On This Day - On Burning Poems

May 10, 2017

On this day in 1836 having sent copies to Robert Bridges fearing his pride in his own poetry, Gerard Manly Hopkins burned his poems upon entering the Society of Jesus.

Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ was an English poet, convert to Catholicism, and Jesuit priest, whose posthumous fame established him among the leading Victorian poets. His manipulation of prosody and his use of imagery established him after his death as an innovative writer of verse. Nature and religion were the two major themes in his poetic works.


'Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend'

Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend 

With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just. 

Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must 

Disappointment all I endeavour end? 

Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend, 

How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost 

Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust 

Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend, 

Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes 

Now, leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again 

With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes 

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.


Gerard Manly Hopkins


©Jeff Guess 2017


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