The Sea and the Skylark

Gerard Manley Hopkins Photocredit: Wikipedia

On a recent walk along the promenade, the sea on one side and the golf links and dunes on the other, a skylark rose from the ground and treated us to its song and wonderful aerial display, which is the essence of Spring. This brought to mind the poem “The Sea and the Skylark” which was written by the famous Victorian poet and Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkins in 1877.  Hopkins spent three years at St. Beuno’s College, Tremeirchion and whilst there he was sent to Rhyl for five days for “the good of his health”.  In the book “Gerard Manley Hopkins in Wales” Norman White writes: “It was not the ideal place for Hopkins to relax in, and with nothing to do but twiddle his thumbs he – not surprisingly – produced yet another poem contrasting the permanent grandeur and fresh beauty of nature’s phenomena with the sordidness of man – ” The Sea and the Skylark”.   White goes on: “Unfortunately, walking on Rhyl sands, without means of escape from the petty architecture and shrill tourist vulgarities, Hopkins’s disgust was evoked”    ( So, Rhyl had its detractors in the 19th Century!  The poem below contains the line “How these two shame this shallow and frail town”)

The Sea and the Skylark

On ear and ear two noises too old to end
Trench – right, the tide that ramps against the shore;
With a flood or a fall, low lull-off or all roar,
Frequenting there while moon shall wear and wend.

Left hand, off land, I hear the lark ascend,
His rash-fresh re-winded new-skeined score
In crisps of curl off wild winch whirl, and pour
And pelt music, till none’s to spill nor spend.

How these two shame this shallow and frail town!
How ring right out our sordid turbid time,
Being pure! We, life’s pride and cared-for crown,

Have lost that cheer and charm of earth’s past prime:
Our make and making break, are breaking, down
To man’s last dust, drain fast towards man’s first slime.

To read more about the poem see the Guardian’s Poem of the Week

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Sea and the Skylark

  1. Alice Harrison

    Thanks for this. Fascinating!

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