Hopkins Lectures 2000

Hopkins in County Kildare

Norman White National University of Ireland Dublin

Hopkins visited more places in County Kildare than just Monasterevin - there's Clongowes Wood College, the Jesuit second-level school near Naas, and then there's the old Irish Jesuit novitiate at Rahan, Tullabeg, just down the road. Both these establishments were quite significant in Hopkins's life, in very different ways


When Desmond Egan suggested that I present a paper called "Hopkins and the County Kildare" my first thoughts were that there wouldn't be enough material; that once I had given an account of what Hopkins did in Monasterevin during his few days here in the last three years of his life, what his thoughts were about the town, and when I had said something about the poem which he wrote here, "On the Portrait of Two Beautiful Young People", then it would be rather cut and dried, fairly well known, and probably rather boring to listen to. But then while I was writing a letter of reply to Des, saying I was sorry but could he accept another title, it suddenly struck me that the subject was not so simple after all.

First of all, Hopkins visited many places in County Kildare - there's Clongowes Wood College, the Jesuit second-level school near Naas, and then there's the old Irish Jesuit novitiate at Rahan, Tullabeg, just down the road. Both these establishments were quite significant in Hopkins's life, in very different ways, though Monsterevin is plainly the most important of the three.jesuits_at_rahan

But there's more to it than that. There are two further aspects I

would like to touch on in this paper. One is what Monasterevin represented to Hopkins: so often we think of Hopkins's time in Ireland, from 1884 to 1889, as a time of despair, associated above all with Dublin and with the despairing sonnets written there, Well, there was another side to him in Ireland, and Monasterevin represents an opposite set of values to Dublin: a certain happiness even, though a temporary one, happiness achieved in a place of relaxation and holiday for him. And in Monasterevin also Hopkins expresses different views of the Irish than the usually negative and prejudiced and patronizing ones he expressed in Dublin. Monasterevin is a very different place from Dublin, and to Hopkins it was like waking up one morning after an endless nightmare, in an unexpected completely new world, with the shadows temporarily lifted.

And finally, when we say "Hopkins and the County Kildare" what do we mean by the word "Hopkins"? There are two Hopkinses: there's the man who as a physical object that lived from 1844 until 1889 an who is now merely bits of dust and charred remains of bones.

When a great artist dies she or he starts on a new existence of a different kind. And so there's the ther Hopkins now, who, because he was an artist, lives today in books and tape-recordings and in the minds of people who read and know his works. He did not have children of his body, but he did have children of his creative mind, and he exists today through them. So "Hopkins and the County Kildare" means also to me what people in County Kildare today make of Hopkins's works of art. The founding of this Annual Summer School has resulted in the return of Hopkins to Kildare in this way. Here he exists in these sessions and among the people talking before and after the sessions; he's here in the poetry and painting competitions where his name presides; he's been there in Mooney's pub during the arduous committee meetings, in the disrupted home lives of the organizers of this Summer School and their many friends; in the poem of Desmond Egan about Hopkins's grave, in the drawings of Sister Brighid, in the statues of James McKenna. This funny, eccentric little man, Hopkins, with his highpitched voice, upper-class English Oxford accent, narrow patriotism, and effeminate body, has returned to County Kildare.

* * * * * * *

I don't believe that an overall and coherent pattern can be imposed on Hopkins's works as a whole, nor on the life. The sudden and meaningless end to Hopkins's life emphasizes its lack of shape. It was an unpatterned succession of turmoils, sometimes with an apparently successful climax which did not fulfil its promise or which led to a contradictory outcome. His undergraduate days at Oxford proceeded to one kind of climax, in his intellectual and cultural training, but also contained a terrible crisis of identity and lost confidence. In a similar way, the writing of "The Wreck of the Deutschland" (28), his first great artistic achievement, was immediately followed by its official rejection, a fatal prediction that artistic and professional fulfillment would not coincide in his mature life. His "salad days" in Wales ended with the failure of his theology examination. The subsequent unsettled period as "Fortune's football" was at last relieved by a permanent posting, but this proved the one from which he most needed change. His time in Dublin of near madness and despair was calmed only by his death.

