Monday, October 19, 2009

Gerard Manley Hopkins: nature and God

In his lifetime, Hopkins was a Jesuit priest, which explains the preoccupation with religious themes in his poetry. From what I've read so far, Hopkins is primarily interested in the divine origins of nature and the divinity that links us with nature and with God. Like Keats, he has a transcendental temperament. Unlike Keats, however, his mindset is religious as opposed to secular. Where Keats turns to beauty in and of itself for inspiration, Hopkins turns to beauty because it manifests God's love and existence. As a result, his poetry has a jubilant, peaceful tone. Hopkins has a quiet certainty about the cosmos . . . Keats, on the other hand, is somewhat burdened by a divine vision of reality that he feels unable to completely comprehend and understand. Keats is on a spiritual quest while Hopkins has spiritually arrived. Hopkins's "The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe" manifest a joy in religion I rarely encounter.

As a quick side note, Hopkins loves alliteration and assonance almost to a fault. But the result is a unique style. He also likes to play with punctuation and structure, but not at the expense of the beauty and readability of the poem.