‘Mind has mountains; cliffs of fall/Frightful, sheer, no-man fathomed.’ (Gerard Manley Hopkins)
|No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?***
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief-
woe, world-sorrow; on an age-old anvil wince and sing-
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked ‘No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief’.
O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.
* * *
I think I know what Hopkins meant. Eliot talked about ‘objective correlatives’ -“a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of a particular emotion such that when the external facts are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.” Hopkins uses the effort and terrors of mountaineering as a metaphor for life, an attempt to evoke in tortured words what he experienced daily and nightly in his tortured and torturing mind.
I climbed Mount Kenya 3 times. Hopkins climbed his mountain every day.