Hopkins's powerful and original temperament, the strange mixture of innocence and expertise, of old prejudices and clear-sighted observations, worked against his achieving happiness and success. He sometimes despaired at his apparent inability to control himself and his destiny. His solutions were typically impractical and extreme. He attempted to simplify his problems and evade his demons by complete submission to comprehen. sive ideological systems; he became a Roman Catholic and then a Jesuit. His university and personal education had taken him into a subtle and confused modern English world more suited to experiment and individual response than to the judgements of an imposed doctrinal framework. Within the religious discipline, his problems were sometimes crushed but never worked out, and they continued to surface to the end of his life. In poems Hopkins wrote in Wales richly vigorous personal responses to experience were squeezed into a moral grid, the results attempting to be conclusions of universal value. After his leaving Wales the possibility of an audience diminished; the mood of the poetry darkened as the opportunity for unified self?exploration increased. Sometimes he sought a land of Lost Content in Victorian poems whose sentiments are difficult for modern readers. Finally in Ireland a new power and kind of originality were forced into his poems of self-examination by his diminished loyalties and many dimensions of isolation.

Hopkins's temperament constantly expressed itself in enthusiasms and antipathies rather than calm appraisals. He adored or hated his environments; his reactions to place and to the lack of a settled home are centrally important to Hopkins and his poetry. A key persistent theme to Hopkins'ss years in Ireland is Work, as opposed to Escape from Work. The place Dublin represented Work and its inevitable result, Despair; other places represented Escape from Work, "holidays" being another key word: "My broken holidays are coming to an end ...and I do not feel well"; "holidays and work, like sleep and waking, are dead opposite" (B 261); "holidays have begun and I am very tired and unable to do the work which I have to wait for holidays to do: it is a vicious circle. However I am going down to the country for a few days in Easter Week I hope" (F 286). Hopkins's mental progress while he was attached to University College, Stephen's Green, was a succession of depressions while he was in Dublin, with occasional intermissions of happiness when away from Dublin, short holidays in London, at his parents' home, the house they moved to at Haslemere, the house of Robert Bridges at Yattendon, Inversnaid in Scotland, where he visited his own poetic past; in Ireland there was Enniscorthy, in County Wexford, where he visited his old pupil Bernard O'Flaherty, and Howth, where he said Mass for the O'Hagans in their private oratory. "I love country life", he said, "and dislike any town and that especially for its bad and smokefoul air ...My dream is a farm in the Western counties, glowworms, new milk ...but in fact I live in Dublin" (F 292).

It's here, I think, that Monasterevin comes in. Monasterevin was Hopkins's main place of temporary escape? holiday, refuge (if you like, a fulfillment in modern times of the old function of Ros-Glas as a sanctuary, a place for refugees), renewal, creativity, nature, children, and human affection (The Cassidys "made no secret of liking me," he told his mother, "and want me to go down again" [F 178]).

Hopkins's first visit to Monasterevin was at Christmas 1886. Why did he spend Christmas here, forty miles away from Dublin, in the west of County Kildare? I think there were probably three reasons for Hopkins's visit. The first two were reasons for being away from Dublin: it was realized that his previous Christmas had been an unhappy working period when he had badly needed a break, and a holiday was more than ever needed over Christmas 1886, and he could combine this conveniently with his annual retreat. The third reason, and the one which required this specific location, was that the Cassidys at Monasterevin needed a priest to say Mass for them in their private oratory in Monasterevin House.


