Giving Beauty Back: The Golden Echo     16 December, 2006, 08:48 am
My good friend, Wendy Ban, gave me my first calligraphy pen. It was an auspicious moment. The pen was like a magic wand, and I knew immediately what to do with it. A line from Gerard Manley Hopkins's 1882 poem, "The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo," came echoing across the century, telling me to "Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God, beauty's self and beauty's giver."

So I lettered this long poem to learn calligraphy, using it to practice my ABC's and learn my art form. I practiced for about five years with passion and dedication until my unique form of Literary Calligraphy® watercolors began to emerge. I often marvel at the wonderful alchemy that occurred. Hopkins wrote a poem; his friend published it; close to a hundred years later my friend introduced me to the poem; three years later the same friend gave me a calligraphy pen, and my life was magically transformed. So I encourage you to read a poem to someone, or to write a poem, or to "give beauty back" – it may transform someone's life.

Hopkins might never have written this poem. Born in England in 1844, he became a Jesuit and began his study for the priesthood in 1868. He burned all the verses he had written (or so he thought) and vowed to write no more, feeling a conflict between writing poetry and his priestly calling. For seven years he wrote next to nothing. The drowning of five exiled Franciscan nuns on December 7, 1875 moved him to write his great poem, "The Wreck of the Deutschland." Encouraged by his Rector, he then felt free to write more. I sure am glad he did because he went on to write some of my favorite poems.

We might not have know Hopkins's poems if it weren't for his good friend, Robert Bridges. Hopkins died in 1889 in relative obscurity, having never sought publication of his poetry. He had, however, shared his poems in correspondence with Bridges, who became Poet Laureate of England in 1913 and edited the first edition of Hopkins's poetry in 1918, Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Humphrey Milford, London). The first edition included, "The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo," a poem like many of Hopkins's that should be read out loud.

The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo
(Maidens' song from St. Winefred's Well)


How to keep–is there any any, is there none such, nowhere
known some, bow or brooch or braid or brace, lace, latch or
catch or key to keep
Back beauty, keep it, beauty, beauty, beauty,... from vanishing
O is there no frowning of these wrinkles, ranked wrinkles deep,
Down? no waving off of these most mournful messengers, still
messengers, sad and stealing messengers of grey?
No there's none, there's none, O no there's none,
Nor can you long be, what you now are, called fair,
Do what you may do, what, do what you may,
And wisdom is early to despair:
Be beginning; since, no, nothing can be done
To keep at bay
Age and age's evils, hoar hair,
Ruck and wrinkle, drooping, dying, death's worst, winding sheets,
tombs and worms and tumbling to decay;
So be beginning, be beginning to despair.
O there's none; no no no there's none:
Be beginning to despair, to despair,
Despair, despair, despair, despair.


There is one, yes I have one (Hush there!);
Only not within seeing of the sun,
Not within the singeing of the strong sun,
Tall sun's tingeing, or treacherous the tainting of the earth's air,
Somewhere elsewhere there is ah well where! one,
One. Yes I can tell such a key, I do know such a place,
Where whatever's prized and passes of us, everything that's fresh
and fast flying of us, seems to us sweet of us and swiftly away
with, done away with, undone,
Undone, done with, soon done with, and yet dearly and danger-
ously sweet
Of us, the wimpled-water-dimpled, not-by-morning-matched face,
The flower of beauty, fleece of beauty, too too apt to, ah! to fleet,
Never fleets more, fastened with the tenderest truth
To its own best being and its loveliness of youth: it is an everlasting-
ness of, O it is an all youth!
Come then, your ways and airs and looks, locks, maiden gear,
gallantry and gaiety and grace,
Winning ways, airs innocent, maiden manners, sweet looks, loose
locks, long locks, lovelocks, gaygear, going gallant, girl-
grace –
Resign them, sign them, seal them, send them, motion them with
And with sighs soaring, soaring sighs deliver
Them; beauty-in-the-ghost, deliver it, early now, long before death
Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God, beauty's self
and beauty's giver.
See; not a hair is, not an eyelash, not the least lash lost; every hair
Is, hair of the head, numbered.
Nay, what we had lighhanded left in surly the mere mould
Will have waked and have waxed and have walked with the wind
what while we slept,
This side, that side hurling a heavyheaded hundredfold
What while we, while we slumbered.
O then, weary then why should we tread? O why are we so haggard
at the heart, so care-coiled, care-killed, so fagged, so fashed, so
cogged, so cumbered,
When the thing we freely forfeit is kept with fonder a care,
Fonder a care kept than we could have kept it, kept
Far with fonder a care (and we, we should have lost it) finer, fonder
A care kept. – Where kept? Do but tell us where kept, where. –
Yonder. – What high as that! We follow, now we follow. –
Yonder, yes yonder, yonder,

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