GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS QUESTIONS
Assigned: "God's Grandeur" (1516); "As Kingfishers Catch Fire" (1517); "The Windhover" (1518); "Pied Beauty" (1518); "Binsey Poplars" (1519); "Duns Scotus's Oxford" (1520); "Felix Randal" (1520-21); "No worst, there is none" (1522); "I wake and feel . . ." (1522-23); "That Nature Is a Heraclitean Fire . . ." (1523); from Journal (1524-26).
Of Interest: Author Image | Literary History | DMOZ Links | Victorian Web | Gerard Manley Hopkins Archive | Robert Bridges' 1918 Hopkins Edition | Kestrel, i.e. "Windhover" Arkive Image, Video | Kingfisher, Arkive Image, Video | Wikipedia Entry, Duns Scotus | Images of Oxford | Heraclitus Overview
1. What failure does Hopkins charge common human beings with? What do they fail to perceive in nature, and why?
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 with respect to the speaker's way of observing a bird of prey in flight, and any broader significance that may be drawn from the observation of nature?
6. How does the sestet (the final six lines) complete the poem's meaning -- why, with regard to the speaker's perception of the Windhover diving, is there "No wonder of it," and what do the references to the shiny plough and "blue-bleak embers" add to your understanding?
7. How does this poem attempt to liberate nature from saturation by human consciousness? How might that attempt be said to distinguish Hopkins' treatment of nature from the romantics' treatment of it?
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, an 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 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. How does Hopkins, as a Jesuit priest who has ministered to the blacksmith Felix Randal, respond to the man's death?
13. In what sense is this poem a meditation on the difficulty of "looking to the end," both for the priest and for the once active blacksmith?
"No Worst, There is None"
14. What is this lowest state of the soul that the speaker describes? Why is it appropriate to describe it as a kind of personal hell?
15. Compare the poem's last three lines to Swinburne's final lines in "Hymn to Proserpine." Why is the thought ultimately not comforting to Hopkins?
"I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark, Not Day"
16. 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"
17. How is nature a destructive force in the first part of the poem? What links nature's energy with that of the Resurrection?
18. How does the poem figure the power and scope of the Resurrection? What images, what poetic strategy, help Hopkins accomplish that task?
19. To what extent are Hopkins' observations about perception and nature similar to the reflections on those things in his poetry? Find a few instances in the journals that help you understand the poetry and explain how they help in that regard.
Edition: Greenblatt, Stephen et al, eds. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 8th ed. Vol. E. New York: Norton, 2006. ISBN Package 2 (Vols. DEF) 0-393-92834-9.