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Gerard Manley Hopkins Essay, Research Paper
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Jason Platko Mrs. Pena English 28 May, 1996
Everyone is destined to be great for a moment in their lives. For Gerard
Manley Hopkins this was difficult. Gerard was a poet that came way before his
time and people didn’t realize the power he had with words.
Gerard Manley Hopkins was one of the most original poets to write in
English at any time period. He only lived for 45 years and only had three of
his poems published during his lifetime. Gerard was torn between his love of
God and his love of poetry.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, born on July 28 1844, was the eldest of eight
children of a London marine insurance adjuster. Besides writing books about
marine insurance Gerard’s father, Manley, also wrote a volume of poetry. His
mother on the other hand was a very pious person. She was actively involved in
the church and impressed her religion on Gerard. He attended Highgate School
where his talent for poetry was first shown. Some sources say he won as many as
seven contests while enrolled at Highgate.
Gerard in 1864 enrolled at Balliol College, at Oxford, to Read Greats
(classics, ancient history, and philosophy). At this time in his life he wanted
to become a painter, like one of his siblings. His plans changed when he, and
three of his friends were drawn in to Catholicism. He was received by the
Church of Newman in October of 1866. After having taken a first class degree in
1867, he taught at the Oratory School, Birmingham. Two years later he decided
to become a Jesuit when he burned all his verses as too worldly. When he
entered as a Jesuit he wrote no poems. although the though of crossing the two
vocations constantly crossed his mind. Then in 1875 he told his superior how
moved he felt by the wreck of the Deutschland, a ship carrying five nuns exiled
from Germany. His superior expressed his wish that someone would write a poem
about it. Hopkins having his motive wrote his first major work. He sent his
poem to long time friend Robert Bridges who was put off by the poem and called
it ”presumptuous juggelry.” But Hopkins stood his ground, knowing he had
something of worth. His poem brought together his own conversion and the chiefs
nun’s transfiguring death. God’s wrath and God’s love with the face of an
epigram. Hopkins faith was a source of anguish. He said he never wavered in it,
but that he never felt worthy of it.
Hopkins felt that language must divorce itself from such archaisms as
”ere,” ”o’er,” ”wellnigh,” ”whattime,” and ‘’saynot.” But Hopkins
invented many new words like: beechhole (trunk of a beech tree), bloomfall (fall
of flowers), bower of bone (body), firedint (spark), firefolk (stars), unleaving
(losing leaves), and leafmeal (leaf and piecemeal).
Gerard Manley Hopkins led a life that he thought was good. He lived a life
that met both his mothers and fathers expectations. He like his father wrote
poetry, but unlike his father didn’t like to publicize his works. And like his
mother he was very actively involved in the church, becoming a priest. But
unlike his mother didn’t devote his whole life to religion. Gerard
unfortunately only lived to be 45 when he died of typhoid. He was the professor
of classics at University College, Dublin for many years before he passed away.
When Yeats said that Hopkins’ style was merely “the last development of
poetic diction” he spoke like a contrary old man. Hopkins’ small and
idiosyncratic productions, much of it fragments, must have seemed to Yeats a
threat to what had been already achieved without it. Hopkins poems blended of
natural and learned elements, and that its vivid surface leads on occasion not
only to clarity but also to darkness. In many of his poems it is difficult to
get its true meanings. Yvor Winters blamed it on the convenient scapegoat of
“Romantic” individualism. But many others blame it on Hopkins’ desire for
discipline. We know that his urge towards sacrifice of intellect and a true
religious anonymity was very strong. His letters to Dixon reveal an unendin
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