Poetry, VOLUME 1

Poem: Gerard Manley Hopkins “The Bugler’s First Communion” [Vol. 1, #45]


The Bugler’s First Communion
Gerard Manley Hopkins
A BUGLER boy from barrack (it is over the hill
There)--boy bugler, born, he tells me, of Irish
          Mother to an English sire (he
Shares their best gifts surely, fall how things will),
This very very day came down to us after a boon he on
My late being there begged of me, overflowing
          Boon in my bestowing,
Came, I say, this day to it--to a First Communion.
Here he knelt then in regimental red.
Forth Christ from cupboard fetched, how fain I of feet
          To his youngster take his treat!
Low-latched in leaf-light housel his too huge godhead.
There! and your sweetest sendings, ah divine,
By it, heavens, befall him! as a heart Christ's darling,
          Tongue true, vaunt- and tauntless;
Breathing bloom of a chastity in mansex fine.
Frowning and forefending angel-warder
Squander the hell-rook ranks sally to molest him;
          March, kind comrade, abreast him;
Dress his days to a dexterous and starlight order.
How it does my heart good, visiting at that bleak hill,
When limber liquid youth, that to all I teach
          Yields tender as a pushed peach,
Hies headstrong to its wellbeing of a self-wise self-will!
Then though I should tread tufts of consolation
Days after, so I in a sort deserve to
          And do serve God to serve to
Just such slips of soldiery Christ's royal ration.
Nothing else is like it, no, not all so strains
Us: fresh youth fretted in a bloomfall all portending
          That sweet's sweeter ending;
Realm both Christ is heir to and there reigns.
O now well work that sealing sacred ointment!
O for now charms, arms, what bans off bad
          And locks love ever in a lad!
Let me though see no more of him, and not disappointment
Those sweet hopes quell whose least me quickenings lift.
In scarlet or somewhere of some day seeing
          That brow and bead of being,
An our day's God's own Galahad. Though this child's
Seems by a divine doom channelled, nor do I cry
Disaster there; but may he not rankle and roam
          In backwheels though bound home?--
That left to the Lord of the Eucharist, I here lie by;
Recorded only, I have put my lips on pleas
Would brandle adamantine heaven with ride and jar, did
          Prayer go disregarded:
Forward-like, but however, and like favourable heaven
   heard these.


C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

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