Saturday, March 27, 2004

Notes on Hopkins

Inscape is "often used of the characteristic shape of a thing or species. . . . More importantly on other occasions it is used of the crucial features that form or communicate the inner character, essence, or 'personality' of something."¹ Inscape is "the result of mental analysis and perception."¹ Inscape is "the distinctive design [pattern] that constitutes individual identity. . . . not static but dynamic."²

Instress is "the identifying impression a thing can communicate to a careful and perceptive observer."¹ It is "often, though not always, associated with feeling."¹ "'The stress within', the force which binds something or a person into a unit."¹ Instress is "the apprehension of an object in an intense thrust of energy toward it that enables one to realize its specific distinctiveness."²

"[Poetry] is instress, and it realizes the inscape of its subject in its own distinctive design. . . . In order to create inscape, Hopkins seeks to give each poem a unique design that captures the initial inspiration when he is 'caught' by his subject. Many of the characteristics of Hopkins's style. . . can be understood as ways of representing the stress and action of the brain in moments of inspiration."²

¹From the Introduction by Catherine Phillips to Gerard Manley Hopkins: The Major Works (Oxford World Classics), p. xx.

²From the introduction to the selection of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poems in The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Major Authors, 5th ed., p. 2185.

But the definition that captures what's been tumbling in my brain is from the program notes to "Out of Inscape" for Basso and Orchestra by Robert Morris (gotta love Google!):
"Inscape" was Gerard Manley Hopkins's term for a special connection between the world of natural events and processes and one's internal landscape--a frame of mind conveyed in his radical and singular poetry.
"There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;" Hopkins.

"It's quiet down deep." Pai, hero of Whale Rider, as she dives down underwater searching for her grandfather's whale tooth. "He just wanted to go down and down." Pai's grandmother's explanation of Koro's refusal to talk after none of the boys retrieved the tooth.

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