Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Jesuit and the Callow Youth

From Gerard Manley Hopkins, letter to Coventry Patmore, November 7, 1886

There is a young Mr. Yeats who has written in a Trinity College publication some striking verses. . . . I called on his . . . father by desire lately; he is a painter; and with some emphasis of manner he presented me with Mosada: a Dramatic Poem by W. B. Yeats, with a portrait of the author by J. B. Yeats, himself; the young man having finely cut intellectual features and his father being a fine draughtsman. For a young man's pamphlet this was something too much; but you will understand a father's feeling. Now this Mosada I cannot think highly of, but I was happily not required then to praise what presumably I had not then read, and I had read and could praise another piece. It was a strained and unworkable allegory about a young man and a sphinx on a rock in the sea (how did they get there? what did they eat? and so on: people think such criticisms very prosaic; but commonsense is never out of place anywhere . . . ) but still containing fine lines and vivid imagery.

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