"Spring and Fall"

  1. What are some features of the poem's form? What is its rhythm?
  2. What kinds of words are used? What do you make of such words as "wanwood" and "leafmeal"?
  3. Is there anything unusual about the word order?
  4. Are there any irregular lines, and if so, what is their significance?
  5. What are features of the poem's tone and setting?
  6. Why is the poem called "Spring and Fall," not "Fall"? Why does the poet address his reflections "to a young girl"?
  7. How old does Margaret seem, and what seem to be her responses to the changing of the seasons? What does the speaker know about her future, and why?
  8. How do the poem's sounds reinforce/create its meaning? What does the poet think is the source of Margaret's grief?How is it rhymed?
  9. What is meant by the final line, "It is Margaret you mourn for"? Might there be both a theological and more general reading of this line?
  10. What is the poem's theme?

“The Windhover”

  1. What is the form of this poem? What is its meter? Is it regular in stanza form and rhythm? What are some unusual features of its language?
  2. What is a windhover? Can you tell its traits from the poem? What kind of poem would you expect to be written on this theme?
  3. What do you make of the epigraph? Does it influence how you interpret the poem?
  4. How is the bird described? What is the poet’s relationship to him? How does he describe his own response? What do you make of his description of his emotions, “My heart in hiding”?
  5. .What happens in lines 9-11? How you interpret the word “buckle”? Why may AND be capitalized? What metaphor is presented in this section?
  6. What are the poem’s metaphors in lines 12-14? What is the importance of the final line, “Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion”?
  7. Does the poem end well? What effect is created by the use of several distinct metaphors?
  8. What seem to you the most unusual features of this poem?

“As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Dragonflies Draw Flame”

  1. What are some features of the poem’s word and sound choices?
  2. What qualities of the kingfisher and dragonfly does the poet note? Why do you think these animals/qualities are chosen?
  3. Why do you think the next images chosen are of stones and bell tongues? What properties do these items possess, as described?
  4. What does it mean to say, “Each mortal thing does one thing and the same”? How is this dictum applied differently to humans?
  5. Are the rhythms of the final lines regular? What elements bind these lines together?
  6. What is the poet’s final notion of divinity? Christ? God? To what extent would these be orthodox notions for a Jesuit priest to express?
  7. What overall statement is made by this poem? How is this related to the poet’s notion of “inscape”?

“Carrion Comfort”

  1. What is the meaning of the title? Why is despair a form of “carrion comfort”?
  2. What is the form of this sonnet? What are some features of its language? What situation does it describe?
  3. Are the tenses in this sonnet consistent? If they change, what do these changes mean? In what situation is the speaker at the end of the poem? (his mental struggle seems to begin all over again)
  4. What are some rhetorical features of this poem? To whom is it spoken? What does the speaker have to struggle to do, and how is this struggle represented?
  5. What are the qualities of his antagonist? Who is the one described as “O thou terrible”?
  6. What turn seems to occur in the sestet? What are some paradoxes inherent in the imagery of kissing the rod?
  7. What confusion of identity does the speaker undergo, and why is this important?
  8. How do you explain the parentheses in “(my God!) my God”?
  9. Are there any biblical precedents for the notion of wrestling with God? Does the speaker finally receive comfort, and if so, on what grounds?
  10. At the poem's end, does the speaker claim to have achieved closure or peace? May the cycle of struggle he has described be repeated?

“Felix Randal”

  1. Who was Felix, and what is known about him? What has been the speaker’s relationship to him?
  2. What are some features of the poem’s language? Do they intensify its emotion?
  3. Are there any ironies/implications of the dying ferrier’s name?
  4. What image ends the poem? How are we supposed to react to the image of the drayhorse’s “bright and battering sandal”? What do you make of the use of an exclamation point to end the poem?
  5. Are there classical suggestions in the image of the “random grim forge”?
  6. Is this poem moralistic? What seems to be its point?
  7. Does this poem remind you of any other Hopkins sonnets you have read?

"No Worst, There is None"

  1. What is the meaning of the poem's first line? May it be read ini more than one way?
  2. What is the poem's form? Is it regular? What are some of its more striking images and word choices?
  3. What are some of its internal divisions, and how do these reinforce the sequence of thought?
  4. What is the significance of the fact that line 7 is divided in the middle of a word?
  5. What is the effect of the poet's use of inversions of normal syntax? What "comfort" is provided in the last lines?
  6. What is the poem's final message or tone? How does it differ from "Not, I'll not carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee?"

"Binsey Poplars"

What are some unusual features of the stanza form of this poem? Is it a sonnet? If not, does it have some of the structural features of his other sonnets?

How does the poem use sound to convey emotion?

Why would poplars/aspens have especially appealed to Hopkins’ aesthetic sense?

What unusual metaphor is used in the second stanza? Does it seem effective?

Hopkins' Sonnets:

What features of Hopkins' sensibility are especially well-served by the sonnet form? Does the sonnet present problems absent from his use of the celebratory ode?
Are there any resemblances between Hopkins' use of the sonnet tradition and that of Rossetti in "The House of Life"?
"That Nature Is a Heraclitean Fire" has 24 lines--is it still a sonnet? Are there advantages of Hopkins' lengthened, extended sonnets?
What are common elements of Hopkins' response to Duns Scotus and Henry Purcell? To Tom of "Tom's Garland" and Harry the Ploughman?
In theme and imagery can you see parallels between "Harry Ploughman," "The Windhover," and "The Wreck of the Deutschland"?
How can a poet to whom God reveals himself through the individual features of natural objects and human qualities maintain in a sonnet that hell is the concentrated experience of one's "sweating sel[f]"? Is this paradox worked out through the imagery of any of his other poems?

Hopkins: Types of Poems

Poems celebrating God's presence in nature: "God's Grandeur," "The Starlight Night," "The Windhover," "Hurrahing in Harvest," and to some degree, "The Wreck of the Deutschland"
Poems describing the individuated, variegated nature of beauty and selfhood: "As Kingfishers Catch Fire," "Pied Beauty," "Duns Scotus' Oxford," "Henry Purcell," "To What Serves Mortal Beauty?"
Poems expressing distress because nature has fallen or been despoiled by man: "Duns Scotus' Oxford," "Binsey Poplars," "The Sea and the Skylark," "Spring and Fall"
Poems on representative lower-class Englishmen: "Felix Randall," "Harry Ploughman," "Tom's Garland," "The Soldier"
Poems of personal despair and depression, absence of God and dearth of accomplishment: "Carrion Comfort," "No worst, there is none," "To seem the stranger lies my lot," "I wake and feel the fell of dark," "My own heart let me more have pity on," "Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord."
Poems synthecizing nos. 1 and 5, expressing both the fullness of nature's beauty and its decay, and the cycles of nature's destruction and resurrection: "Spelt from Sibyl's Leaves," "That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire," "The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo"