Assigned: "God's Grandeur" (1651), "As Kingfishers Catch Fire" (1652), "The Windhover" (1652), "Pied Beauty" (1653), "Binsey Poplars" (1654), "Duns Scotus' Oxford" (1654), "Carrion Comfort" (1656), "I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark, Not Day" (1657), "That Nature Is a Heraclitean Fire..." (1658), "Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord."
1. What failure does Hopkins charge common human beings with? What do they fail to perceive in nature?
2. How does this poem assert the capacity of poetic language to celebrate God? What does the poet's description of nature have to do with his determination to praise God?
"As Kingfishers Catch Fire"
3. How does the "selving" of natural things, as explained in the first stanza or octet, set up a pattern for human beings to follow?
4. How is human "selving" different from and higher than that of nature, according to the speaker?
5. Compare this poem to Tennyson's "The Eagle." What is similar, and what differs between the two poems?
6. How does the sestet (the final six lines) complete the poem's meaning?
7. How does this poem attempt to "free" nature from saturation by human consciousness? How might that attempt be said to distinguish Hopkins' treatment of nature from the romantics' treatment of nature?
8. The poem ends with the line "praise him" — i.e. praise God for the great diversity of things as described in the first ten lines. How is the appreciation of nature's diversity, for Hopkins, a kind of affirmation of God's creative energy? To respond, you might want to refer to the Norton introduction's explanation of Hopkins' affinities with Duns Scotus.
9. Connect this poem to what your Norton Introduction says on page 1649 about Hopkins' doctrines of "inscape" and "instress." How does this poem dramatize a failure of "instress" on the part of those who have chopped down the stand of poplars?
"Duns Scotus's Oxford"
10. How does the speaker particularize Oxford, and how is his mention of Duns Scotus, the "subtle doctor" of scholastic fame, part of that particularization?
11. What is the speaker's complaint about modernity's intrusion into the Oxford schoolscape and landscape, over and above the obvious "uglification" of the scenery? As with "Binsey Poplars," connect this poem to what your Norton Introduction says on page 1649 about Hopkins' doctrines of "inscape" and "instress."
12. Why does the speaker describe despair as "carrion comfort"? Is despair the same thing as apathy, or is it a different state of mind than apathy? Explain.
13. Why does the speaker turn on Christ and argue with him in the second stanza? What accusation does he level against Christ?
14. What is the quality of the affirmation that the speaker makes, or the resolution he arrives at, in this poem? What can he do about his depression?
"I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark, Not Day"
15. Describe the psychology of depression that Hopkins is exploring. Why is it so difficult to escape the mental state he finds himself in?
"That Nature Is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection"
16. How is nature a destructive force in the first part of the poem? What links nature's energy with that of the Resurrection?
17. How does the poem figure the power and scope of the Resurrection? What images, what poetic strategy, help Hopkins accomplish that task?
"Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord"
18. Why does the speaker argue with God — what emotional purpose does arguing with God serve for the speaker?
19. This poem is rather formally structured — why is that appropriate to the subject matter?
Edition: Abrams, M. H. et al. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vols. 2A-C. 7th ed. New York: Norton, 2000. ISBN 2A = 0393975681, 2B = 039397569X, 2C = 0393975703.