Cath C chose ‘pyrophoric’ as this week’s word.
My first reaction was ‘pyro-what-now?’. It’s not often I come across a brand new word, but this one was unfamiliar. I got as far as ‘pyro – that means fire’ and then had to admit defeat. Cathy kindly supplied the definition: something pyrophoric is something that combusts spontaneously in contact with air. (The derivation is from pyrophorus = ‘bearer of fire’ which made me kick myself.)
Anyway, I have been thinking about spontaneous fire and it’s been a bit of a lateral exercise. Fire is pretty central to our lives – we have a woodburner in our living room and our heating and hot water come from a wood/coal burning range. But although I’d love a bit of controlled pyrophoria (is that a word?), for us the making of fire is a laborious process, involving newspaper, kindling and the carting about of logs and coal.
So, the thing that I kept coming back to is a phrase from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins:
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Which is a beautiful phrase, I think – and yes, the flash of a kingfisher on the river does look like a burst of blue flame. But here’s a confession: I don’t have much time for Hopkins, generally. My mother finds this very disappointing, as she is a big fan, but I find him very annoying about 90% of the time. (Sorry, Mum.) I like the sprung rhythm, I love some of the imagery, but he’s over-wordy and has a tendency to labour points until they clunk.
So no, I’m not a Hopkins fan. But sometimes, as in the phrase I quoted, there is something incandescent – an image so well expressed that it flashes across the mind and then stays there, smouldering quietly. So, thank you, Cathy, for prompting me to remember it – and reminding me that inspiration can lie in the most unpromising places – even the work of a poet who gets on your nerves.
Go along to Cath C’s blog to check out the other participants!