[No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief]

Poem: [No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief]
Poet: Gerard Manley Hopkins

My previous attempts to scan this poem were produced under doubly disadvantageous conditions. First, at the time it was the only Hopkins poem I had attempted to scan; in other words, I was a mere beginner. Second, I did not realize the volume I own of Hopkins’ poetry, the 1948 third edition of Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, published by Oxford University Press (which I found in a lovely local used bookstore), contains extensive notes, including Hopkins’ own markings of his poems. Since those attempts, I have rectified both of these issues. Here is the fruit, what I believe, with some confidence, is the proper scansion of this poem:

Nó wòrst, thére is nòne. Pítched pàst pítch of gríef,
Mòre pángs wìll, schóoled at fórepàngs, wílder wríng.
Cómforter, whére, whére is your cómfortíng?
Máry, móther of ùs, whére is yóur relíef?
My críes hèave, hérds-lòng; húddle in a máin, a chíef
Wòe, wórld-sorrow; on an áge-òld ánvìl wínce and síng—
Then lúll, then léave òff. Féry had shríeked ‘No líng–
ering! Lét me be féll: fórce I múst be bríef’.

O the mínd, mínd has móuntains; clíffs of fáll
Fríghtful, shéer, nó-man-fàthomed. Hóld them chéap
Máy who né’er hùng there. Nór does lóng our smáll
Dùrance déal with that stéep or déep. Hére! créep,
Wrètch, únder a cómfort sérves in a whírlwìnd: áll
Lìfe déath dòes énd and éach dày díes with sléep.

The differences are:

Line 2: from “móre pangs wìll” to “mòre pángs wìll”
Line 6: from “wórld-sòrrow; [R] òn an” to “wórld-sorrow; on an
Line 6: from “áge-old ànvil” to “áge-òld ánvìl”
Line 9: from “Ó the mìnd” to “O the mínd”

Line 2: Hopkins does not mark “pangs” as an outride, and I trust him in that. Given that all three syllables take some kind of stress, that means that pangs must take a primary stress.

Line 6: My first instinct to treat “on an” as outrides was correct, and my “correction” to include a rest was a mistake, as indicated by the fact that Hopkins marks all of “sorrow; on an” as outrides. This forces the further change that “age-old anvil” be treated as two dipodic trochees rather than as one dipodic first paeon. In hindsight, this change sounds better anyway.

Line 9: This change was not prompted by considering Hopkins’ own markings. Rather, I’ve simply come to think that “mind” has to take a stronger stress than “O.” This means that “O the” must be treated as an anacrusis, but Hopkins using anacrusis to open a sestet is not uncommon.


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