Inversnaid – Gerard Manley Hopkins


THIS darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
It rounds and rounds despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89).

Inversnaid is a small hamlet on the north-eastern shore of Lock Lomond, Scotland. There is a famous waterfall and hotel there and I wouldn’t be surprised if Gerard Manley Hopkins stayed there at some stage.

This poem is an excellent example of alliteration, but more so onomatopoeia – where the sound of the word suggests the meaning of the word – as in hiss, snap and bang.

And you notice that the very first word falls into this category. But what about the makeup word ‘twindles’ – a mixture of twists, twitches and dwindles. To me twindles just sounds so right for the movement of water in the stream – it has a certain sparkle-life to it, compare to trundles for example.

But look at some other make-up words –

Rollrock – a combination of rolling and rocking frown on the moor
Heathpacks = clumps of heathland, maybe including heather
wind-puff-bonnet – froth which sits like a hat lightly on the water and created by the wind
fawn-froth – suggests a light brown-yellow (fawn = young deer)
Fell-frowning fell = high barren field or moor – the water creates a
Beadbonny – this word conjures up the look of the branches of an ash tree – bonnie = beautiful beads (black from memory).

And the poem contains Scottish specific words – Burn = stream, Brae = hillside along a river, and Degged = sprinkled.

Comb = a rippling stretch of water.

… and I like the use of the word ‘groins’ that suggest the body curves of the hillside

The last stanza is an environmentalist cry. But this is a poem to be heard, here is a link to a BBC audio plus visual images of the scenery –

… and if you are interested in discovering Scottish words this is a good site …

Your word in my ear ...

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