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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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