My own heart let me more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst's all-in-all in all a world of wet.
Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room, let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
's not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather - as skis
Betweenpie mountains - lights a lovely mile.
Where to even begin with this magnificent poem from Gerard Manley Hopkins? At its core, this is a poem about accepting the idea that we all deserve grace and love, no matter how we feel about it. For Hopkins, this would have been Grace with a capital G, as he was a devout Catholic, and it is impossible to read the poem without considering the relationship with God Hopkins sought to cultivate. Still, even for those of us who are not religious, I feel the central themes of the poem resonate so strongly with many of our modern concerns.
The first stanza of the poem is a plea from the narrator to the self to forgive the self. Who among us is not our own harshest critic? I know that personally, I have many negative things to say to myself when I look inward. We all do. Hopkins is asking to have more pity on himself, to recognize his own worth. When Hopkins reaches out for this comfort, he feels blind.
Pity and Grace, Mercy, Forgiveness, these are the things Hopkins seeks. For him, the source of these things is in God. "Soul" he addresses, "call off thoughts awhile." By opening up to God, Hopkins is leaving himself open to "God knows what." That what Hopkins lovingly describes as "skies betweenpie mountains - lights a lovely mile." It's a bright and optimistic image. By leaving those thoughts of trying to offer the self pity behind, and inviting Grace in, the future becomes limitless.
Looking at it in a more secular light, I think we can take the first stanza to heart. We can always find reasons to criticize ourselves and deny ourselves the dignity afforded to all by way of nature. We mustn't. That first line resonates deeply with me. "My own heart let me have more pity on." Indeed, let me have more pity on myself. Recognizing your own worth is a radial act, and whether you think you need the divine to do so or not is up to the individual.