Ros Glas Wood in County Kildare

The Cassidys were one of those gentry families who had special connections with the Jesuits, and would have requested the Society to send one for the few days. (Another family with a special Jesuit relationship were the O'Hagans of Howth.) Why a Jesuit from central Dublin, though, rather than from either of the two nearer Jesuit communities, at Rahan, Tullabeg, or Clongowes Wood College? I can only speculate here, and am open to correction if precise evidence is discovered. I imagine that Hopkins had already booked his retreat in the early New Year 1887 at Clongowes Wood or Rahan, and someone had suggested that he could combine this with the priestly duties in Monasterevin House. Because of Hopkins's known fondness for and gratitude towards Father Conmee, Rector of Clongowes Wood, I would like to think - and I admit that this is carrying speculation further still - that Fr. Conmee's agency was involved.

St. Stephen's Green, on Dublin's south side, is one of the obvious and easiest places in the City to pick up a taxi, and the same would have been true a hundred years ago. Hopkins probably hailed a cab on the south side of the Green to take him and his suitcase to the Kingsbridge railway station (now Huston Station), the terminus of the Great Southern and Western Railway, near the Phoenix Park over on the far side of Dublin, from which trains departed regularly for the two cities of the Southwest, Cork and Limerick. After leaving the Dublin suburbs the train passed through the rich, gently rolling pasture lands of the Pale, occasionally wooded, into the duller bogland. Near Monasterevin, in the distance to the left, were the thickly planted woods and slopes of the Moore Abbey demesne.

The train stopped at Monasterevin station, tall and two-storied, of grey stone with a steeply slanting roof, resembling a compact gothic church; its upper story formed the station platform, and at the bottom of steep steps were the booking-office and entrance hall. The station-yard was an enclosed circle, in which the carriages turned; there would be a Cassidy carriage waiting for Father Hopkins. Immediately on leaving the stationyard was a road running along the bank of the Grand Canal. The carriage passed on its left a row of neat cottages, and came to a light and quaint bascule drawbridge, which carried the road over the canal; a few yards away a heavy, three-arched limestone aqueduct carried the canal over the river Barrow, quiet and shallow, and in the 1880s much narrower than it is now, with small islands in it. (These were two of the twenty-six bridges within a half-mile radius.)

Leaving the canal the carriage then turned into the wide and straight Main Street of Monasterevin, separated from the parallel river Barrow on its right side by gently sloping gardens and lawns. Bordering the left side of the street was a dignified regular line of three-storied Georgian houses, and on the opposite side the old Crowe Bridge, which was demolished in 1957.

Monasterevin House

Beyond these houses was the wide and plain, but not inelegant, Monasterevan House, a typical early Georgian home for country gentry. At the street-edge on either side of the house were wide basket-arched gateways, which imposingly delimited the Cassidy property and framed the house and its gardens.

Moore Abbey and the Distillery


Monasterevin was dominated then by two interests -- Moore Abbey and Cassidy's Distillery; everyone in the town, just over a thousand people, would be acutely conscious of both, and have business with at least one of the two. During the sixth century St. Emhin, pronounced and sometimes spelt Evin, a contemporary of St. Patrick, had reputedly built a monastery, Ros-Glas, "the green wood", in a perfect setting on the banks of the Barrow (`Bearbha", the slow or silent river, called by Hopkins the "dumb" river, a translation he probably got from the parish priest, Fr. Comerford). Hence the town derived its name, Mainistir-Ehmin.

Adam Viscount Ely

After the Reformation the monastery demesne was granted to Adam Loftus, Viscount Ely. In 1562 he was appointed Protestant Archbishop of Armagh, became a bitter persecutor of the Catholics, and was responsible for torturing and burning to death the Catholic Archbishop O'Hurley. By coincidence the execution took place in St. Stephen's Green, Dublin, on the spot where Newman later founded his Catholic University, and where Hopkins died. In the early seventeenth century, the Abbey and its lands passed to a Drogheda family and was named Moore Abbey, a title which oddly combined the old religious function with the new secular family name. In the nineteenth century the two faiths for the most part lived amicably side by side.

