was first introduced to Hopkins' work over twenty years ago. After
that initial introduction all I was left with was his collected
works and a few dazzling phrases which stayed with me. Most of
his poems sailed jet like above my head.
God works in mysterious ways though, and in September 2004 I
was reading Frank Skinner's autobiography. He happened to mention
that his favourite poem was The Wreck
of the Deutschland. This puzzled me as I had thought it
merely an epic poem about a long forgotten historical event, not
my sort of thing at all.
I read it and was moved in a profound way. It is a profound poem.
While working on it the tsunami hit and I had to sing these words,
which took on a tragically prophetic air:
lives at last were washing away:
To the shrouds they took, they shook in the hurling and horrible
After recording The Wreck of the Deutschland
I was inspired to continue and ended up putting a great many of
his poems to music. Most of the songs are recorded "live".
That is sung as performances with guitar and unedited, backing
being added later.
I cannot stress how much Hopkins' work has affected me, and how
highly I rate him. He has entered my life with great splashes
of colour and joi d’vivre. I also find him to be the most
modern of poets. His strings of words were a joy to sing. I just
hope some of his genius has managed to come through the songs.
One reads often in descriptions of his life words like thwarted.
Hints that maybe his talent could have blossomed if only he hadn’t
subjected himself to the Jesuit rule. Those who think his life
wasted have not read his poetry properly.
Could his words have blossomed any more than they already have?
Could the secular world with its luxuries and freedoms have really
added a jot to his poetic vision?
So let us celebrate not just that Hopkins is a great advert
for Christianity. He is a great advert for Christendom. The two
are not synonyms. The first describes a belief and a philosophy.
The second is a place and an order of rule. The second place is
where Father Gerard chose to be.
If you see within his poetry a light which you thought had been
forgotten, this is the receding light of Christendom.
Let us walk towards it with the greatest care and concern for
all life. For all life is kith and kin.