Poetry Explication of “Spring & Fall”, by Gerard Manley Hopkins
A limited time offer! Get a custom sample essay written according to your requirements urgent 3h delivery guaranteedOrder Now
The poem “Spring and Fall” by Gerard Manley Hopkins is a poem focusing on the brevity of life, and the grief that is felt in the hearts of all mankind throughout our lives. It is also about the sadness felt by humans as we see ourselves aging, and ultimately about the fact that sin and separation from God bring sorrow and sadness that can never be fully explained by man.
The poet is seemingly speaking to a young child, Margaret, who in her naivety and youth is only beginning to learn about aging and death. The poem opens with a question to young Margaret, “Margaret are you grieving, over Goldengrove unleaving?” “Goldengrove” seems to be represented here as a beautiful place in which the young girl spends her days. This place is “unleaving” or perhaps losing its leaves before winter sets in, and the young child is saddened by this, as children usually are when things are no longer the way they once were. The poet asks her, “leaves, like the things of man, you with your fresh thoughts care for, can you?” Could a girl this young possibly care for these things? Margaret seems to experience an emotional crisis when confronted with the fact of death and decay that the falling leaves represent here. She is saddened by this very real representation of death all around her.
This could very well represent the entire tone of the poem, a saddened and bleak outlook on life, and ultimately, death. Hopkins uses interesting language to enhance the mood of the poem. His use of words like: grieving, colder, sigh, weep, sorrow and blight capture the heart of reader and really draw them into the pain and sadness expressed here.
Line eight, “though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie,” suggests an extreme devastation that expresses itself through pain and human suffering. It reminds us that loss is something that all humans are bound to experience in their lifetime. “Wanwood” represents sickness and perhaps the fading colors of the earth in the fall, while “leafmeal” suggests a sense of insecurity that may be created when pain strikes a sensitive and naive mind.
The speaker in the poem seems to be very interested in the young girls ability to feel sorrow at the sight of death, at such a young age. He does however know that as she grows older, she will continue to feel this same grief but with more consciousness of its real meaning in her life. The line “you will weep, and know why,” tells us that someday, once she has grown, she will lose her childlike reasoning, and be able to better comprehend what death really is. The poet then assures the child that her sorrow is normal. He tells her that she’ll feel the same pains throughout her life, though in different ways, as she ages, and line eleven, “sorrow’s springs are the same,” tells the child that all sorrows have the same source. The mouth is unable to say what the grief is for and the mind can’t really understand it, and so its assumed here that all this grief and pain points back to personal suffering, and losses.
It seems that this poem is ultimately speaking more vaguely about something far more serious than just life and death. There are several points in the poem that hint at a Biblical perspective. Perhaps “Spring”, and “Goldengrove” represent a healthy and somewhat Eden-like relationship with God. If this is so, then “Fall”, and “unleaving” would, in turn, be representative of a separation from God, perhaps the “fall” of mankind. Looking at this poem from a Christian perspective allows the reader to see the verses in a new light. It could be that the “blight that man was born for,” was our sinful nature, and we are spending our lives grieving this separation from God.
The devastation represented in line eight, “though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie,” is a euphemism for the fall of man. Hopkins is referring to an unpleasant and harsh piece of human history that will ultimately be the primary cause of all sorrow in our lives. As line eleven suggests, “sorrows springs are the same,” all sorrows are flowing from one source, the fall of humankind. “Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed,” shows skepticism to mans ability to fully understand what it is that pains us through this life. We may know the story of the fall, but we can never fully understand the intense seriousness of what the fall really was. Without God, we can never comprehend these things on our own.
Hopkins uses the metaphor of a young girl grieving over the changing seasons to represent something far more serious than sadness over life and death. This innate sense of sorrow that we are born with is our sinful nature, and because of this we are spending our lives grieving our separation from God. Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, “Spring and Fall,” is a poem focusing on the brevity of life, the grief that is felt in the hearts of all mankind, and the fact that sin and separation from God bring sorrow and sadness that can never be fully explained by man.
Beaty, Jerome., Booth, Alison., Hunter, Paul J., Mays, Kelly J. The Norton Introduction to Literature. W.W Norton and Company, New York. London., 2002.
Rooke, Constance. The Clear Path: A Guide to Writing English Essays, Third Edition. Thomas Canada Limited. Toronto, Ontario. 2004.