March 8, 2015KR BlogEnthusiamsReading

Patience in Gerard Manley Hopkins’s “Patience, Hard Thing!” and HBO’s Enlightened

Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “Patience, hard thing!” is challenging to read, but offers a persuasive argument as to why patience is a virtue. In the first four lines, though, we see the dark side of Patience — how it demands that we tolerate slow-moving wars and slow-healing injuries, among other tasks. Then it springs up like ivy to hide our “wrecked past purpose.” Even then, Hopkins asserts, people are more likely to rebel and feel frustrated than to act with patience. And that’s what I like about this poem — we don’t find out until the last two lines why patience is so desirable.

PATIENCE, hard thing! the hard thing but to pray,
But bid for, Patience is! Patience who asks
Wants war, wants wounds; weary his times, his tasks;
To do without, take tosses, and obey.
Rare patience roots in these, and, these away,
Nowhere. Natural heart’s ivy, Patience masks
Our ruins of wrecked past purpose. There she basks
Purple eyes and seas of liquid leaves all day.

We hear our hearts grate on themselves: it kills
To bruise them dearer. Yet the rebellious wills
Of us we do bid God bend to him even so.
And where is he who more and more distils
Delicious kindness? — He is patient. Patience fills
His crisp combs, and that comes those ways we know.

In the third-to-last line Hopkins asks us to guess where you’ll find “he who more and more distils/ Delicious kindness?” The answer shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but it did: “He is patient.” The “where” isn’t a place, it’s a state of being. A state of patience.

Then we get an exquisite metaphor comparing patience to honey, both of which develop slowly, are available in deep reserves, and are soothing and sweet. It seems Hopkins is also saying that the reward for patience is a kind nature.

HBO’s Enlightened makes the same connection between patience and kindness. “The Ghost is Seen,” an episode from Enlightened’s second season, is unusual because it focuses on a minor character. Tyler is Amy Jellicoe’s intensely shy and retiring colleague in Abbadon’s IT department.

Tyler begins the episode describing himself as a ghost who glides through life all too easily. Over the course of the episode, Tyler meets and falls for another coworker, Eileen (played by Molly Shannon). This clip joins the first and last monologues into one stellar story showing Tyler’s transformation from spirit to flesh:  http://youtu.be/ZykXzEnmmIA

At the end of the episode, the Joanna Newsome song “Esme” plays, and Newsome sings that “kindness prevails”. It required patience for Tyler to get through this ghost period, and he is rewarded with a kind nature that appeals to Eileen and prevails over his shyness. In an interview with the New York Times, Enlightened creator Mike White — who also plays Tyler — describes himself as a humanist, not a satirist. Like Joseph Campbell, White emphasizes “uncovering your authentic self,” a journey that certainly requires — and rewards — patience.