Monday, April 16, 2012

Posted by Laurel Garver on Monday, April 16, 2012 11 comments

Gerard Manley Hopkins is something of a poster-boy for misunderstood artists and "born out of time" poets. Now considered one of the greats of the Victorian era, none of his best-loved poems were published during his lifetime. His style was too radically different from his contemporaries, so his work didn't come into prominence until the nineteen-teens, decades after his death. Hopkins earned his living as a Jesuit priest and a college professor. You can read more about his life HERE.

What I love most about Hopkins's work is his use of sound devices. He of course has a great deal of end-rhyme [ends of lines have a sound-alike pattern], like most Victorians. The first full poem I quote below has the following rhyme scheme [pattern of rhyming lines, with a letter assigned to each new sound]: ABBA ABBA // CCD CCD. [The double slash, "//", indicates a stanza break.]

But Hopkins doesn't stop there. He also uses internal rhyme [rhyme within a line], such as "All the air things wear." His lines seethe with sounds sliding against each other in sound patterns called alliteration [repeated initial sounds], consonance [repeated consonant sounds within a word] and assonance [repeated vowel sounds]. I'll give a few quick examples below.

In these two lines are full of alliteration and consonance: there are a plethora of Ws at the beginnings of words and Ls within:
"Lovely the woods, waters, meadows, combes, vales,
All the air things wear that build this world of Wales; "

This line repeats the assonant "ah" sound (if you read it in a British accent):
"Being mighty a master, being a father and fond. "

Without further ado, here is some Hopkins magic to brighten your Monday.

In the Valley of the Elwy
By Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889)

I remember a house where all were good
To me, God knows, deserving no such thing:
Comforting smell breathed at very entering,
Fetched fresh, as I suppose, off some sweet wood.
That cordial air made those kind people a hood
All over, as a bevy of eggs the mothering wing
Will, or mild nights the new morsels of Spring:
Why, it seemed of course; seemed of right it should.

Lovely the woods, waters, meadows, combes, vales,
All the air things wear that build this world of Wales;
Only the inmate does not correspond:
God, lover of souls, swaying considerate scales,
Complete thy creature dear O where it fails,
Being mighty a master, being a father and fond.


Pied Beauty
By Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889)

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 áll trádes, 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.


God's Grandeur
By Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889)

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Have you ever played with sound patterns in poetry or fiction?

11 comments:

  1. Hopkins is one of my very favorites. I got chills just reading these poems you posted, even though I've read them many times before.

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    1. I tried to pick his most accessible pieces. There are several others I love with more unusual vocabulary--archaic words and such. His use of sound is a thrilling experience, I think.

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  2. I have not (purposely, anyway!) but need to give it a try. Thanks so much for this info!

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    1. Hopkins's big themes are faith, nature and his struggles with depression. But even these latter ones have a Psalms-like quality of seeking God in the midst of suffering.

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  3. I don't think I've read much of Hopkins' work, but the ones you posted are lovely!

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    1. I've admired his use of sound since tripping across "Pied Beauty" in an anthology.

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  4. Loved those poems! I don't think I've ever read anything by him before. My kids and I are writing poetry this month for National Poetry month, so I'm going to show them these. Thanks Laurel!

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    1. You're most welcome. Hopkins's joyful appreciation of God's creation is lovely, isn't it?

      You might want to send them to the Poetry Foundation site (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/gerard-manley-hopkins#about) to see these with the indentations, which help you better see the rhyme scheme. I have tried several different HTML tags and can't get the lines to indent correctly.

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  5. These poems are great! Hopkins is one of my favorite poets, and this poem is amazing. Thanks for sharing these.

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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    1. Glad you enjoyed them. Thanks for stopping by!

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