So I was sitting in a pub reading some stuff about Gerard Manley Hopkins, him being a poet what I like — and I came across Hopkins’s notion that out of the obscurities and difficulties of his work a poem should “explode into meaning”.
I was much taken with that. We’ve all experienced that sudden detonation of understanding. We may not be able to explain it in lit-crit terms – or even want to — but that dramatic leap of intuitive realisation is something to treasure. It’s part of the way we understand the world as well as art. It’s there in the way we suddenly “get” a poem, the way we respond to a piece of sport, the way we fall in love.
It’s also there in the way we look at the wild world. I was in Norwich today, inspecting the cathedral – when it suddenly seemed to explode into meaning as one peregrine, swiftly followed by another, leapt from that gorgeous crocketed sky-reaching spire.
For an instant I seemed to grasp not just of the birds but also the morning, the cathedral, the city, the universe, predators, prey, life and death. It was a lightning swift understanding of all kinds of things all at once: stuff that goes back for centuries and for millennia.
Then it had gone. But all the same… how he rung upon the rein of wimpling wind in his ecstasy!