Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"As Kingfishers Catch Fire"

I'm borrowing a book from my mother, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, by James Martin, SJ.  The author quotes a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889, Jesuit priest) in the context of discussing what it means to be who you are - who God has made you to be.  Although I may have read it before, I don't remember and it is like discovering a small gem.  (I might even have to memorize it!)

I think the part that speaks to me most is the second stanza.  I love the image of grace in which God sees in us - we who by that very grace are freed to be who we are meant to be - the beauty of Christ.

As Kingfishers Catch Fire 
by Gerard Manley Hopkins 
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came. 
I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.


  1. random comment, but just wanted to say that poem was one of the readings at our wedding - it resonates with us as well.

  2. That's beautiful, Emy; I'm glad it was read at your wedding!

  3. Beautiful. I should like to memorize it too!

    And on a definitely related note, this theme is expanded in Wilson's book, "Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl." A different kind of writing, certainly, but definitely resonating with the same theme and beauty.