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   Binsey Poplars

     felled 1879

   MY aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
   Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
   All felled, felled, are all felled;
      Of a fresh and following folded rank
            Not spared, not one
            That dandled a sandalled
         Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.

   O if we but knew what we do
         When we delve or hew -
      Hack and rack the growing green!
         Since country is so tender
      To touch, her being só slender,
      That, like this sleek and seeing ball
      But a prick will make no eye at all,
      Where we, even where we mean
            To mend her we end her,
         When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
   Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
      Strokes of havoc únselve
         The sweet especial scene,
      Rural scene, a rural scene,
      Sweet especial rural scene.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, Oxford, March 1879



Notes: Binsey is a small village near Oxford and the Thames. There are now poplars beside the river again.

The acute accents and indentation of different lines are Hopkins' indications of how to read the poem. The lines with the greatest number of accents start farthest to the left - thus, "Áll félled, félled, are áll félled" has 5 accents, as have "Ó if wé but knéw whát we dó" and "Tén or twélve, ónly tén or twélve"; whereas "To tóuch, hér being só slénder," and "Strókes of hávoc únsélve" have 4. Thus, the poem is an example of Hopkins' sprung rhythm: each accented syllable may stand on its own as a monosyllabic foot or go with up to three unaccented syllables.

Unselve means deprive something of, or destroy, a self - a character or personality. Is the ending crap? Too bad, the rest is superb.

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