Grief Handbook, Part 14

I love Gerard Manley Hopkins.  He’s one of my favorite poets, as well as one of my husband’s.  When Anthony and I were married, we gave our priest a copy of Hopkins’ poetry as a thank you.  There are two poems I’ve been thinking of as I travel through this grief journey, and I will share the first with you tonight.  It’s “Carrion Comfort,” by Hopkins.

Carrion Comfort


Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;

Not untwist — slack they may be — these last strands of man

In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;

Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.

But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me

Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan

With darksome devouring eyes my bruisèd bones? and fan,

O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?

Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.

Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,

Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, chéer.

Cheer whom though? the hero whose heaven-handling flung me, fóot tród

Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year

Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.


I’ve been thinking so much of these lines, “No, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee.”  Hopkins declares his refusal to let despair and that grief wallowing we allow ourselves to rule his life.  He speaks of his struggles with God, which he “lay wrestling with,” but the affirmation of this poem, the declaration, “cry I can no more.  I can.”  That beauty, that declaration of strength is so necessary, so needed.  In our weakest moments, we even say to ourselves, “I can no more.”  What Hopkins is teaching us is, “I can.”

I can.


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