Hurrahing in Harvest: by G. M. Hopkins - Summary & Analysis

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Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks rise
Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour
Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?

I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,
Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour;
And, éyes, heárt, what looks, what lips yet gave you a
Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?

And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder
Majestic—as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet!—
These things, these things were here and but the beholder
Wanting; which two when they once meet,
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.


      The poem Hurrahing in Harvest was written by Hopkins at St. Beuno’s on September 1, 1877. In this poem the poet announces the arrival of autumn, a season celebrated by Keats in “Ode to Autumn”. The theme of the poem is an experience of union with God as he is alive and present in Nature and everywhere. The sonnet expresses the ecstasy of the harvest. Hopkins told Bridges when he sent the poem to him that “The Hurrahing Sonnet” was ‘the outcome of half an hour of extreme enthusiasm as I walked home alone one day from fishing in the Elwy.’ The idea in the last lines is the same as in The Windhover, namely that a sense of divine glory rises in the heart of a man, when rightly disposed towards God. The man encounters some particular splendor in Nature.

      Hopkins had deep sympathy with the thirteenth-century Franciscan philosopher, Duns Scotus. The poet was influenced by his theology which included the belief that God, the Son, would have become man even if Adam had not fallen from grace. The unusual attitude towards the Incarnation had a powerful effect on Hopkins’s poetry, in that it enabled him to see the Incarnation as more than simply the means of man’s redemption. For him, such a doctrine glorified the material world and was perhaps, largely responsible for the lovely, carefree poems of praise such as Pied beauty, God's Grandeur, The Starlight Night, The Windhover and Hurrahing in Harvest.


      Stanza 1. The poet in the first stanza says that the summer is over. The sheaves of harvested corn are lying heaped all around the fields. The bundles of harvested corn are rising upward. The poet then looks up above towards the sky. The wind seems to be walking on the highway of the sky. The clouds look like sacks full of silk. He admires the movement of the clouds blown before the wind. The clouds seem to combine opposite qualities; the delicacy of silk and the roughness of sack cloth. The clouds are framed in a particular shape. The poet is impressed by the beauty of a typical formation of cloud. There is something wild, wilful and wanton in the movements of the clouds. The poet is so impressed by the movements of the clouds that he asks a question as whether anyone has ever seen such beautiful clouds in the sky.

      Stanza 2. The poet through his verses, would reunite man and God, and this union will help man in spiritual upliftment. The poet in this stanza expresses that this union is necessary for man to recognize the beauty and grandeur of God. As the poet walks in the newly reaped field to find Christ, he is overwhelmed by ecstasy and asks question if this kind of beauty of Christ’s heart, lip and eyes can be seen in any individual or it can be said in another way is there any eye, any heart, and look, any lip that has given so much happiness as have those of Christ? The poet means to say no earthly lover can give a man as ecstatic a love as does Christ. So the poet’s heart becomes filled with rapturous prayer of adoration.

      Stanza 3. In the third stanza, Hopkins imagines the Christ descending from the heaven to earth. He glorifies the majestic beauty of God. Filled with the vision of Christ, the poet declares that the “azurous hung hills” are as it were, the shoulder of Christ who carries the weight of the whole world. The pride of a powerful male horse and at the same time of the sweet humility of a violet is reminded seeing such a majestic display of strength. In this sestet, the poet wants to say that God is already present on earth but the beholders lack the feeling to realize the presence of God. The poet is making an offering of the earth to God. It is when Nature and man meet together that love is born, and it is born in a flash. Through the last four lines of the poem, the poet reveals that people have not recognized God—the beholders lack the will and desire to feel them. Hopkins takes the heart to be a bird who raises his wings and throws the earth to God. The last four lines of the poem indicate that people have not recognized God. These things—that is the beauties of nature—were always here, but the beholder was lacking the will and desire to feel them, to recognize them. It is when Nature and man meet together that love is born. The beauty of Nature, though very impressive is incomplete without the appreciation of man; so the appreciation of beauty by man is extremely necessary.


Stanza 1

Line 1: Barbarous in beauty: “Barbarous” literally means bearded but the word also suggests a kind of wild energy. The expression refers to the sheaves of corn standing in the field, which were full of wild shaggy beauty.

Lines 1-2: The stooks rise/Around: “Stooks” are sheaves of cut corn whit or burley, tied with a string and stacked upright together to dry. They are stacked one on the other; they seem to be rising toward the sky.

Up above, what wind-walks: The poet sees in the sky the wind-driven clouds and imagines the winnowing wind walking on the highway of the sky. The alliteration in ‘what wind-walks!’ is noteworthy which expresses the idea of a movement of the cloud along with the wind.

Line 3: Silk-sack clouds!: Hopkins’s fondness in using paradoxical and contrary statements has been revealed in this expression. The clouds in the sky are soft and delicate like silk as also rough like sackcloth.

Lines 3-4: Has wilder wilful wavier across skies?: The clouds are shaped in a particular pattern. They are moving on their own. The drifting clouds which are like white flour are the wildest and the most wilful objects in the sky. The poet here puts a question if anyone has ever seen a wilder, more wilful, and more wanton thing in the sky than these clouds.

Stanza 2

Line 1: I walk, lift up, I lift up heart, eyes: The line is an expression of rapturous mood of the poet who looks at all the glory of the sky. The poet while walking on earth is reminded of God, and His grandeur. When the poet lifts up his eyes towards the sky and sees the glory of God in the beauty of Nature, his heart becomes full of rapture of love of Christ.

