Choose 2 or 3 poems and explore how Hopkins’ use of language and the structure of the poems
* Creates a sense of place and/ or a sense of person
* Conveys what the poet feels about the place/ person
* Creates a sense of change/loss
* Conveys strongly to the reader Hopkins’ strong beliefs about God/ his duties as a priest/ the human condition/ the environment/ the natural world.
I am going to look at the poems Inversnaid and Felix Randall and compare the language and structure used in each poem. I chose these poems because Hopkins conveys a strong sense of place in Inversnaid and a strong sense of person in Felix Randall and he describes the progression of each.
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They therefore provide a good comparison. Inversnaid is about a Highland stream and its journey is described in four stanzas. The first stanza describes the stream rushing down a mountainside when it reaches a dark pool in the second stanza. The third stanza shows the stream at a entle pace until it reaches home and in the final stanza, Hopkins conveys his own ideas on nature and the landscape.
The emphasis in this poem is on the exact details of the stream and its journey rather than God’s almighty presence which is what makes Inversnaid an unusual poem for Hopkins because in his other poems there is usually some to reference to God and his Christian beliefs as a priest. Hopkins creates a sense of place by appealing to the senses of the reader- sight, sound and touch. He creates an exact visual image of the stream and its andscape by describing the exact colours, ‘horseback brown, fleece of his foam’. The ‘fleece of his foam’ makes you think of a sheep’s white fleece and the word fleece makes you think of the texture as well. By associating the colours with common things that everybody recognises like horse and sheep, it allows the reader to imagine exactly what he’s describing and it helps the poem appeal to a wider audience because everybody knows what a horse or sheep looks like. Hopkins compares the sound of the stream to ‘flutes’, which makes you think of a soft tinkling sound and you can imagine the sound of the stream.
Because ‘flutes’ is at the beginning of the sentence it suggests the stream is echoing the sound of a waterfall. Hopkins uses words like ‘wiry, flitches (ragged brown tufts)’ which help create a sense of place because you can imagine the texture of the landscape. The alliteration and repetition used in the line ‘degged with dew, dappled with dew’ emphasises the appearance of the landscape. The words degged and dappled also describe the appearance of the land around the stream because they suggest the idea that the landscape is heavy, shiny and speckled with dew.
Hopkins creates a sense of change by describing the stream’s movement from its ‘roaring down’ to its smooth flowing. He uses words which the reader immediately associates with movement. For example ‘roaring’, which is a word normally associated with a lion, when combined with ‘rollrock highroad roaring down’ provides the image of the stream rolling and rushing over rocks because rollrock is an onomatopoeia- a word which mimics its sound. The rhythm and alliteration in this line also contribute to imaging the stream’s movement. In the second stanza, Hopkins has included words such as ‘turns, twindles and rounds and ounds’. These clearly describe the stream’s movement and are all onomatopoeias so the words sound like their action. The assonance and repetition of ’rounds and rounds’ enforce the idea that the stream is going round and round.
Finally, the second line of the third stanza ‘brook treads through’ shows the water’s smooth movement. Almost every two lines of Inversnaid ends in rhyme (froth, broth) and there are usually four stresses per line: This darksome burn, horseback brown The pronounced rhyme scheme means you reach the climax in the final stanza of the oem faster because it makes the words flow easily and quickly. The final stanza is where Hopkins strongly conveys to the reader his strong beliefs about the environment. ‘What would the world be, once bereft//Of wet and wilderness? ‘ is a line where Hopkins challenges us which is the effect of the question. He is saying that if the world was robbed of these things, it would be nothing.
The repetition of ‘let them be left’ emphasises the thought from Hopkins that the wilderness should be conserved, especially with ‘O’ at the beginning of the repeated phrase. The last entence of the last stanza begins with ‘long live’ which shows Hopkins thinks the environment is very important and that places like Inversnaid should be left as they are forever. This opinion was reflected in a letter to his friend, Robert Bridges, where he expressed his fears about ‘the decline of wild nature’. The alliteration of l’s and w’s in this stanza adds to the rhythm and rapid delivery of it so that the last stanza is more pronounced and in turn Hopkins’ views are more emphatic. The alliteration also helps emphasise his views. Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
In the first half of this sentence the monosyllables used mean the point ‘long live the weeds’ is succinct and so it is enforced. Unlike Inversnaid, Felix Randall is a poem about a person and his progression from a strong young man to a weak old man and finally death. We view him through the eyes of a priest who has known and cared for him. Also unlike Inversnaid, this poem contains many ideas about Hopkins’ Christian faith and God and his duties as a priest, Hopkins creates a sense of person by opening the poem with direct speech so it as if the priest is talking to someone and we are overhearing heir conversation, which then moves to a meditation and we see the priest reflecting on Felix’s life. The poem also opens with a rhetorical question which emphasises the point that it is as if we are overhearing a conversation.
