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.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, in W. H. Gardner and N. H. MacKenzie (editors), The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Oxford University Press 1967).
The poem's title may be an echo of the final line of George Herbert's "The Size": "These seas are tears, and heav'n the haven." Ibid, page 248. "Blow" (line 4) is used in the sense of "to bloom" (a usage that, up until the 20th century, was common, but that has now, to our loss, nearly vanished).
The fragmentary beginnings of the poem appear in a notebook entry made by Hopkins in 1864 under the title "Rest." Lesley Higgins (editor), The Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins, Volume III: Diaries, Journals, and Notebooks (Oxford University Press 2015), page 203. Hopkins converted to Catholicism two years later. Four years after his conversion, he took his vows as a Jesuit novice.
These background details may be of interest, but it is best to leave well enough alone, isn't it? "Heaven-Haven" speaks for itself. Any further comment is superfluous. Nay, destructive.
John Inchbold (1830-1888), "Anstey's Cove, Devon" (1854)
"Heaven-Haven" was still with me when, last weekend, I happened upon this:
The kind of place
where the way a traveler's tracks
disappear in snow
is something you get used to --
such a place is this world of ours.
Princess Shikishi (12th century) (translated by Steven Carter), in Steven Carter (editor), Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology (Stanford University Press 1991), page 181.
Encountering Princess Shikishi's waka after reading "Heaven-Haven" was purely a matter of coincidence, but I always harbor the notion (an overly romantic notion, no doubt) that, when it comes to reading poetry, such coincidences are placed in our path for a reason.
By who or by what, you may ask. I have no answer. I could recur to this statement by Philippe Jaccottet, which appeared in my previous post: "Of all my uncertainties, the least uncertain (the one least removed from the first glimmers of a belief) is the one given to me by poetic experience: the thought that there is something unknown, something evasive, at the origin of things, at the very centre of our being." Philippe Jaccottet (translated by Mark Treharne), Landscapes with Absent Figures (Delos Press/Menard Press 1997), page 157.
On the other hand, perhaps a more commonplace (yet still miraculous) explanation suffices.
Kerria in bloom:
a leaf, a flower, a leaf,
a flower, a leaf.
Taigi (1709-1771) (translated by Steven Carter), in Steven Carter (editor), Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology, page 402. The poem is a haiku.
A leaf, a flower, a leaf, a flower, a leaf. And so it goes with each of the World's beautiful particulars. Throughout each of the seasons. Throughout our life. Each encounter a pure coincidence. Or not.
John Inchbold, "A Study, in March" (1855)
Finally, a few days ago, I revisited this waka:
To a mountain village
at nightfall on a spring day
I came and saw this:
blossoms scattering on echoes
from the vespers bell.
Nōin (988-1050) (translated by Steven Carter), Ibid, page 134. Nōin was a Buddhist monk.
The poem brought me back full circle to "Heaven-Haven." A monk-poet in 11th century Japan. A poet and a nun in 19th century England. The beauty of poetry -- of the World -- is of a piece, at all times and in all places.
John Inchbold, "Bolton Abbey" (1853)