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Moonrise -- Gerard Manley Hopkins

(Poem #260) Moonrise
I awoke in the Midsummer not to call night, in the white and the walk of the
The moon, dwindled and thinned to the fringe of a finger-nail held to the
Or paring of paradisaical fruit, lovely in waning but lustreless,
Stepped from the stool, drew back from the barrow, of dark Maenefa the mountain;

A cusp still clasped him, a fluke yet fanged him, entangled him, not quite
This was the prized, the desirable sight, unsought, presented so easily,
Parted me leaf and leaf, divided me, eyelid and eyelid of slumber.
-- Gerard Manley Hopkins
This is one of the many unpublished fragments left behind in Hopkins' notebooks
[1], hence its rather disconnected nature. I'm running it for its rhythms -
they're absolutely beautiful, especially the first two lines. I'm not quite sure
if the verse itself has any meaning, though...


[1] Fragment Poem #60, to be precise.

[Minstrels Links]

My favourite Hopkins poem is 'Inversnaid', which you can read at poem #3
 - yes, poem #3, one of the very first poems to be run on this group -
   ancient history, so to speak.

I wrote an essay about Hopkins' use of sound which I was quite pleased with; it
forms part of the commentary which accompanies 'Pied Beauty', at poem #134

Another poem which sounds exquisite but doesn't mean a thing (and intentionally
so) is Algernon Swinburne's wonderful 'Nephelidia', at poem #99

[About 'Maenefa']

Although it sounds like a fantasy world  (Hi Martin!), Maenafa is a real place -
a township in the Welsh parish of Tremeirchion in Flintshire. (The other
townships in Tremeirchion are Bryngwyn Esgob, Llan, Graig and Bachegraig - as
you've no doubt guessed, I include this piece of useless information merely for
the sound of the Welsh words).

"Tremeirchion is a considerable parish in the Vale of Clwyd, chiefly notable for
the splendid Jesuit College (St. Bueno's) which it possesses. The college stands
on an elevation, and a little distance from it on the top of a hill is a neat
little chapel; a charming view of the country for many miles is obtainable here.
Indeed the scenery to be looked upon is of a rich and varied description, and
numbers avail themselves of the luxury during the summer months."
    -- from  'A Postal Directory of Flintshire', 1886.

And it should come as no surprise that Hopkins studied theology at the
abovementioned college and called himself by the Welsh pseudonym 'Bran Maenefa'.

" ... the roots of Hopkins' Welsh pseudonym 'Bran Maenefa' lie in the Hopkins
family's lifelong nicknaming habits, in frequent comparisons of black-gowned
priests to crowish birds, and in the Crows' Nests, seats atop trees near Saint
Bueno's College, where Hopkins studied in Wales."
    --  from 'Hopkins as the Crow of Maenefa' (Hopkins Quarterly vol. 23, nos.
3-4 [Summer/Fall 1996]: pp. 113-120), Norman White .

It's amazing what you can find on the Web, isn't it?

58 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Hallingby said...

Dear ssiyer:

I am working on the Ernst Krenek setting (to music) of Gerard Manley Hopkins
poem, "Moonrise. After considerable time Googleing (Googling??) the word,
"Maenefa," I have come to the conclusion that in the context of the poem,
"Maenefa" is a bare hill in northern Wales, in the county of Clwyd (of which the
former Flintshire is a part) in northeastern Wales.

I found the term, "Moel Maenefa" in further searching; my Welsh dictionary
indicates that "moel" means "bare." I would guess that "Moel Maenefa" means
"bare hill named Maenefa." Maenefa cannot be to high, because other "moels"
are shown on at least one map and Moel Maenefa is not. In fact, if I
interpret the poem correctly, "dark Maenefa the mountain" might be a barrow.

At any rate, I have spent an interesting morning researching the song.
Krenek, of Czech ancestry, was born in Vienna,Austria, in 1900 and died in
California an 1991. His music was banned by the Nazi Party. He moved to the
United States in 1938 and taught at my alma mater, Hamline University, St. Paul,
from 1942 to 1947.

I have no idea how he encountered the Hopkins poems. According to your
account, Moonrise is an unpublished Hopkins poem. Moreover, the 4 song cycle
(Opus 112), of which Moonrise is a part, does not seem to be listed by Wikipedia,
although that certainly is not a definitive reference.

I thank you for starting me out on a fairly successful search for the Welsh
identity "Maenefa."



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