Friday, February 20, 2009

Heart aches 8

I apologize, but tonight is the worst night since I came home from the hospital. The cardiologist told me today that the atrial fibrillation which I evince is coming from a part of the heart not affected by the surgery. Thus, the surgery seems to have crated a new problem: a part of my heart that functioned normally before no longer functions normally. I am so exhausted, nauseated and short of breath that I can barely stand. I even considered driving myself to the emergency room, but I was too ill to drive.

But I will not go back into the hospital. I will stick this out, and go wherever it takes me, in the hope that I may learn something of value from it. I pulled down off the shelf my collection of English verse and began reading poets whose work I had never read before. It is amazing, the effect that poetry has on my spirit - much like that of music. My younger niece stopped by briefly to discuss with me a term paper she has due in English - the analysis of the major themes of a poet of her choice. I asked which poet she would choose, and she replied, "I don't know many poets." How sad a statement coming from a bright, well-educated girl. Of course she has been required to read the gender-themed and politically correct books, but virtually no Shakespeare, no Donne, no Milton, no Blake, no Eliot. I tell you, our society is performing a lobotomy on itself even in our better schools.

I recommended G. M. Hopkins, both because he is my favorite poet and because he wrote little verse, which contained a few carefully defined themes: God, nature, despair. His so-called desperate sonnets are the voiced agony of a truly profound and sensitive spirit, and at times I have found them almost too painful to read. His verse on nature, such as Spring and Fall and 'Nothing is so beautiful as Spring' are exquisite, and his poems about the existence of God are some of the deepest reflections on the subject I know. But it is when he synthesizes these themes, as in Pied Beauty, God's Grandeur, or The Windhover, or as in his magnificent sonnet 'As kingfishers catch fire,' that he truly rises to greatness. Spiritual greatness, linguistic greatness, for Hopkins was both a mystic and a pioneer of language. Like Beethoven in the Late String Quartets, he felt compelled to create a new language in order to be able to express his spiritual insights. And that he was able to do so, in almost compete isolation, indeed, in secret (his cloister as a Jesuit priest was analogous to Beethoven's deafness, and none of his poetry was published in his lifetime) is one of the true triumphs of the human spirit.

Let those who deny that man is essentially a spiritual being - those poor, pathetic disbelievers in anything they cannot see or touch or count - come to Hopkins, and let them, having delved his depths, come away still with disbelief, and we can say with Hamlet that their souls are black and damned as hell whereto they go.