Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems

Religious Doubt and Faith in Hopkins' Later Poetry

The central role of religion in Hopkins’ life gives it a similar significance in his poetry. The later poems by Hopkins, collectively generalised as the ‘Terrible Sonnets’, emphasise how religious doubt and faith, affected largely by personal circumstance, formed the foundation of Hopkins’ late work. As the ‘Terrible Sonnets’ were mostly written at a time where Hopkins was in ill health, physically and mentally, from the stress of living in Dublin after 1884, his personal conflict with religion undoubtedly underpins these poems. Most of the later poems clearly present elements of doubt and despair as shown in ‘No worst, there is none’ and ‘Spelt from Sibyl’s Leaves’. However, some of these later poems can also be interpreted as containing hope, most notably in ‘That Nature is a Heracltiean Fire and the Comfort of Resurrection’ and even ‘Carrion Comfort’.

The significance of religion is seen in the intense personal struggle that Hopkins endures as he questions his own faith. His lamentation in ‘My own heart let me have more pity on’ that “not live this tormented mind / With this tormented mind tormenting yet” encapsulates the distress of his situation in Dublin. The repetition of torment has many moving connotations of an...

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