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.
Please do not be daunted by Hopkins’ word choices! Many he created for the sheer joy of combining sounds and sense. You won’t find “rollrock,” for instance, in the dictionary, but you can delight in its feel on your tongue as you imagine the swirl of water around streambed stones. Read the poem aloud for sheer joy, and the meanings may pour through more than you expect. If you need a boost, here are a few of the less familiar words:
* burn = stream * coop = hollow * comb = crest * twindles = Hopkins’ own invention: The Norton Anthology of English Literature suggests a blend of “twists” and “dwindles” * degged = sprinkled * braes = hills * flitches = clumps