A Retreat with Hopkins: Easter

Easter Communion

Pure fasted faces draw unto this feast:
God comes all sweetness to your Lenten lips.
You striped in secret with breath-taking whips,
Those crookèd rough-scored chequers may be pieced
To crosses meant for Jesu’s; you whom the East
With drafth of thin and pursuant cold so nips
Breath Easter now; you sergèd fellowships,
You vigil-keepers with low flames decreased,
God shall o’er-brim the measures you have spent
With oil of gladness, for sackcloth and frieze
And the ever-fretting shirt of punishment
Give myrrhy-threaded golden folds of ease.
Your scarce-sheathed bones are weary of being bent:
Lo, God shall strengthen all the feeble knees.

– Gerard Manley Hopkins, Lent 1865


I can’t get over the rhythm of this poem. Look at how the alliteration pulls the first lines together onto themselves. “Fasted faces draw unto this feast.” Stop. To “Lenten lips.” Stop. But then, the poet himself breaths Easter and the pace quickens. The enjambed lines pushes us past “pieced” and “East” as though the speaker’s excitement doesn’t actually allow for the very breath he’s talking about. And then we are back to end-stop lines as the speaker exhales and waits for divine action at the end of his sonnet.

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