Anthem of Despair and Hope for SATB a cappella
Around the year 1885, Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote six sonnets that, according to the edition The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins [W. H. Gardner and N. H. Mackenzie ed.] are often referred to as “The sonnets of desolation.” Hopkins was prone to severe episodes of depression. Many of his poems describe the great anxiety he suffered over his inability to control these feelings. In each of the six sonnets his struggles and fears are mixed with expressions of his faith in God. Sonnet #6 contrasts self-pity, a tormented mind, and an unsuccessful search for comfort with a mind full of thoughts of hope in God brought on by casting aside terrifying thoughts by looking toward the “smile” of God.
In this setting of Hopkins’ text, the music for the first two stanzas consists of descending lines. These musical lines are then inverted by the end of the piece for the setting of the words of hope. “Jackself” refers to Hopkins and is set with a theme derived from Hopkins’ first name, Gerard (GEAD).
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.