Sarah Emerson explores the darker ground in her engaging landscapes
Before his death in 1889 at the age of 44, the British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins had devoted his short life to traversing what he called the “outscape” and “inscape” of being, celebrating the natural world around him while traveling deep into the shifting lands of his own interior terrain and recording the experience of those collective journeys.
In his poem “Nondum” (Latin for “not yet”), Hopkins ruminates on a world that is eternally in creation while seemingly frozen in its own lifelessness, a landscape both mystifying as it is morbid:
“We see the glories of the earth
But not the hand that wrought them all:
Night to a myriad worlds give birth,
Yet like a lighted empty hall
Where stands no host at door or hearth
Vacant creation’s lamps appal.”
Over the course of nine verses, Hopkins describes a place of seasons with changeful moods, “chaotic floods,” where voices moan among the reeds and “prayer seems lost in desert ways.” It is a world of shadow taunting light, where faith and direction are swallowed up like sunlight hitting the moon. Throughout the poem, Hopkins calls out to a creator who has long since ignored his creation, while drawing us a map of a boundary-less land, a ghost town now vacant of even its phantoms.