Gérard Manly Hopkins: Intellect and Reason in Opposition

In the last post the faculties of the mind and their relation to the planets were discussed. But theory should be tested and put into practice. I have chosen a poet who demonstrates in his poetry how intellection, reason, thought, conjecture and imagination interact.  “God’s Grandeur” is probably the most well-known of his poems:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil,
It gathers to a greatness like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck His rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And bears man’s smudge, and shares man’s smell; the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights from the black west went,
Oh, morning at the brown brink eastwards springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast, and with, ah, bright wings.

Let us look at his chart:

28 July 1844, Stratford/London (0e00 51n33) 4:15am

It is not at all surprising that his natal chart in a sense described by “God’s Grandeur”. A double Leo would be very sensitive to this and quite capable of describing it. You will note in this chart that both the Sun and Saturn are in their respective domicile and angular. They are also in opposition to one another and in mutual detriment. Their natural condition so to speak. This opposition dominates the chart and in effect shows one of the major themes of his life, put in the context of the last post, the conflict between intellect and reason, the knowledge of the heart that transcends time and space and the knowledge of the brain that is bound to time and matter. The first four lines describe the Sun, the following four Saturn. The first eight lines together the flavour of the opposition between Sun and Saturn or Intellect and Reason. This is perhaps one of the best existent “readings” of Sun opp. Saturn. That the Sun is just about to rise adds an “autobiographical” signature to the poem.

We have already looked at the Sun and Saturn with respect to the faculties of the mind. What about the other planets? First we see that both Mercury and Mars are combust. Thought and language along with conjecture are subsumed by the intellect. Both planets are peregrine. But because they are angular they have strong accidental dignity. They are entirely under the control of the Sun in whose domicile they are placed. They also participate, although weakly, in the opposition of Sun to Saturn. The Moon, Venus and Jupiter are all in cardinal signs but are cadent. So we have two sets of planets. Sun, Saturn, Mars and Mercury are the dominant set, they show the more visible side of Gérard Manly Hopkins. The cadent set of planets are also the softer planets. The Moon is in her detriment and Venus is peregrine. Jupiter, L9, has some essential dignity and is also in his own house. In fact through the fairly close trine with and being in the exaltation of the Sun we can see how the faculty of aspiration allies itself to the intellect. We have the Holy Ghost, to use the language of the poem, brooding over the bent (cadent) world.


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