St. John's Opened in 1847

The old Protestant church which had formerly stood within the Abbey demesne had been rebuilt as St. John's a few yards from Monasterevan House on the Main Street, and on the parallel street to the east, Drogheda Street, which had been laid out in the 1830s at the private expense of the Church of Ireland parson, the Rev. Charles Moore, the Catholic church of Saints Peter and Paul, built of the same ugly grey limestone as St. John's, had been opened in 1847.

Mr. John Cassidy and Monasterevin Distillery

The town's prosperity had begun in the 1780s with the opening of the Grand Canal and the founding of the Monasterevin Distillery by Mr. John Cassidy. With excellent canal and, later, rail transport; using the local turf as fuel, and water for brewing from the celebrated White Springs of Borraderra ("famed for its purity and sparkling appearance"), by the 1880's Cassidy's distilled a quarter of a million gallons of whiskey a year, and their main, ten?acre, premises on what had formerly been Abbey land had a hundred?yard frontage on the Dublin road. Its proprietor, James Cassidy, grandson of John, owned property valued at over 150,000 pounds.

Togher House

On his marriage in 1854 he had built his own fine mansion, Togher House, in the Italian style, in a plantation, bordered park, within sight of the Distillery, leaving his family home, Monasterevan House, in the hands of his sisters. These included the eldest, Mary, known according to the old fashion as Miss Cassidy, and Eleanor, widow of Daniel O'Connell Wheble, who had been manager of the brewery section of the Cassidy business. These two ladies were in their late fifties or early sixties when Hopkins first went to stay in Monasterevin.

The Old Culture side-by-side with English Imported Culture

The Cassidys typified the realistic working compromise so often made in pre-independent Ireland and so seldom recorded by nationalist historians, between the old culture of the native majority and the imported one of the ruling class. Although they were practicing Roman Catholics they had close and friendly contacts with the Protestant St. John's church, and, though native Irish, were staunch loyalists and upheld British law as local magistrates. (There's also the fact I discovered only last week that in 1802 a Mr. Cassidy received 50 pounds from the British Secret Service money list, for the parish priest, Fr. Doran, on the recommendation of Lord Tyrawley, who then lived at Moore Abbey. Heaven knows what this means; my source is Fr. Comerford, the parish priest, as I said, in Hopkins's time.)

Mrs. Wheble donates Stations of the Cross

By the 1880's the Cassidys had the comfortable rewards of being rich and dominant in every way within their town and its surrounding countryside. They controlled not only Monasterevin's employment but also its trade, wages being paid in their own copper tokens which were accepted by the local shopkeepers. The Cassidys' presence was also prominent in the Catholic church on Drogheda Street, whose Stations of the Cross had been given by Mrs. Wheble in memory of her husband, and the two marble side-altars had been erected at the expense of the family.

The thriving distillery was the liveliest feature in Monasterevin, and on working days made the Dublin Road end of the town busy, noisy, and dusty, in contrast to the tranquillity and lazy dignity of the northern, Canal end. The Dublin-Limerick road ran through the middle of the distillery buildings, and in the season was thronged with farmers and their carts, when the roadway would be strewn from end to end with corn, which attracted the town's stray fowls and ducks.in Monasterevin the distillery would have been closed down for the holiday, and the restfulness and casualness and timeless peace of the surrounding countryside would have penetrated into the town and dominated it to an unusual degree, and there would be the pleasantly woody smoke of the turf fires. The wide, spacious, well-made streets, with their perfect camber, were no longer echoing with the clatter of Cassidy's horses and carts setting off to distribute St, Patrick's Pale Ale, common porter, and six-year-old fat, creamy whiskey to local villages not served by the railway. Looking down on the river from the Town Bridge or the aqueduct, Hopkins could now have heard the dumb Barrow, as well as seen its burlings. He stayed at Monasterevan House for only a few days, over Christmas and again at the New Year, the gap between being taken up with his annual retreat at Clongowes Wood College; but he conceived an extraordinary liking for the place and its people.

