PROGRAMME NOTES

Four Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins

SATB, baritone and treble solos, organ (1960/64)

Pied Beauty – Justus tu es quidem – Heaven-haven – God’s Grandeur

The Four Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-99) arose in 1960 from a commission through John Bertalot for the well-known series at St Matthews Church, Northampton, where he was organist and choir director. At that time I was living in New York and made my setting of the second poem, Justus to es quidem, there. This was performed at St Matthews but by 1964 I had added the other three to make a full cycle. The first complete performance was given by the BBC Chorus, conducted by Peter Gellhorn, in a BBC Radio 3 broadcast on 5 October, 1966.

1. PIED BEAUTY
Glory be to God for dappled things
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow, sweet, sour, adazzle, dim;
He father’s forth whose beauty is past change.
Praise him.

2. JUSTUS TU ES QUIDEM
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, leaved how thick! Laced 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.

3. HEAVEN-HAVEN
A nun takes the veil

I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.
And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.

4. GOD’S GRANDEUR
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell; the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs –
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

© 2008-17 Peter Dickinson

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