Gerard Manley Hopkins: contribution to Poetry

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      Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) was a major forerunner of modern poetry, but he wrote in the Nineteenth century. His works were unknown to the public during his lifetime. His friend Robert Bridges introduced Hopkins's verse first in the anthologies Poets and Poetry of the Century (1893) and The Spirit of Man (1910), then in the collected edition of 1918. Fuller editions of 1930 and 1948 have been greeted enthusiastically. The daringly experimental verse of Hopkins which would have bewildered his contemporaries has gained widespread attention in twentieth century. His poetry has profoundly influenced numerous poets of the modern age and is thoroughly 'modern' on account of certain intriguing qualities of his verse.

The important characteristics of Hopkins's poetry that have made him a modern Poet are extraordinary compression and density or expressions, multiple meaning and ambiguity, elliptical statement and preoccupation "with inner division, friction and psychological complexities in general".
Gegard Manley Hopkins

      The early poetry of Hopkins (1860-1875) survives only in fragmentary and incomplete fashion. It is conventional, reflecting, romantic tendencies and Pre-Raphaelite influences. The Wreck of the Deutschland (1876) is Hlopkins's longest poem and the first in his mature manner i.e., in sprung rhythm and with his characteristic style. God's Grandeur (1877) states a familiar Victorian contention that a modern industrial culture has lost contact with elemental things, but the unceasing return of day-light symbolises the immanent brooding of the Holy Ghost over the indifferent world of man. It is an unconventional sonnet, written in 'standard rhythm counterpointed'.

      The Starlight Night (1877) states that if we possess God and nature, we can ensure complete protection against the shocks of life. Such expressions as Fire-folk and circle-citadels resemble the Kennings of Anglo-Saxon poetry. The Sea and the Skylark (1877) is a sonnet in "standard rhythm, in parts sprung and on others counterpointed" shows distress with mail's immersion in materialism. The Windhover: To Christ our Lord (1877) is the most daring sprung-rhythm sonnet by Hopkins. The poet sees the beauty, strength and glory of Christ, for the most common-place things of Nature can suddenly flash out their own peculiar beauty and their symbolising of Christ's wounds and suffering. Pied Beauty (1877) is an eleven-line lyric praising all 'dappled things'. It is one of the most sensuous of poems but it also shows Christ's human-divine attributes.

      Other poems which call for special mention are Andromeda (1879), Felix Randall (1880), Leadon Echo and the Golden Echo (1881), Corrion Comfort (1885), Thou art Indeed Just (1889), To R. B. (1889) a sonnet addressed to Robert Bridges. Hopkins is a poet priest. He was a Jesuit priest. There is always a conflict in him between his religious devotion and poetic activities. Once he considered his poetry writing inappropriate to his religious vocation; he burned all his verse. He resumed writing verse in 1875. He was a devout Christian who found God in nature., He was at the same time a lover of the beauties of nature and ceaselessly experimented With verse forms. He is a great poetic craftsman.

      The important characteristics of Hopkins's poetry that have made him a modern Poet are extraordinary compression and density or expressions, multiple meaning and ambiguity, elliptical statement and preoccupation "with inner division, friction and psychological complexities in general". The American 'New Critics have particularly admired Hopkins for his layers of meaning and his unified vision of Several facets of observation simultaneously. Hopkins's major contribution to modern poetry lay in the technical novelty of his poetry. He employed counter pointed rhythm, sprung rhythm, Rove-over. Hopkins used a kind of disciplined free verse in which the line is based, not on any conventional metrical foot, but on an irregular arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables. Observe the application of his principles: Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks arise.

      The line is taken from Hurrahing in Harvest, a sonnet in "spring and outriding sonnet." It contains fifteen syllables instead of the conventional ten of an Iambic pentameter sonnet line. The second and third syllables of barbarous are considered outrides. Hopkins also rejected conventional poetic diction and used what he called 'Current language heightened'. He used two terms for indicating his aesthetic theory - inscape and instress. Inscape is the significant pattern of beauty that he finds in nature and God and instress is the stress and energy with which he communicated the instress. Inscape is the essential form and meaning of any object or any experience. Every Hopkins poem is an attempt to apprehend an inscape. Hopkins is thus the pioneer of modern poetry although he wrote in the Victorian age.

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