For once in Ireland, he seemed to be free of its politics, as he was comfortably among Roman Catholics who were nevertheless unquestioningly loyal to British law. The town had not always been so peaceful. Hopkins learnt its recent history from the parish priest, Fr, Comerford, who had recently published a learned three volumed history of the diocese, and with whose political responses Hopkins found himself in sympathy. In 1797 the United Irishmen had been raised in nearby Kildare by Lord Edward Fitzgerald, and the following year had attacked and seized Monasterevin. It had been retaken by the local yeomen infantry and cavalry, some of whom were employees of Cassidy's, and some of whom were Catholics.

Execution of Fr. Edward Prendergast

It had been in Monasterevan House, two weeks after the Battle of Monasterevin, that the Catholic curate of the parish, Fr. Edward Prendergast, had been tried by court-martial, followed at once by execution. He had been hanged from a tree in what was now the Cassidy's garden, on the other side of the Main Street, on the banks of the Barrow (the garden where Hopkins did some quick sketches). The Cassidy's had not owned the house at that time, but because of their record of loyal administration of British law had sometimes been pointed at by republicans, who had kept flourishing the memory of Prendergast's martyrdom. There are signs of Fr. Comerford's attempts to smooth over and lessen political tension in his history, and Hopkins mentions that his curates were, contrary to his example, leaders of the Land League agitation in the district.

After his death the tale was told among the Irish Jesuits of Hopkins's introduction to the ladies of Monasterevin House. On that winter evening he had arrived at seven o'clock; when his host, probably Mr. Cassidy, brought the ladies into the room where he had left Hopkins, to present him to them, they found Hopkins by the fireside, sewing up his waistcoat with needle and thread. Besides Miss Cassidy and Mrs. Wheble, Hopkins met other members of the family, including young relatives of Mrs. Wheble's dead husband, Leo and Ursula, who lived in the neighborhood a short drive away. Hopkins was fascinated by them, particularly the boy:

They are half English, half Irish, and their nationality is thus divided: outwardly or in the body they are almost pure Paddy and Biddy, inwardly and in the mind mainly John Bull. The youngest boy Leo is a remarkably winning sweet mannered young fellow.

There was an additional reason to be fascinated: nee he saw a portrait of these two children painted by some one who was also attracted by their beauty and manners and who had wanted to capture for posterity some of those qualities in them before they vanished away. The opportunity seemed to be presented to Hopkins to write an elegy, so many of the necessary elements coinciding, He had already expressed some of his strong and deep feeling at the decay of childish innocence and beauty into knowledge of mortality in "Spring and Fall: to a young child" (55). But that had not been a true elegy, as although it showed the tragic aspect of life no consolation was offered in the contemplation of some permanent principle. Hopkins set to work, taking as framework the obvious model of Gray's Elegy written in a Country Church-Yard

On January 2nd 1887, the day before he had to return to Dublin, Hopkins wrote to his friend Robert Bridges. He replied to Bridges' criticisms of his music by saying that he had had to put up with discouragement from several sources, but he finished his letter by describing the productive combination he had found in Monasterevin of congenial environment and people:

I am staying (till tomorrow morning, alas) with kind people at a nice place. I have had a bright light, and begun a poem in Gray's elegy metre, severe, no experiments. I am pleased with it . . . and enclose what there is of it. (B 248-49)

He had, he said, gone far enough in his poetry in "oddities and running rhymes," and this was in "a commoner and smoother style than I mostly write in." Part of his reason for this was that when finished he intended the poem as a gift for Bridges' mother-in-law, a lady who had mothered Hopkins on their only meeting (Hopkins badly needed mothering).

The poet sees the essence of life as a sad progression, in which the initial good is unfortunately but inevitably followed by evil. He therefore elegizes on the human condition, in a traditional combination of melancholy and tender sentiments.

