Gerard Hopkins




Gerard Hopkins


The following texts are the property of their respective authors and we thank them for giving us the opportunity to share for free to students, teachers and users of the Web their texts will used only for illustrative educational and scientific purposes only.



The information of medicine and health contained in the site are of a general nature and purpose which is purely informative and for this reason may not replace in any case, the council of a doctor or a qualified entity legally to the profession.



Gerard Hopkins


Gerard Hopkins was born July 28, 1844, to Manley and Catherine (Smith) Hopkins, the first of their nine children. His parents were High Church Anglicans (variously described as "earnest" and "moderate"), and his father, a marine insurance adjuster, had just published a volume of poetry the year before.
At grammar school in Highgate (1854-63), he won the poetry prize for "The Escorial" and a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford (1863-67), where his tutors included Walter Pater and Benjamin Jowett. At one time he wanted to be a painter-poet like D. G. Rossetti (two of his brothers became professional painters), and he was strongly influenced by the aesthetic theories of Pater and John Ruskin and by the poetry of the devout Anglicans George Herbert and Christina Rossetti. Even more insistent, however, was his search for a religion which could speak with true authority; at Oxford, he came under the influence of John Henry Newman. (See Tractarianism.) Newman, who had converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism in 1845, provided him with the example he was seeking, and in 1866 he was received by Newman into the Catholic Church. In 1867 he won First-Class degrees in Classics and "Greats" (a rare "double-first") and was considered by Jowett to be the star of Balliol.
The following year he entered the Society of Jesus; and feeling that the practice of poetry was too individualistic and self-indulgent for a Jesuit priest committed to the deliberate sacrifice of personal ambition, he burned his early poems. Not until he studied the writings of Duns Scotus in 1872 did he decide that his poetry might not necessarily conflict with Jesuit principles. Scotus (1265-1308), a medieval Catholic thinker, argued (contrary to the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas) that individual and particular objects in this world were the only things that man could know directly, and then only through the haecceitas ("thisness") of each object. With his independently-arrived at idea of "inscape" thus bolstered, Hopkins began writing again.
In 1874, studying theology in North Wales, he learned Welsh, and was later to adapt the rhythms of Welsh poetry to his own verse, inventing what he called " sprung rhythm." The event that startled him into speech was the sinking of the Deutschland, whose passengers included five Catholic nuns exiled from Germany. The Wreck of the Deutschland is a tour de force containing most of the devices he had been working out in theory for the past few years, but was too radical in style to be printed.
From his ordination as a priest in 1877 until 1879, Hopkins served not too successfully as preacher or assistant to the parish priest in Sheffield, Oxford, and London; during the next three years he found stimulating but exhausting work as parish priest in the slums of three manufacturing cities, Manchester, Liverpool, and Glasgow. Late in 1881 he began ten months of spiritual study in London, and then for three years taught Latin and Greek at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire. His appointment in 1884 as Professor of Greek and Latin at University College, Dublin, which might be expected to be his happiest work, instead found him in prolonged depression. This resulted partly from the examination papers he had to read as Fellow in Classics for the Royal University of Ireland. The exams occured five or six times a year, might produce 500 papers, each one several pages of mostly uninspired student translations (in 1885 there were 631 failures to 1213 passes). More important, however, was his sense that his prayers no longer reached God; and this doubt produced the "terrible" sonnets. He refused to give way to his depression, however, and his last words as he lay dying of typhoid fever on June 8, 1889, were, "I am happy, so happy."
Apart from a few uncharacteristic poems scattered in periodicals, Hopkins was not published during his own lifetime. His good friend Robert Bridges (1844-1930), whom he met at Oxford and who became Poet Laureate in 1913, served as his literary caretaker: Hopkins sent him copies of his poems, and Bridges arranged for their publication in 1918.
Even after he started writing again in 1875, Hopkins put his responsibilities as a priest before his poetry, and consequently his output is rather slim and somewhat limited in range, especially in comparison to such major figures asTennyson or Browning. Over the past few decades critics have awarded the third place in the Victorian Triumvirate first to Arnold and then to Hopkins; now his stock seems to be falling and D.G. Rossetti's rising. Putting Hopkins up with the other two great Victorian poets implies that his concern with the " inscape" of natural objects is centrally important to the period; and since that way of looking at the world is essentially Romantic, it further implies that the similarities between Romantic and Victorian poetry are much more significant than their differences. Whatever we decide Hopkins' poetic rank to be, his poetry will always be among the greatest poems of faith and doubt in the English language.
Although his early "Soliloquy of One of the Spies in the Wilderness" shows that Hopkins could writedramatic monologues in the manner of Browning, Tennyson, and Rossetti, virtually all his extant poems take the form of highly condensed lyrics, usually experimental versions of the sonnet. His forms usually build to some sort of epiphany, moment of vision, dramtic reversal — or all three. As "God's Grandeur," Pied Beauty," and "The Windhover" all show, he chose forms that permitted (or forced) him to find ways of packing multiple meanings in a very brief scope. Elaborate word play or puns and biblical allusion based on typology exemplify two of the ways he combined image with the structure of the sonnet.
Like Ruskin and Browning, who were major influences, Hopkins employs allusions to biblical typesas a means of combining a rich, aesthetic surface with elaborate symbolism. As Jerome Bumphas shown, Hopkins also draws on both medieval and Tractarian conceptions of typology that extend this kind of symbolism to include nature objects, such as the sun and seasons. A poem such as "The Windhover" presents the sensuous, visible details of a really existing thing — here the hawk — and then makes us realize the elaborate Christian significance of each detail, as (like a type) the image of the bird is "completed" and makes sense only by reference to Christ.
