To be called Victorian used to be an insult. It implied that one was prudish, repressed, traditional: the irony is that the Victorian era was a time of conflict, tumult, revolution (industrial, political and civil) and rapid change. The agricultural parish, with curate, priest, apothecary and squire became instead the new red brick town next to the mills. And the poets were no longer classical Latinists, though they knew their Latin.

Perhaps the Victorians are deemed unfashionable because they were Christian. Marx was an outlier: firstly a Jew, then as an atheist. They believed in Christ more than progress. The moderns, sadly abandoned Christ.

Which brings me to a Victorian Catholic Poet, Hopkins. Not a sonnet: something better.

white wooden framed glass door
Photo by Jack Antal / Unsplash

As Kingfishers Catch Fire

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.

I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.

Gerard Manley Hopkins