O Tinnitus (After Gerard Manley Hopkins)

O Tinnitus, buzzing in my ears–
Wretched blasted buzzing thickets–
Haunted my life for years
With a sound like chirping crickets.

Does this sound come from playing
The noble viola for too long?
Or is the sound due to laying
In bed listening to many a song?

I must say I do not know
How to get rid of this persistent sound
Or how far my ears will go
To make it hard to understand those around.

But lest it be thought that in such a place
I should only repine and whining whine,
Let it simply be said I will manly face
The buzzing in these poor, poor ears of mine.


Those of you who read this poem and are at least somewhat familiar with other poems that I have written [1] will be able to see that this poem is quite different in its somewhat rigid and even stilted rhyme scheme and sprung meter elements.  I have, for the sake of the reader and the comprehension of this poem, avoided the use of accented speech to try to force the reader a certain way, and to allow him or her to take the lines of the poem as seems most appropriate.  Such concessions to the sensibility of the reader are, alas, all too unfamiliar from the model of this poem that I drew from in a somewhat mocking way, and will likely not be appreciated by those who have not bothered to see how unfortunate a model this ode to tinnitus has.

The poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins is something that must be read to be appreciated.  Fortunately, that body of work is not a particularly large one, or else I would feel bad about urging someone to waste too much time in it.  At any rate, though, the poetry is not good.  The attentive reader may note that I made a pun (Hopkins was fond of puns, as he was of eye rhymes and tedious alliteration and eliding the relative pronoun that in his writing) on the author’s name by noting at the end of that I will manly face the buzzing of my ears.  Specifically, the last note of the poem is a reference to the last line of his poem “Cheery Beggar,” but I hope that my poetry is far less incomprehensible than that of Hopkins.  Those readers who are familiar with the model may understand.  Those who do not, I trust will understand that there is something larger afoot than merely an ode to a troublesome and frequent buzzing in my ears and leave it at that.

This particular poem may be judged as a pastiche, and hopefully not an unkind one.  Hopkins himself was known to take ridiculous lines and to mock them in a rather intriguing way and this poem may be taken as giving that treatment back to Hopkins, after a manner.  The pastiche, for those who are not aware, is an effort that takes the form of someone else’s writing and mimics it in a comic or ridiculous aim.  As a high school student I took the closing scene of Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” and turned it into an incestuous parting between two sibling-lovers.  Perhaps more daringly, I turned it in for an assessment that was sent overseas to be scored, which was in retrospect perhaps not the best of ideas, but even as a young and inexperienced writer I was quite cheeky, no doubt.  Suffice it to say that pastiche is an approach to writing that I am not unfamiliar with, and I thought it worthy to assay such a method here as well, as Hopkins’ style is so well suited to parody and imitation, although hopefully not too much of it, lest the poetry become popular merely as a meme.

Yet although the poetry of Hopkins is definitely memeworthy, without a doubt, I trust as well that at least some readers will note that there is some seriousness in the poem as well.  I did not choose tinnitus to talk about merely at random, but in fact after reading the poems of Hopkins I was lying in bed with that dreadful ringing wondering if it would keep me from falling asleep (it didn’t) or whether it would persist for a while (as it does while I write these lines even now).  If I write as a bit of a joke towards a long dead late Victorian Jesuit poet, let it be said that at least the joke hits close to home in my own concerns about my hearing and the persistent buzzing that my ears often have.  Perhaps then, as it so often is, that the joke of this poem is on me, for who else reads obscure poetry from people who are long dead and then tries to imitate their style to whine about one’s own issues?  Only such a writer as myself, I suppose.

[1] See, for example:






About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to O Tinnitus (After Gerard Manley Hopkins)

  1. Pingback: Lost In The Wilderness | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Winter Morning Walks | Edge Induced Cohesion

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