Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Life

In his sonnet “On His Blindness” Milton laments the loss that impedes “that one talent which is death to hide,” now “lodged with me, useless, though my soul more bent to serve therewith my Maker.” God gave him, Milton reasons, not only a talent for words, but an urge to use them that seemed to him as essential as a heartbeat. And yet that same God had allowed blindness to stay his writing hand and make him haplessly dependent on the half-willing help of slow and uncertain daughters. The bitter note of lament that begins the poem gives way, however, to a doctrine, if not a feeling, of acceptance that has served many since as a call to deeper humility and patience: “God doth not need either man’s work or his own gifts,” he asserts, resorting to a theological truth that turns his meditation abruptly away from self and toward a truth so large that his own loss is diminished in its light.


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