News Archive

Thursday 2 May 2013

Binsey Poplars


You may have read in the news that the Bodleian Library has purchased a draft manuscript of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem 'Binsey Poplars' for £50,000.

Fr Hopkins SJ was of course a curate at St Aloysius' from 1878-9 and it was in our house that he wrote this piece. He wrote to a friend: "I have been up to Godstow this afternoon. I am sorry to say that the aspens that lined the river are everyone felled." 'Binsey Poplars' laments the felling of these trees across the Isis from Port Meadow:


"My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,

Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,

All felled, felled, all are felled;

Of a fresh and following folded rank

Not spared, not one

That dandled a sandalled

Shadow that swam or sank

On meadow and river and wind-wandering

weed-winding bank.

O if we knew but what we do

When we delve or hew–

Hack and rack the growing green!

Since country is so tender

To touch her, being so slender,

That, like this sleek and seeing ball

But a prick will make no eye at all,

Where we, even when we mean

to mend her we end her,

When we hew or delve:

After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.

Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve

Strokes of havoc unselve

The sweet especial scene,

Rural scene, a rural scene,

Sweet especial rural scene."


As far as we know, none of the current residents of 25 Woodstock Road has yet produced a manuscript of comparable value.