FRANCISCANS DISCOVER HOPKINS
5. The Franciscan idea of inscape
Hopkins liked Dun Scotus’ idea of haecceitas, but it was too abstract for him to use directly for his poetry. He took the idea of landscape, the way an artist arranges the exterior world and chooses colours, composition and frame to express herself.
Hopkins’ revolutionary idea of inscape was the interior verson of landscape. The poet asks a ‘thing’ to reveal its soul and then finds words to express that spirit.
On his daily walks, Hopkins filled his notebooks with sketches of inscape, phrases and words that described the essence at the heart of what he saw.
Concept of inscape
1. Based on knowing the haecceitas of a thing (“thing” was the word Hopkins used – again it means creature whether animate or inanimate, conscious or not.)
2. A thing’s inscape was firstly what is like within: its spirit or spirituality.
3. Inscape has secondly an aesthetic quality. What expresses the beauty of its inner spirit? How can its inner spirit be communicated artistically; in Hopkins’ case, in words?
Evelyn Wilson explores inscape in her article on Hopkins, “Self-Portrait: Reflection in Water.”
Hopkins captures the inscape of a kestrel in “The Windhover”, a poem which takes my breath away on every reading:
Questions to ask to find the inscape of a thing
1. Notice the haecceitas of this creature. Ilia Delio told the story of Hopkins gazing at a tree for three days for its haecceitas to be revealed.
2. What is unique about this creature’s inner nature? What is its spirit/spirituality?
3. This creature praises God in the way appropriate to its inner nature. What is the song it sings, or the poem it makes, or the sculpture it carves, or the picture it paints to praise God?
Work with a thing, a similar creature to last night. Explore its haecceitas. As you gaze at it, let it reveal its inscape to you. Use the questions above. Write down words which express this inscape.