I started the Sonnet sequence with the penitential sonnets of Anne Locke, then the Medications of Donne. Both these can be bleak: and most people think that reformed theology is dark, bleak and unremitting. They miss the spark of the divine. There is a comfort in knowing that your soul rests not in any act or doing of yourself, but in the completed work of Christ.
But the Romans take it to another level. It is the monastics who discuss the dark night of the soul, and the Jesuits who sent Hopkins, a frail English convert from High Church Anglicanism, to Trinity college and (unwittingly) to despair.
I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.
What hours, O what black hours we have spent
This night! what sights you, heart, saw; ways you went!
And more must, in yet longer light’s delay.
With witness I speak this. But where I say
Hours I mean years, mean life. And my lament
Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent
To dearest him that lives alas! away.
I am gall, I am heartburn. God’s most deep decree
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me;
Bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse.
Selfyeast of spirit a dull dough sours. I see
The lost are like this, and their scourge to be
As I am mine, their sweating selves; but worse.
,cite>Gerard Manley Hopkins