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 héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
Recently the Seattle area experienced two back-to-back wind and rain storms, so severe that the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge was closed. Police officers had to escort a few traumatized drivers to safety.
Still today, I see leaves clinging to trees as if they don’t know they should have fallen last week, or, as if they refuse to fall until they are ready. Driving through the city I spontaneously burst into several rounds of “Rocky” music, shouting raucously, “You go, leaves!” I think this is a healthy spiritual practice.
But the leaves must fall, and
November must come,
Lest there be no spring.
There must be spring.
I have long prayed with Gerard Manley Hopkins. He is my modern Meister Eckhart, and another profound mystic. On a retreat many years ago, this poem became a call to integrity for me. The gloriously colored leaves remind me of the artist and mystic in each of us. Contemporary society often fears and therefore shuns that aspect of ourselves. I learned that we need to mourn that loss and commit ourselves to nurture it back to life. We should mourn when something beautiful dies, because, “It is Margaret [we] mourn for.”