“Inversnaid” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Chester Creek in Anchorage

It’s National Poetry Month, & I’m celebrating it.

The first poem that came to my mind today was this, by the English Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889), who wrote “Inversnaid” about a burn — a small stream — near Inversnaid, Scotland.  Chester Creek in Anchorage (in the photo), is a good long ways from Scotland, but Hopkins’ language knows these waters too, even if you don’t understand a lot of his local vocabulary.  Hopkins was famous for his innovative use of what he called sprung rhythm.  He’s one of my favorite poets, and this is one of my favorite poems — a prayer for wetlands.

Hopkins did not publish his poems during his lifetime. His friend Robert Bridged published a volume of his poems in 1918, available online at Bartleby.com: Poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Chester Creek’s name comes from its Dena’ina name Chanshtnu, meaning Grass Creek.


This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

— Gerard Manley Hopkins

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