain and continent,
Earth, all, out; who, with trickling increment,
Veins violets and tall trees makes more and more)
Could crowd career with conquest while there went
Those years and years by of world without event
That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door.

Poem by Gerald Manly Hopkins

Hopkins’s Ruskinese sketches are significant because although Hopkins is remembered as a poet, he wanted to be a painter, deciding against it finally because he thought it was too “passionate” an exercise for one with a religious vocation. Nevertheless, even after he became a Jesuit he continued to cultivate an acquaintance with the visual arts through drawing and attendance at exhibitions, and this lifelong attraction to the visual arts affected the verbal art for which he is remembered. In his early poetry and in his journals wordpainting is pervasive, and there is a recurrent Keatsian straining after the stasis of the plastic arts.

Hopkins’s finely detailed black-and-white sketches were primarily important to him as special exercises of the mind, the eye, and the hand which could alter the sketcher’s consciousness of the outside world. The typical Hopkins drawing is what Ruskin called the “outline drawing”; as Ruskin put it, “without any wash of colour, such an outline is the most valuable of all means for obtaining such memoranda of any scene as may explain to another person, or record for yourself, what is most important in its features.” Many such practical purposes for drawing were advanced by Ruskin, but his ultimate purpose was to unite science, art, and religion. As Humphry House put it, “Because the Romantic tradition said that Nature was somehow the source of important spiritual experience, and because the habit of mind of the following generation (with an empiric scientific philosophy) was to dwell lovingly on factual detail, a suspicion came about that perhaps the cause of the spiritual experience lay in detail.” —


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