Drawing by Judith Wolfe
Paddy Bushe

Poem


      HOPKINS ON SKELLIG MICHAEL

      (i) Landing By Christ then but Skellig will test that poor man!
      The boatmen dug their oars deep in the swell
      And pulled the bow around. Upon my soul
      He'll know his prayers well after a night
      Up there on the cliffs with the screeching birds.
      It's a different man we W be collecting then!

      They waved towards the diminishing black figure
      Who had knelt to pray on the small pier.
      Just like a stranded cormorant, they chuckled,
      And bent their backs to the oars.
      On the pier,
      Father Gerard Hopkins had begun his retreat
      At the very edge of Europe. But to what
      Am I retreating? why do I compound
      My exile here in the most extreme corner
      Of this most extreme land? England, Ireland,
      Have disappeared with that boat and I am here.

      He remembered the boatmen telling a boy
      To carry the minister's bags, their disbelief
      That his collar was Catholic, the muttered aside
      About a fierce Protestant accentfor a priest.

      Head bowed, he endured again the everyday
      Claws of exile, the scratches of no harm meant.


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