Analysis of Spring and Fall by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 –1889) was an English poet who belonged to the Victorian era. His manipulation of poetic meter and his daring and innovative use of language makes him belong more to the 20th century rather than the 19th century. Nature and religion and the connection between them were the major themes of his poetry.

Spring and Fall, though written to a child called Márgarét, is a poem about philosophical definition of human life. It is a dramatic meditative poem since it narrates an event, imagining a philosopher as a speaker in conversation to the girl.

 

Overview

Title: Spring and Fall: suggestive of two seasons – the fruitful season and the Autumn, the season of falling of leaves. Fall has a biblical allusion to fall of humanity where Adam and Eva fell from the grace due to the consumption of a ‘forbidden apple.’

Form: lyrical and sprung rhythm (The regular poetic meter which has a set pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in each line, but sprung rhythm is constructed from feet in which the first syllable is stressed and may be followed by a variable number of unstressed syllables.)

Rhyme scheme: AABBCC (couplets apart from a triplet from line 7-9)

Tone: conversational, philosophical

Theme: innocence of childhood, inevitable change in life

 

Deep-end Analysis:

Márgarét, áre you gríeving

Over Goldengrove unleaving?

 

Imagery: goldengrove (It suggests the colour of dried leaves in Autumn, and a golden grove is an ideal place for a child to play.)

2nd person narration: the narrator may be a father speaking with his daughter who is crying over falling of leaves.

Coined word: Unleaving (it is an invented word by the poet to give the meaning of falling of leaves)

 

Margaret’s childhood innocence is evident of her reaction to a common reality in nature. During the Autumn, it is natural to see this as the nature is preparing for the winter. Her sadness might be because of losing her golden paradise of trees. Here, Margaret is a representative character who confronted an emotional crisis before death. Her character represents a stage all people go through in coming to understand morality and loss.

 

Leáves like the things of man, you

With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

Ah! ás the heart grows older

It will come to such sights colder

 

Simile: leaves like the things of man (the narrator may be reading the mind of the child; the girl may think that the leaves as body parts of human or the he may be drawing parallels between human lives and the leaves; so, falling of leaves means death.)

Metaphor: fresh thoughts (thought of a child which is not spoiled by the experiences of adult world.)

Interjection: Ah! (sudden realization of human nature)

Personification: heart grows (represents the emotional maturity.)

 

Speaker mocks at her childish behavior proclaiming that she would never cry over fallen leaves after she is old and mature enough to understand the cause of nature. The poet comparing the leaves to the human beings, brings a philosophical outcome to the poem, revealing the possible cold reaction of human beings to the common natural phenomena of change in life. That means people do not like to see that they are getting old and reaching the grave slowly.

 

By and by, nor spare a sigh

Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;

And yet you wíll weep and know why.

 

Alliteration: by and by/ spare a sigh/will weep

Imagery: wanwood leafmeal (fallen sick leaves as a bed under a mass grove of trees.)

Metaphor: worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie (world is introduced as a bed of sick, decaying fallen leaves)

 

This is a transitional phase in the poem as there is a rhyming triplet here. (sigh, lie and why) It suggests, however, how much people try to ignore the change of life into decay, they cannot reject the reality as it comes before their eyes; no matter how much they reject to face the reality. The poet insists that when Margaret is mature enough, she will see the reality of life and start weeping on possible death and decay of herself.  

 

Now no matter, child, the name:

Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.

Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed

What heart heard of, ghost guessed:

 

Metaphor: sorrow’s spring (sadness/death and decay has its own spring which is a universal truth to the human lives.)

Metonymy: mouth/mind, expressed (human speech and ideas are suggested)

Alliteration: ghost guessed

 

Hopkins generalizes the inevitability of change human lives irrespective of age, caste or creed. Like the change in nature, ‘sorrow’ too has a role to play in the lives of human beings. Though nobody likes to speak about the death and decay of themselves, it definitely enters to their lives. ‘Ghost guessed’ suggests that nobody can guess when and where their life story changes nor ends.

 

It ís the blight man was born for,

It is Margaret you mourn for.

 

Metaphor: blight man (human being is introduced as a born sick person who inevitably undergoes death and decay)

 

Final rhyming couplet sums up the story telling Margaret that she is weeping for her own death and decay as every person is liable to death and decay in their mortal lives. So, final two lines ends up with a philosophical analysis of life which apparently is not digestible to a little girl but the vast readership of the poem.

Though the poem is addressed to a child, the philosophical idea put forward through the poem is common and universal to everyone on the world. It is the change of life from spring to fall. Everything on the world undergoes to the natural force of death and decay. The poet may want the readers to understand this common reality and accept the change in their lives.

Hope you got the idea of the poem. If you have things to be added, please feel free to discuss them in the comment section. Subscribe to the blog to join the litspring family and receive weekly posts into your mailbox. Share the post if you find this useful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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