Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems Summary

Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems Summary

The Wreck of the Deutschland

The longest poem in the Hopkins canon was inspired by the real life 1875 wreck of Deutschland at the mouth of the Thames. More specifically, it is about the crucial and tragic hours between the dark night of the wreck and the early hours of the next morning which ultimately took the lives of five exiled Franciscan nuns from Germany

Binsey Poplars

Another poem stimulated by the realities of life. This time it was the news about the chopping down of poplar trees (the felling of the trees, actually, according to the repetition of the phrase in the poem) in Oxford.

Spring and Fall

A poem addressed to a child named Margaret that laments the cold indifference to things in the world that spark such childish sense of wonder and appreciation. Upon hearing the advice that the poet thinks will be comforting to Margaret—that when she is older she will not weep so much often—only serves to make her weeping all the more intense.

As Kingfishers Catch Fire

A collection of linked similes that trades a line from kingfishers to dragonflies to man to the infinite justice of Christ to create a celebration of God’s working wonders in the details of creation.

I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark, not Day

This poem is from a collection that has been termed the “Terrible Sonnets” in the sense that they reveal the terrible circumstances of world through the poetic lens of a deeply depressed Hopkins. Anyone who has ever experienced certain types of depression can relate to this symptomatic insight of what it is iike to suffer through an internal darkness powerful that it even denies the comfort of sleep.

The Windhover

An experimentation in meter and metaphor that situates the meaning of Christ in the world in the symbolic images of a falcon being released into flight to pursue its prey.

God’s Grandeur

The title of the poem gives only a partial indication of its contents. While the verse is, indeed, a poetic celebration of the handwork of God that can be seen every day in the world, it is also a lament inspired by those who cannot or simply will not acknowledge that the wonders they see around are examples of the grandeur of God’s majesty.

Pied Beauty

Yet another celebratory poem remarking upon the details of God’s handiwork, most notably those dappled, potted, pieced and freckled.

No Worst, There is None

With a title taken and a theme inspired by Edgar’s realization of that abyss of despair is bottomless by design, this is another of the Terrible Sonnets. Truly qualifying for the term, there is a terrible vacancy of comfort that relief is possible when in the grip of desolate disconsolation. The only relief the poet can find at his point is the tiny pinpoint of light existing in the reality that our minds cannot truly fathom the full infinity of the abyss.

Hurrahing in Harvest

Hopkins is the high priest of finding God in the details and here the details are as simple as the imagery of harvest season. These literal images bring on a rapturous metaphorical epiphany. The blue sky in the distance become the shoulders of Christ, carrying the burden of holding up the world and the heart capable of sprouting wings to lift one to heaven.

In the Valley of the Elwy

In which there was a house in which lived those who have become in the poet’s memory the absolute idealization of cordial society and a mothering environment.

The Child is Father to the Man

A parody of Wordsworth’s “My Heart Leaps Up” by a speaker assuming that there must have been some error in Wordsworth’s original because, after all, how can a child be father to the man. The joke is on two levels, of course, since what Wordsworth actually wrote was “the child is father of the man.”

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