Hopkins on the Northern Lights

Gerard Manley Hopkins was a poet who, when he looked at something, saw it. In my view, much of the difficulty of his poetry comes from his honest striving to find words to record exactly what he saw.

Here is his description of the Aurora Borealis.

Sept. 24. First saw the Northern Lights. My eye was caught by beams of light and dark very like the crown of horny rays the sun makes behind a cloud. At first I thought of silvery cloud until I saw that these were more luminous and did not dim the clearness of the stars in the Bear. They rose slightly radiating thrown out from the earthline. Then I saw soft pulses of light one after another rise and pass upwards arched in shape but waveringly and with the arch broken. They seemed to float, not following the warp of the sphere as falling stars seem to do but free though concentrical with it. This busy working of nature wholly independent of the earth and seeming to go on in a strain of time not reckoned by our reckoning of days and years but simpler and as if correcting the preoccupation of the world by being preoccupied with and appealing to and dated to the day of judgment was like a new witness to God and filled me with delightful fear

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About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
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