‘My own heart let me more have pity on’: A Poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins
‘My own heart let me more have pity on; let / Me live to my sad self hereafter kind, / Charitable’: so begins this sonnet by one of the Victorian era’s most innovative poets, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89). Written in the mid-1880s in Ireland, when Hopkins was suffering from depression, ‘My own heart let me more have pity on’ is one of Hopkins’s ‘Terrible Sonnets’, so named because of the dark moods of comfortlessness they record. In this sonnet, Hopkins begins by begging his own self to have pity on … his own heart.
My own heart let me more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst’s all-in-all in all a world of wet.
Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
’s not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather — as skies
Betweenpie mountains — lights a lovely mile.
If you enjoyed reading ‘My own heart let me more have pity on’, you can read more of Hopkins’s poems here.