Friday, December 08, 2006

A tradition

I always repost this every once in a while. My favorite poem, by Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., an English priest:

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 heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Reading it always makes me sad and happy at the same time.

The poem makes specific reference to the melancholy of the change of seasons, which we actually just experienced a month ago or so. Even small children recognize the alteration in the environment and can even be moved to regret the fading of seasonal warmth and light.

Similar to the quarters of the year, life has its seasons which pass. In our culture, we don't like to acknowledge this - eternal summer is the goal; hence our emphasis on youth and our denial of the reality of aging and death. The reality, of course, is that we, like the leaves of Goldengrove, pass away. The important thing is to be ready when the time comes.

Yes, it's hard knowing that mortality is in our future; life is a beautiful gift from God, and there's a reason we grieve in the face of death. But the Christian can know that life with Him will be still more wonderful, and best of all, there will be no "unleaving" or other change in season: Heaven will be one long springtime of praise.


  1. Gerard Manley Hopkins is one of my favote poets. I really love his that goes "Praise God for dappled things..." I can't remembered what it's titled. I think the next book I treat myself too will be one of this poetry.

  2. It's called Pied Beauty.

    What a great opener - "Glory be to God for dappled things."

    I think every Catholic is bound by some unwritten law to love that piece. There's a blog run by a priest called "Dappled Things" and there's a literary journal for young Catholics called "Dappled Things."