A commentary on one of Hopkins’s ‘Terrible Sonnets’
‘No Worst, There Is None’ is one of a group of sonnets the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89) wrote when he was suffering from depression in the 1880s, while living in Ireland. These are known as the ‘Terrible Sonnets’ because of the terrible fits of misery and despair which inspired them, and which they so brilliantly capture. Before we proceed to offer a few words of analysis of ‘No Worst, There Is None’, here’s a reminder of the poem.
No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief
Woe, wórld-sorrow; on an áge-old anvil wince and sing —
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked ‘No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief.’ Read the rest of this entry
A reading of a classic Dickinson poem
Emily Dickinson (1830-86) wrote many poems about death. She also wrote often, and insightfully, about depression, and ‘It was not Death, for I stood up’ is a powerful evocation of what it feels like to be gripped and paralysed by this debilitating emotion. Below is the poem, along with some notes towards an analysis of it. If it was not Death, what was it? A kind of death, at any rate.
It was not Death, for I stood up,
And all the Dead, lie down—
It was not Night, for all the Bells
Put out their Tongues, for Noon.
It was not Frost, for on my Flesh
I felt Siroccos—crawl—
Nor Fire—for just my Marble feet
Could keep a Chancel, cool— Read the rest of this entry