Photographs taken in and around the Lee Valley, London, from Hackney to Cheshunt, 2022-2023 by Andy Wilson. Free to download.

Lee Valley Inscape: Photographs

Andy Wilson

Between two moments bliss is ripe
William Blake,Europe 14:22

Thomas Merton, here and now

“Therefore each particular being, in its individuality, its concrete nature and entity, with all its own characteristics and its private qualities and its own inviolable identity, gives glory to God by being precisely what He wants it to be here and now, in the circumstances ordained for it by His Love and His infinite Art. The forms and individual characters of living and growing things, of inanimate beings, of animals and flowers and all nature, constitute their holiness in the sight of God. Their inscape is their sanctity. It is the imprint of His wisdom and His reality in them. The special clumsy beauty of this particular colt on this April day in this field under these clouds is a holiness consecrated to God by His own creative wisdom and it declares the glory of God. The pale flowers of the dogwood outside this window are saints. The little yellow flowers that nobody notices on the edge of that road are saints looking up into the face of God.
This leaf has its own texture and its own pattern of veins and its own holy shape, and the bass and trout hiding in the deep pools of the river are canonized by their beauty and their strength. The lakes hidden among the hills are saints, and the sea too is a saint who praises God without interruption in her majestic dance. The great, gashed, half-naked mountain is another of God’s saints. There is no other like him. He is alone in his own character; nothing else in the world ever did or ever will imitate God in quite the same way. That is his sanctity.”

Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

Gerard Manley Hopkins on Inscape and Instress

“In his journals, Gerard Manley Hopkins used two terms, ‘inscape’ and ‘instress,’ which can cause some confusion. By ‘inscape’ he means the unified complex of characteristics that give each thing its uniqueness and that differentiate it from other things, and by ‘instress’ he means either the force of being which holds the inscape together or the impulse from the inscape which carries it whole into the mind of the beholder:

There is one notable dead tree… the inscape markedly holding its most simple and beautiful oneness up from the ground through a graceful swerve below (I think) the spring of the branches up to the tops of the timber. I saw the inscape freshly, as if my mind were still growing, though with a companion the eye and the ear are for the most part shut and instress cannot come.

The concept of inscape shares much with Wordsworth’s ‘spots of time,’ Emerson’s ‘moments,’ and Joyce’s ‘epiphanies,’ showing it to be a characteristically Romantic and post-Romantic idea. But Hopkins’ inscape is also fundamentally religious: a glimpse of the inscape of a thing shows us why God created it. Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:

myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

Hopkins occupies an important place in the poetic line that reaches from the major Romantic poets, especially Wordsworth and Keats, through Tennyson and the Pre-Raphaelites to Hopkins, Pater, Yeats and the symbolists, and finally to Ezra Pound and the Imagists. His insistence that inscape was the essence of poetry (“Poetry is in fact speech employed to carry the inscape of speech for the inscape’s sake”) and that consequently, what he called “Parnassian” poetry (i.e., competent verse written without inspiration) was to be avoided has much in common with the aestheticism of Walter Pater (one of his tutors at Oxford) and the Art for Art’s Sake movement, and sounds very much like the theoretical pronouncements of the Imagists of the early twentieth century.

Glenn Everett, ‘Hopkins on Inscape and Instress’, The Victorian Web

William Blake, Milton’s track

There is a Moment in each Day that Satan cannot find
Nor can his Watch Fiends find it, but the Industrious find
This Moment & it multiply. & when it once is found
It renovates every Moment of the Day if rightly placed
In this Moment Ololon descended to Los & Enitharmon
Unseen beyond the Mundane Shell Southward in Miltons track

William Blake, Milton II 15/39:42-47

Glory be to God for dappled things

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, Pied Beauty