Line 2: Down all that.....Saviour: The word ‘glean’ means to collect grains or corn. As such the word has reference to the sheaves mentioned in Line 1. As a man collects grains from the fields on earth, similarly the poet wants to glean Christ from the glory of the sky. Christ is the ripe harvest growing up in the sky and we have to glean the harvest of Christ from heaven. The poet wishes to reunite man and God, because it is this union which will ripen man’s life on earth.

Lines 3-4: And, eyes, heart.....replies?: The poet in these lines admires God and asks a question if there any eye, any heart, any look, and lip, that has given man so much happiness as have those of Christ? In the glory of the sky the poet recognizes ‘love’s greeting’ of Christ. Christ’s reply to the poet’s prayer is more real, more loving, direct and complete. The poet feels ecstatic joy at the response of Christ. In the glory of the sky the poet recognizes the rapturous love’s greeting of Christ. Christ’s reply to the poet’s prayer is more real and more direct than any other reply to any Other prayer. “Reader” is the comparative form of “real”; while “rounder” is here used to mean “more direct”. The poet feels an ecstasy in Christ’s response.

Stanza 3

Line 1: And the azurous hung......shoulder: The blue hills are compared to the shoulders of Christ which are carrying and supporting this earth. “Azure” is the color of the sky, but it seems to have been imparted to the hills which appear to be in contact with the sky. The poet imagines Christ descending from heaven to the earth. Thus his feet are up and head is downward.

Line 2: Majestic: Christ’s shoulders are majestic.

His world-wielding shoulder: The hills are treated by the poet as Christ’s shoulder which carries the weight of the world upon it.

Stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet! “Stallion” is a horse, “stalwart” is tall and sturdy. Christ’s shoulder’s are tall and sturdy like a horse. The strength of Christ’s shoulder reminds the poet first the tall and sturdy figure of a horse, and then of the sweet humility of a violet. Poet wants to say that Christ combines in himself both strength and humility.

Line 3: These things.....beltolder/Wanting: The beauty, glory and power of Nature existed before also but the beholders lack the ability to feel and admire the beauty.

Line 4: Which two when they once meet: Once man comes into a direct contact with Nature and experience the glory of Nature; or when these two—that is the glory of Nature and the beholder—meet.

Line 5: The heart.....and bolder: when men appreciates this beauty and glory, his heart acquires wings. It feels bolder and bolder and soars upwards.

Line 6: And hurls for him.....under his feet: “Hurl” has been used in the sense of “push off” the earth from under man’s feet. When the beauties of the earth and the beholder meet, then the heart responsive to God will throw the earth towards God, that is, will sacrifice this earth for his sake. God is already present on earth, only the eyes of the beholder is wanting.


      This regular sonnet of Hopkins celebrates the ecstasy of harvest. “No single sentenep” Humphrey House declared in a note, “better explains the motive and direction of Hopkins’s life than Man was created to praise. The poet feels the presence of Christ in the Nature. His eyes move from up to down—from the earth to the sky in search of beautiful and wonderful things of God’s creation. The clouds and corn become Christ for him. To poet Christ is like a harvest which is to be reaped from the field of the heaven. The poet while walking on earth is reminded of God, His grandeur. The clouds are in motion with constant shifts of colors, shapes, lights, and shades; they are driven by the wind in a recognizable pattern. The clouds are delicate like silk and rough like sack-cloth. The sky is seen as a celestial highway with the wind-driven clouds “melting” along it. “The azurous hung hills” are regarded as Christ’s majestic shoulder which bears the weight of the world. The idea of Nature as an outward and visible expression of the presence of Christ is found in the New Testament, where Christ is described as: “a Son who is the radiance of his Father’s splendor and the full expression of his being: all creation depends for its support on his enabling wyrd”. In the radiance and energy of an autumn day, Hopkins meets his Christ whose fire, beauty and energy suffuse all created forms. “I walk, I lift up, I lift up, heart, eyes”, is a highly musical and meaningful line. “I walk” means the movement on earth. The poet while walking on earth, is reminded of God, His grandeur. Referring to this sonnet as an example of Hopkins’s distinctive poetry, tradition, a critic says that one immediately notes here ‘The exuberant intelligence, the disregard for conventional rhythm, the curious rhyme, the delight, in the surface of language, the exploration for the exact nature of both the detail and the word to fit it and the meticulous difficulty of the inter-relationship of the parts”. Typical of Hopkins’s style are the compound words and the use of alliteration: “wind-walks: silk-sack; wilful wavier; “meal-drift molded ever and melted across skies”; “world-wielding”; etc.

      The poet is stirred with enthusiasm at the superb beauty of Nature that embodies the grandeur of God. To quote a critic: The upsurge of joy which made him feel that he could hurl earth away like a soaring bird was not due to the stately floating of silk-sack clouds, but to the inrushing feeling that these were revelations of God Himself—that the hills were ‘his world-wielding shoulder/ majestic’. Commenting on the sonnet, Mackenzie points out that the blue hills have the virile strength of a horse, paradoxically combined with the sweetness of a violet—a gold-like combination of contraries such as he had celebrated in Pied Beauty. He further points out that Nature in this poem for a short half-hour becomes the Smile and voice and physical presence of Christ.

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