From the Lost Correspondence of Gerard Manley Hopkins to Robert Bridges
Imagine: two men, naked, and a ladder,
Opened to a tall A. No place in particular,
Rather a dark abstraction from place.
The ladder, wood, worn, stands grounded here, sure,
Yet yearns, by pointing, upward. The most
Remarkable the men, who ascend, descend
The steps, slow or leaping, acrobats, no,
Trans-acrobats, more than mere technicians,
Under the bar of the A, with bow, with crawl,
Between legs to enter and issue therefrom,
Or grapple, with the thing itself, hang, twist
Upon it, rack, riddle, and wiTheach
Other as well, wrestle, to wring out breath
Or admission (even sometimes separately
With only, alone, earnest, themselves), sweat
All through this their shining badge. How lit?
Imagine this, then, Robert, and you have
My dream of nights ago. Or some of it:
There were innuendoes, shades and auras.
It stays and stays, as if not yet am I awake.
Who were they? Wild they were. In weak moments
I meditate upon those men, their ladder. Was it
Theirs? Possession by torment? It was, too, a
Tool. Whose, though? Another's they use, uses them?
Jacob and Esau, yes. But Esau saw no ladder.
Nor did they wrestle, only Jacob with
An angel. These took the place of angels,
Trafficked the vertical, heaven to earth
And reverse, yet were most clearly men, sexed,
No denying that. Their parts both were and were
Not part of the dream-dance without music:
Swinging freely in the sourceless light,
Seemed accompaniment, mere, for the moves
Of the whole bodies, and yet seemed also
What the whole bodies moved around
(Or the bodies, to be whole, moved around).
Circle-center to circumference.
Two? I thought of man divided, even
Christ divided. Between here and there
The dark earth we take as lover, falling,
The sky, dark, if differently, if beautiful,
Appalling. But no, none of that will do,
Is too simple: these men of mine hung once
Upside down, feet hooked on upper rungs, hands
Grazing ground, so that direction was lost,
In going up they seemed to be going down,
Sky rode low under the flying earth, or seemed to,
I was as lost as North and South.