Monday, April 16

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?


  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.

    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.

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

    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.

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

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

  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!

    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 ( 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.

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

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