Oh I admire and sorrow! The heart's eye grieves
Discovering you, dark tramplers, tyrant years.
A juice rides rich through bluebells, in vine leaves,
And beauty's dearest veriest vein is tears.

Happy the father, mother of these! Too fast:
Not that, but thus far, all with frailty, blest
In one fair fall; but, for time's aftercast,
Creatures all heft, hope, hazard, interest.

And are they thus? The fine, the fingering beams
Their young delightful hour do feature down
That fleeted else like day-dissolvèd dreams
Or ringlet-race on burling Barrow brown.

The speaker's emotions are carefully distanced both in force and in immediacy. The speaker is distant from his subjects because (although he knows the two beautiful young people in the flesh) he is reflecting only on their painted representation; and his emotions at this partial and limited confrontation are withdrawn to a proportionate distance by the verbs "admire" and "sorrow." There seem to be two purposes behind the evasive device of the portrait: one is to obviate the ethically dangerous meeting at close quarters of human physical beauty and onlooker, a meeting which always caused Hopkins tortured scrupulousness; and the other is to facilitate the speaker's eliciting moral abstractions. Looking at the portrait he is able to contemplate simultaneously both physically and mentally, and express his emotions about the people not directly, but in a more controlled and yet generalized way on their behalf.

The narrator looks on the picture, until the interpretive "heart's eye" takes over and analyses the emotions into something more precise and verbal. "The heart", Hopkins had written in a meditative note in 1884, "is what rises towards good, shrinks from evil, recognizes the good or the evil first by some eye of its own" (S 257); the heart is the agent which perceives formlessly, but its eye focusses its perceptions. The eye now analyses the admire/sorrow perception, in a process imitated by the build?up of lines 1 to 2. The vague emotion "sorrow" first becomes more rooted by changing to "grieves," which presupposes grieving for or about something definite; then, as the focus becomes clearer, the process of perceive ing the cause of that emotion starts with the word "discovering"; the word "you" shows the moment of insight and acknowledgement, and the discovery itself, the uncovering of the hidden, is expressed in the words "dark tramplers, tyrant years." There is the implication of evil in something lurking for a long time beneath the surface, waiting to be uncovered, as the heart's eye has now seen through to its discovery (just like the narra. tor's revelatory discovery in "The Wreck of the Deutschland"). It was, according to Hopkins, the guileful one, Satan, who brought decay into the world; and so Time, the word "years", becomes personified, and described as "tyrant" and as "dark tramplers."

The autobiographical element of the poem, as in all Hopkins'ss poems, is plainly not far beneath the surface; fifteen months earlier Hopkins had described his depres. sion as though he had been "trampled" upon. The near antithesis expressed in "I admire and sorrow" has its real-life counterpart images in the contrast between the two beautiful young people and the lone, old, and haggard gard (as he saw himself) Gerard Hopkins; the temporary quality of their state is denoted by the fact that they are portrayed in art, something vital and foregrounded in the poem, yet limited by the fact of its artifice (it is only paint after all); while the shadowy narrator is everpresent in the poem as the representative of reality, in his sadly inevitable ruined state. This line of thinking can be taken further: the two represent not just youth and beauty but also, in their portrait, Art, which was, like childish beauty, a vital, innocent, and yet ultimately unreal and merely temporary part of Hopkins's irrevocably past life.

Autobiographical considerations seem to surface continually in this poem. Dublin, the place of tense introspection (too much work to be fitted into too short a time), had produced the intensely packed sonnets of despair, like "No worst, there is none," while in Monasterevin, the relaxing and timeless place of country excursions, there is this gentle, formless poetic effusion rambling from one focus and sentiment to another, evolving and yet never finished. Like other comparatively sophisticated urban Englishmen, Hopkins admired what he saw as the natural easiness and unconcernedness of life in rural Ireland (convention forgetting the famine years of course), while at the same time feeling that this was not genuinely facing the harsh realities of life. Not only as a priest but also as an Englishman Hopkins sometimes saw the Irish as children, innocent yet easily deceived. There is something representative of more than just children in Hopkins's pastoral portrait, and he alters the painted picture into the kind of portrait which he wants it to be.

