Friday, March 25, 2011

Dr. Seuss, Elizabeth Taylor, and Gerard Manley Hopkins

What do those three have in common? What links them together? What makes them share space in the title of this post?

The answer to all three questions, friends, is simple:


The real Dr. Seuss, Theodor Seuss Geisel, was born on March 2, 1904 -- belated happy birthday greetings -- and died on September 24, 1991, at the age of 87.

Elizabeth Taylor, who was often called The Most Beautiful Woman In The World, was born on February 27, 1932, and died this week, on March 23, 2011, at the age of 79.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, an English poet of the nineteenth century, was not so long-lived. He was born on July 28, 1844, and died on June 8, 1889, at the age of 44.

You may be thinking Sic transit gloria mundi. Then again, you may not.

Here comes the tie-in.

Yesterday, the day of Elizabeth Rosamund Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky’s funeral at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California, Mrs. Rhymeswithplague and I saw a live performance of Seussical, the musical, in Kennesaw, Georgia. If you ever have an opportunity to see Seussical, I highly recommend that you do. It is delightful.

The last time Mrs. Rhymeswithplague and I attended the theater was several years ago at Theater on the Square in Marietta, Georgia, where we saw You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. I think I detect some sort of pattern here, but that is irrelevant.

Gerard Manley Hopkins was a noted convert to Roman Catholicism. Ms. Taylor, an acknowledged beauty, was a noted convert to Judaism. Yesterday at the funeral of The Most Beautiful Woman In The World her friend, actor Colin Ferrell, read “The Leaden Echo and The Golden Echo” by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Actually, they are two related poems that are usually read together as one. Here they are:

The Leaden Echo

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, . . . from vanishing away?
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.

The Golden Echo

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 dangerously 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 everlastingness 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, girlgrace —
Resign them, sign them, seal them, send them, motion them with breath,
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 lighthanded 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 whý 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,

--Gerard Manley Hopkins

(AP Photo)

Now might be a good time to say it: Sic transit gloria mundi.

It might also be a good time to quote Horton the Elephant:

“A persons’s a person, no matter how small.”

To complete today’s daily devotional trifecta, let us read Proverbs 31:30 in the New International Version: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”

I’m no longer talking about Elizabeth Taylor, friends. I’m talking about Mrs. Rhymeswithplague.


  1. I think only you could pull off a readable post combining such disparate characters.

    I love your closing lines. You're a good man, RWP.

  2. An acrobatic post which I enjoyed reading. Does Mrs Brague actually have to address you as THE LORD? This seems quite old-fashioned but I think I will ask Mrs Pudding to do the same when she visits me in Thailand.

  3. you know that was really a stretch tieing together dr. liz and jerry, but it is yur blog after, i do agree that liz was the most beautiful woman in the world{exceptions being Ka R m A IFIN SHE EVER READS THSI

  4. “A persons’s a person, no matter how small.”
    Which only goes to show how wise an elephant can be! :)

  5. I wasn't much surprised that Liz's death was front page news, but that's only because I'm accustomed to human interest stories taking the place of news that actually matters.

  6. Very clever post, Mr. Brague! I love Elizabeth Taylor movies, Gerard Manley Hopkins poetry and Dr. Seuss! I think my paternal grandmother looked like Taylor back in the day.

  7. Loren, thank you! Of the three choices, your paternal grandmother definitely picked the best one.