By telling the reader Felix was a farrier, it immediately conjures up many images and shows that Felix was part of a world of ‘craftsmanship and strength’, which is also shown by the use of technical language belonging to this world (like forge). He describes Felix as a young man as ‘big-boned and hardy-handsome’ and the alliteration of these phrases helps o create strong images of a big, rugged and masculine man. Hopkins describes Felix through his illness ‘impatient he cursed at first’, which helps the reader get an idea of his character. He also calls him child which suggests vulnerability and that he is the child of God. In the last stanza, Felix is described as ‘powerful amidst peers’ when he was at his best which suggests he was a leader and popular at the work place. Felix Randall is not just about the man in the title but also about the priest who cared for him when he was sick.
Hopkins creates a sense of person with the riest by describing him at work and his duties as a priest like blessing the sick ‘anointed and all’ and providing holy communion ‘sweet reprieve and ransom’. We also see more of the priest’s character when Hopkins conveys what the poet feels about Felix and when he says ‘seeing the sick endears them to us’. This shows that the priest feels compassion for the parishioners that he tends to and that being a priest is more than just a job for him- which could reflect the feelings Hopkins felt for his parishioners and what he feels about Felix.
In the third stanza it says that the riest has comforted Felix but he has also been touched by him ‘thy tears that touched my heart. ‘ Hopkins creates a sense of change by describing Felix first as he was young ‘big-boned and hardy-handsome’ to ‘pining pining’. There is no punctuation between handsome and pining, which is enjambment, and the effect of this enjambment is that the words are emphasised and so the change from Felix being big-boned to him pining is also emphasised. In the same stanza, Felix is describes as becoming senile and loosing ability to reason, ‘ when reason rambled in it’.
Hopkins describes the hange from Felix loosing his ability to reason to having a ‘heavenlier heart’ and so he had more piece of mind after being blessed and receiving holy communion. It’s in the last stanza that Hopkins conveys a real sense of change when he says ‘how from then forethought of, all they more boisterous //years’, suggesting what a long way, and what a change it was from Felix being healthy, loud, young, energetic to how he was before he died, ‘fatal four disorders’- his body giving up mentally and physically. The poem conveys strongly to the reader Hopkins’ strong beliefs about his duties as priest by having ‘duty’ in the first line of the poem and in the priest’s conversation so it’s his natural thought and it shows that duty comes first.
This is also emphasised because there is a stress on the word duty. Hopkins feels his duties as a priest are to bless the sick when they are dying so they feel more at ease about dying. By doing this it makes him more worthy ‘us too it endears. ‘ He also feels his duties as a priest are to offer spiritual comfort, help his parishioners to seek forgiveness from God and to offer the promise of new life by giving them ‘sweet reprieve and ransom’.
Unlike Inversnaid, Felix Randall is a sonnet and has a sprung rhythm. This is when the single stresses come one after the other with no unstressed syllables or a single stress plus any amount of unstressed syllables. There are usually six stresses to a line in this poem whilst Inversnaid has four. Felix Randal, the farrier, O he is dead then? my duty all ended Whereas in Inversnaid Hopkins uses compound words that he has made himself, like twindles (turns and dwindles), he uses colloquial language-Lancashire dialect, ‘all road ever he offended’, in Felix Randall, which gives a strong sense of spoken voice nd emphasises the point that it feels like we are overhearing a conversation between the priest and someone else.
It also makes the poem less stiff and more emotive because it is someone’s thoughts and feelings spoken in their own dialect. The use of colloquial language in this line is to convey a profound spiritual truth as it is saying ‘may all his sins be forgiven’. I prefer Felix Randall because I think Hopkins creates a much stronger sense of person than place and it’s much more interesting. I think the structure of the poem is better because it is more effective in conveying Hopkins’ ideas. By starting with
Felix suffering from a serious illness, and then describing how the priest was able to help him and the benefits the priest gained from that and finally to comparing Felix Randall at his prime to how he was at the end of his life makes it a more emotional poem than Inversnaid. The fact that the poem contains ideas of a person’s suffering means that a lot more people can relate to it, than to a poem about a Scottish landscape, because everyone has suffered or seen someone else suffer the effects of old age. The use of colloquial language also makes the poem more accessible. ‘Ah well, God rest him all road ever he offended! ‘