It is only in the world of Art that Time's aftercast can be ignored. And what is the relationship, he asks in the third stanza, between the young people and their painted representation? Are they like that? Comparing the portrait with the sitters in the flesh, the poet pictures the translation from life to art as a process in which the physical features are transferred by the minute and delicate touches of the artist's finger down the beams (like those of a magic lantern) given out by the children's looks; when the beams strike the canvas they leave a permanent representation of the moment. Were it not for this painting, the short period of youth, its "hour" full of delight, would otherwise move swiftly away, be dissolved like dreams at daybreak, or like the momentary pattern of knots on the surface of the River Barrow.

The poet as good as closes the poem down, rather than finishes it, by implying that the passions the subject arouses are so painful for him that they have outstripped his capacity for feeling. And of what use anyway is it to put his heart to that torture: "What need I strain my heart beyond my ken?" The subject of the poem has now become the poet's emotions (in a similar progression to many of his last poems). The final two lines of that stanza, "O but I . bear my burning witness though / Against the wild and wanton work of men," are like a parting shot over the shoulder, a testimony that this poem is a genuine record, although it has broken down into chaos. The poet signs himself off, although leaving his subject hanging, wet and unfinished. The poet is plainly too emotionally involved with his subject and liable to impulse to bring the poem to a calm didactic conclusion.

Monasterevin became one of the few sanctuaries available to Hopkins in Ireland. In his five short stays there he could think himself removed from urban industrialization, pollution, poverty, and vices, although he never fell in love with the countryside in the way he had done at Oxford and in North Wales. While he was staying in Monasterevin he was completely free of academic duties; and he had for his closest companions two com paratively elderly ladies who liked and respected him. The pressures had been removed. He was also free from any pastoral duties except for saying Mass in the oratory and occasionally assisting the parish priest, Fr. Comerford, at communion. That ceremony took on in Hopkins's mind a dreamy, ideal quality:

Many hundreds came to the rail, with the unfailing devotion of the Irish; whose religion hangs suspended over their politics as the blue sky over the earth, both in one landscape but immeasurably remote and without contact or interference. This phenomenon happens to be particularly marked at Monasterevan. (F 183)

There is a carefree nature shown in two anecdotes told among the Irish Jesuits after Hopkins's death about his breaks in Monasterevin. On a long walk one day he was given a lift by a man in a cart. After some time he asked if they were now near Monasterevin; the reply was "We're not, but we'll be coming into Portarlington presently." Hopkins had not asked the man which way he was going, and they had been travelling in the opposite direction to the one he wanted. Another time, it was remembered, he had seen a ploughman at work in a field, had leapt over the hedge and ploughed a drill for himself.

The connection with Rahan, Tullabeg, is a less happy one: Hopkins's last year started at Rahan on a retreat. In winter it's a very bleak place, `Just right for a composition on Hell," as a Jesuit said to me there. And Hopkins's retreat notes written there are terrifyingly pessimistic, some of the most depressed of his words written in Ireland:

I am now 44 . . . . O my God, look down on me. (S 261 - 2)

Fortunately, Hopkins returned to Monasterevin three months later, and so his final connection with County Kildare was not so unpleasant. © The Gerard Manley Hopkins Society 1988

Links to Hopkins Literary Festival 2000

St Augustine and Gerard Manley Hopkins || Creativity in Hopkins World || Czech Perspective on Hopkins Poetry || Eugenio Montale and Hopkins Poetry || German Perspective on Hopkins Poetry || Heraclitus and Hopkins ||
GM Hopkins in Kildare
|| Hopkins and the Resurrection || Spansih Perspective on Hopkins Poetry ||