“[N]ow, barbarous in beauty, the stooks rise […]”
-- Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Hurrahing in Harvest”
Strangely enough, this line came to mind this morning during a 9th grade English class, when several unkempt and scruffy teenagers taught me a few things about a novel I thought I knew well. These were kids who probably care way more about basketball and texting than teaching an old teacher about an old book, but nonetheless, there they were this morning, making me sit up and see some sentences in A Tale of Two Cities in an entirely fresh way. We were discussing a puzzling passage which I had, I thought, come to some understanding of a few years back, when these two boys abruptly brought me around 180 degrees. They were dressed somewhat shabbily, and I remember hearing them sort of throwing themselves down the hall as they came to class, but once we started discussing last night’s assigned reading, they broke forth like the lights of a new and wild wisdom. For a few minutes, they made several of Dickens’ strange sentences shine as clearly as candle flames, these untidy boys who break all records racing around at recess but who only this morning made me aware of their skill in decoding cryptic books. In some ways, the word “barbarous” could be applied to these boys who often forget the simplest manners and make a brief but crazy chaos between classes. However, in some ways, like this morning, they also bring a peculiar beauty to my classroom – the beauty of bold ideas born of youthful sincerity and uprightness.
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