From The Habit of Perfection by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

Nostrils, your careless breath that spend

Upon the stir and keep of pride,

What relish shall the censers send

Along the sanctuary side!

What is the stir and keep of pride here? Stir = commotion? Keep = stronghold (metaphorically, the body)? And what they may mean combined in one sentence?

I understood the bit with censers that send fumes along the wall of the refuge, but the first half of the stanza is misty.


R. B. Martin, in Victorian Poetry (p. 768), glosses keep as maintenance (that is, with its sense as in upkeep). Note that reading keep as work and effort is consistent with reading stir as bustle and bother. Both those readings are consistent with the apparent intent of careless breath and pride.

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  • Thanks, jwpat7! Keep as upkeep seems reasonable and does away with my uncertainty concerning the use of the slang sense of stir. Reminds me of my other question, regarding a poem by Guy Wetmore Carryl where the author mercilessly cut angleworm, leaving only angle. – CowperKettle Nov 14 '13 at 16:59

Stir here means prison (as in Stir Crazy) and keep is a stronghold/fortress, yes. Having read the full poem I think it's associating the sense of smell with pride in the sense of pridefulness/aloofness/disdain. Maybe reminiscent of "turning your nose up at something" or sniffy/sniffily.

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  • Thanks, Mathemagician! The Century Dictionary mentions the "prison" sense for stir but adds a parenthesized note, "Thieves' slang". Should'd been quite a fresh slang word in 1880s; I'm unsure whether he could had mixed in a (then vulgar?) novelty with antique "noble" words like keep, censers, sanctuary. – CowperKettle Nov 12 '13 at 13:49
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    A prison and a fortress are two sides of the same coin ... keeping things inside or outside. The poem dates from 1866 apparently, however the word had already been used in print by Henry Mayhew in London Labour and the London Poor according to this blog. That's the sort of earnest Victorian writing that Hopkins might have read. – user24964 Nov 12 '13 at 17:15

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