Whereas "Barnfloor and Winepress" and "New Readings" make explicit reference to biblical types in the same way as do poems by Tennyson, Browning, and Christina Rossetti, "The Windhover," "God's Grandeur," and other later works by Hopkins instead employ charactertically distant echoes of commonplace images. For example, the basic or generating conceit of "The Windhover" is that the higher beauty and higher victory come forth only when something — say, a hawk, an ember, or a clump of soil — is subjected to greater pressure and crushed or bruised. This conceit is in fact an extension of the standard typological interpretation of that passage in Genesis where God tells the serpent: "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel" (3:15). According to conventional readings of this passage, Christ was the seed Who would bruise the serpent's head, and He in turn would be bruised — crucified — in thus conquering evil. James Finn Cotter has correctly pointed out that as a reader it was Hopkins's "custom to concentrate on an essential passage, gloss it exhaustively, and focus on a word or phrase that acted as a key to the whole scene or meaning of the author." The phrase, conceit, or basic structure that informs so many of his poems derives from Genesis 3:15 and can be stated in the following form: true beauty, true life, true victory can only be achieved, as Christ has shown, by being bruised and crushed. Stress, pressure, crushing, bruising, and similar terms appear as organizing ideas throughout his poetry, for here is a point at which Hopkins's basic beliefs, literary techniques, theological methods all converge.
Much of Hopkins's historical importance has to do with the changes he brought to the form of poetry, which ran contrary to conventional ideas of metre. Prior to Hopkins, most Middle English andModern English poetry was based on a rhythmic structure inherited from the Norman side of English literary heritage. This structure is based on repeating groups of two or three syllables, with the stressed syllable falling in the same place on each repetition. Hopkins called this structure "running rhythm", and though he wrote some of his early verse in running rhythm he became fascinated with the older rhythmic structure of the Anglo-Saxon tradition, of which Beowulf is the most famous example. Hopkins called his own rhythmic structure sprung rhythm. Sprung rhythm is structured around feet with a variable number of syllables, generally between one and four syllables per foot, with the stress always falling on the first syllable in a foot. It is similar to the "rolling stresses" of Robinson Jeffers, another poet who rejected conventional metre. Hopkins saw sprung rhythm as a way to escape the constraints of running rhythm, which he said inevitably pushed poetry written in it to become "same and tame." In this way, Hopkins can be seen as anticipating much of free verse.
Gerard Manley Hopkins is one of the greatest 19th-century poets of religion, of nature, and of inner anguish. In his view of nature, the world is like a book written by God. In this book God expresses himself completely, and it is by “reading” the world that humans can approach God and learn about Him. Hopkins therefore sees the environmental crisis of the Victorian period as vitally linked to that era’s spiritual crisis, and many of his poems bemoan man’s indifference to the destruction of sacred natural and religious order. The poet harbored an acute interest in the scientific and technological advances of his day; he saw new discoveries (such as the new explanations for phenomena in electricity or astronomy) as further evidence of God’s deliberate hand, rather than as refutations of God’s existence.
One of Hopkins’s most famous (and most debated) theories centers on the concept of “inscape.” He coined this word to refer to the essential individuality of a thing, but with a focus not on its particularity or uniqueness, but rather on the unifying design that gives a thing its distinctive characteristics and relates it to its context. Hopkins was interested in the exquisite interrelation of the individual thing and the recurring pattern. He saw the world as a kind of network integrated by divine law and design.
Hopkins wrote most frequently in the sonnet form. He generally preferred the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet, which consists of an octave followed by a sestet, with a turn in argument or change in tone occurring in the second part. Hopkins typically uses the octave to present some account of personal or sensory experience and then employs the sestet for philosophical reflection. While Hopkins enjoyed the structure the sonnet form imposes, with its fixed length and rhyme scheme, he nevertheless constantly stretched and tested its limitations. One of his major innovations was a new metrical form, called “sprung rhythm.” In sprung rhythm, the poet counts the number of accented syllables in the line, but places no limit on the total number of syllables. As opposed to syllabic meters (such as the iambic), which count both stresses and syllables, this form allows for greater freedom in the position and proportion of stresses. Whereas English verse has traditionally alternated stressed and unstressed syllables with occasional variation, Hopkins was free to place multiple stressed syllables one after another (as in the line “All felled, felled, are all felled” from “Binsey Poplars”), or to run a large number of unstressed syllables together (as in “Finger of a tender of, O of a feathery delicacy” from Wreck of the Deutschland). This gives Hopkins great control over the speed of his lines and their dramatic effects.
Another unusual poetic resource Hopkins favored is “consonant chiming,” a technique he learned from Welsh poetry. The technique involves elaborate use of alliteration and internal rhyme; in Hopkins’s hands this creates an unusual thickness and resonance. This close linking of words through sound and rhythm complements Hopkins’s themes of finding pattern and design everywhere. Hopkins’s form is also characterized by a stretching of the conventions of grammar and sentence structure, so that newcomers to his poetry must often strain to parse his sentences. Deciding which word in a given sentence is the verb, for example, can often involve significant interpretive work. In addition, Hopkins often invents words, and pulls his vocabulary freely from a number of different registers of diction. This leads to a surprising mix of neologisms and archaisms throughout his lines. Yet for all his innovation and disregard of convention, Hopkins’ goal was always to bring poetry closer to the character of natural, living speech.




