The Habit of Perfection

February 21, 2007

Elected Silence, sing to me
And beat upon my whorlèd ear,
Pipe me to pastures still and be
The music that I care to hear.

Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb:
It is the shut, the curfew sent
From there where all surrenders come
Which only makes you eloquent.

Be shellèd, eyes, with double dark
And find the uncreated light:
This ruck and reel which you remark
Coils, keeps, and teases simple sight.

Palate, the hutch of tasty lust,
Desire not to be rinsed with wine:
The can must be so sweet, the crust
So fresh that come in fasts divine!

Nostrils, your careless breath that spend
Upon the stir and keep of pride,
What relish shall the censers send
Along the sanctuary side!

O feel-of-primrose hands, O feet
That want the yield of plushy sward,
But you shall walk the golden street
And you unhouse and house the Lord.

And, Poverty, be thou the bride
And now the marriage feast begun,
And lily-coloured clothes provide
Your spouse not laboured-at nor spun.

– Gerard Manley Hopkins (1866)

6 Responses to “The Habit of Perfection”

  1. Whitney Says:

    This poem is unique in its use of the five senses

  2. friky fresh Says:

    Does anyone understand exactly what this poem means? i am a bit confused.. help please!

  3. cburrell Says:

    I don’t know about exactly, but basically it is a poem about asceticism, about quieting and disciplining the senses in order to obtain a spiritual benefit. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

  4. ostrov Says:

    Thank you,
    very interesting article

  5. Samantha Says:

    Through my analysis of this poem, pretty much this poem is about Hopkins giving into his worldly being instead of his devouted vow to not write poetry. This poem is the example of Hopkins breaking the vow. He writes of his entire being from the ears to the hands and feet. He gives himself to the life of priesthood in order to be saved in salvation (poverty-bride). Censers send prayers (relish being worldly prayers wasted on money and hapiness, should be prayers of salvation). Hope this helps.

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