Virginia Barton

14 February 2018: Lent


14 February 2018


Gerard Manley Hopkins gave up writing poetry for Lent when he entered the Jesuit Seminary. I am going to follow his example and give up writing my Commonplaces for Lent. Not, I fear, with the high and noble motives offered by the poet, but rather because I feel it’s time for a sabbatical.

I have always wanted one of these mysterious and enviable spaces in the lives of my academical chums. A sabbatical can be anything from a term to a year. Mine will be, God willing, just 40 days. Hopkins, that pale, ascetic master of the English language, changed our ideas irrevocably where verse was concerned. I shall change nothing, but perhaps come to terms with What Next.


It’s Ash Wednesday today and during Lent we should fast, give alms, and perform good deeds. I think it’s all about giving? Giving up a habit, giving  a portion of income with gladness not grudge, and  giving one’s time to others, perhaps the most difficult gift of all to give?

Let there be no surprise or breast-beating at failure on some or all counts. Even giving up chocolate isn’t easy when confronted with a box of Lindt truffles or Hershey’s specials.


The snowdrops will be over by the time I pick up the Commonplaces at Easter.

“Have an appropriate Lent!” as someone said to me today – what can they have meant?





  • Jack L says on: February 14, 2018 at 3:37 pm


    We will miss you, Virginia! But if anyone deserves a respite it would be YOU.

    May your “appropriate” Lent be a time of spiritual reflection and enrichment, in preparation for the Easter promise. See you in April.

  • Coal-Filled Wellies says on: February 14, 2018 at 6:25 pm


    I’ll feel like an astronaut going round the back of the moon. See you on the other side, Ginny!

  • Nadine says on: February 14, 2018 at 7:05 pm


    Everything you write seems just right. Food for thought, and inspiration too…

  • Zoz says on: February 14, 2018 at 7:40 pm


    I look forward to your comments at Easter.

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