A nun takes the veil



    I HAVE desired to go

      Where springs not fail,

To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail

    And a few lilies blow.


    And I have asked to be


      Where no storms come,

Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,

    And out of the swing of the sea.


The entire poem is an extended metaphor, a familiar, sensuous rendering of an unfamiliar and nonsensuous reality. The extraordinary power of the extended metaphor derives from the fact that the poet keeps attention focused on the particularities of storms and seasons while all the time referring beyond them to other things. But within the poem are also a multitude of discrete metaphors -- "sided hail," "green swell," "havens dumb," "swing of the sea" -- which complicate, intensify, and comment on the larger metaphor. Aristotle, as often, said it quite well: "a good metaphor implies an intuitive perception of the similarities in dissimilars." In Hopkins’ poem the whole complex of "a nun taking the veil" is seen as similar to the other complex of seasonal and natural phenomena; a dialectic between the familiar, the seasons and storms at sea, and the unfamiliar, "taking the veil," is set up in which each renews and deepens the meaning of the other. The metaphoric dialectic is a complex one: on the one hand, the familiar and sensuous is used to evoke the unfamiliar, and, on the other hand, the unfamiliar context or frame in which the familiar is set allows us to see the ordinary in a new way. That is to say, the nature imagery evokes "taking the veil," and that strange event serves as the frame for nature, causing us to see it now in a new light. Metaphoric insight never takes us "out of ourselves," but it returns us to ourselves with new insight; it is not a mystical, static, intellectual vision, but an insight into how ordinary human life and events can be made to move beyond themselves by connecting them to this and to that.



Source :

Web site link:

Google key word : Gerard Hopkins file type : doc

Author : not indicated on the source document of the above text

If you are the author of the text above and you not agree to share your knowledge for teaching, research, scholarship (for fair use as indicated in the United States copyrigh low) please send us an e-mail and we will remove your text quickly.


Gerard Hopkins


If you want to quickly find the pages about a particular topic as Gerard Hopkins use the following search engine:



Gerard Hopkins


Please visit our home page Terms of service and privacy page




Gerard Hopkins