Gerard Manley Hopkins

October 24, 2006


First publication of his poems was made accessible to readers 29 years after his death
Most poems celebrate the wonders of God’s creation
Were known only to a small circle of friends during his lifetime
Praised for his striking experiments with meter and diction
Widely hailed as a pioneering figure of ‘modern’ literature and unconnected with fellow Victorian poets
Often grouped with twentieth-century poets
Born near London into a cultivated family in comfortable circumstances
Attended Oxford and was exposed to the Broad Church theology of one of his tutors
White at Oxford Hopkins wrote poems in the vein of John Keats but burned most of these writings after his conversion: drafts survive
Entered the Roman Catholic Church: suffered estrangement from his family
Because a Jesuit priest
Appointed professor of classics at University College in Dublin
Felt everything in the universe was characterized by what he called ‘inscape’: the distinctive design that constitutes individual dynamic identity: Each being in the universe enacts its identity and the human recognizes the inscape of other beings in an act he terms instress: the apprehension of an object in an intense thrust of energy toward it that enables one to realize its specific distinctiveness- all of this leads on to Christ, for the individual identity of any object is the stamp of divine creation
Poetry enacts this celebration of identity
Hopkins seeks to give each poem a unique design that captures the initial inspiration when he is caught by his subject
Creates compounds to represent the unique interlocking fo the characteristics of an object
Disrupts conventional syntax, coins and compounds words, and uses ellipsis and repetition to represent the stress and action of the brain in moments of inspiration
Uses new rhythm to give each poem a distinctive design
Believed that sprung rhythm was the natural rhythm of common speech, written prose and music
In early poems, beauty of individual objects brings him close to God but in late poems the distinctive individuality comes to isolate him from God
In the ‘terrible sonnets’ he cannot escape a world solely of his own imagining
Yeats calls Hopkins’s poetry

“a last development of poetical diction.”


I caught this morning morning’s minion, king- / dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding / Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding / High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing / In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing, / As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding / Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding / Stirred for a bird, -the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here / Buckle! And the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion / Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion / Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear, / Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

-The Windhover – To Christ our Lord (in whole)

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.

-Pied Beauty (in whole)

Pied means of two or more colors in blotches, variegated

Margaret, are you grieving/ Over Goldengrove unleaving?/ Leaves, like the things of man, you/ With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?/ Ah! as the heart grows older/ It will come to such sights colder/ By and by, nor spare a sigh/ Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;/ And yet you will weep and know why./ Now no matter, child, the name:/ Sorrow’s springs are the same./ Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed/ What heart heard of, ghost guessed:/ It is the blight man was born for,/ It is Margaret you mourn for.

-Spring and Fall (in whole)

To a Young Child


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