Gerard Hopkins

Hopkins, Gerard Manley (1844-1889), English Jesuit Poet Introduction:
He is the oldest of Manley and Kate Hopkins's nine children. Hopkins was born in Stratford, Essex, and raised in a prosperous and cultured environment. As a youth, he received lessons in music and sketching, was exposed to art and literature, and traveled in Europe with his family. Beginning in 1854, he attended the Cholmeley Grammar School in Highgate, where he excelled in his courses and won a school poetry competition. In 1863, he obtained a scholarship to the prestigious Balliol College at Oxford University. His experiences at Oxford were to have a profound influence on his life: there he pursued his interests in poetry, music, sketching, and art criticism, established important friendships, and, most importantly, came under the influence of the teachings of John Henry Newman, a leading figure in the Oxford Movement and an important Catholic apologist and educator. In 1866, after months of soul searching, Hopkins resolved to leave the Church of England and became a Catholic. The following year, he graduated from Oxford with high academic honors and accepted a teaching position in Birmingham. Then, in the spring of 1868, he decided to become a Jesuit priest. He burned all his early poems, vowing to give up writing and dedicate himself fully to his religious calling. He entered Manresa House in Roehampton in the fall of 1868 to undergo the rigorous training of the Jesuit novitiate, and in the following years went on to study philosophy at St. Mary's hall, Stonyhurst, and theology at St. Bueno's College, Wales. After his ordination in 1877, Hopkins served as a priest in London, Oxford, Liverpool, and Glasgow parishes and taught classics at the jesuit Stonyhurst College. In 1884, he was appointed a fellow in classics at the Royal University of Ireland and professor of Greek at the University College in Dublin, positions he retained until his death from typhoid in 1889.

Hopkins is considered a major victorian English poet. Although his mature poems are less than fifty, they've elicited an extensive study and on appreciative criticism from a wide spectrum of English scholars in the twentieth century. Frequently dealing with religious themes and evoking imagery from nature, Hopkin's poems are distinguished by stylistic innovations, most notably his striking diction and pioneering use of a meter he termed "sprung rhythm." Hopkins's radical departures from poetic traditions, coupled with his reluctance to publish his writings, caused his works to be almost completely unknown in the nineteenth century. However, critics today agree that Hopkins wrote some of the finest and most complex poems in the English language, and he is now firmly established as an outstanding innovator and a major force in the development of modern poetry.

Hopkins introduced the revolutionary sprung rhythm, he was credited with originating. Unlike the conventional poetic meter in which the rhythm is based on regular alteration of stressed and unstressed syllables. The meter of sprung rhythm is determined by the number of unstressed syllables only. Thus, in a line where few unstressed syllables are used, the movement is slow and heavy while the use of many unstressed syllables create a rapid, light effect.

His dictions are characterized by the unusual compound worlds coined phrases and terms borrowed from dialect, further complicated by the intended ambiguities and multiple meanings. He developed the concepts of "inscape" a term he coined to describe the inward, distinctive and essential quality of an object and the "instress" which refers to the force that gives the natural object its inscape and allows the inscape to be seen and expressed by the viewer.

The middle Hopkins, continued to experiment with style language and meter. He is perhaps known for his shorter poems on nature many of which written in the early stage of his priesthood. He was highly regarded for mastery of sonnet form.

In addition to his poem, Hopkins left behind a diverse collection of prove writing writing, providing insights to his character and clues to important influences on his thought as well as commentaries and explanatory notes on his poems.

Hopkins has been the subject of numerous studies undertaken from a wide range of critical perspective, and though a few of commentators maintain that he is essentially a minor author because of the narrowness of his experience he is regarded now as one of the greatest poets of the Victorian era. Acclaimed for his powerful influence on the modern poetry. Hopkins continues to be praised as an innovator and revolutionary stylish who wrote some of the most challenging poems in the English language on subjects of nature, self and religion.

Though his poetry is small in quantity and often considered difficult, he is recognized as one of the most innovative writers of the 19th century. Hopkins broke his poetic silence in 1875 to write his first fully characteristic poem "The Wreck of the Deutschland". Before that in 1868, he burned his early poetry and entered the Jesuit novitiate. The poems he did write, however, were so dense in feeling, imagery and syntactic construction that it is difficult to imagine how their quality could have been sustained throughout a larger body of work. Hopkins distribution to poetry center around his concepts of "inscape" and "sprung rhythm". By inscape he meant the peculiarly individualistic configuration of everything that exists, in a sense, everything is "counter, original, spare, strange" including the poem itself as it attempts to reflect the unique inscape of reality. Hopkins theory of "inscape" accounts for almost everything that has been called obscure or ambiguous in his poetry including his special use of vocabulary, compounding and syntax. His employment of sprung rhythm which has had such an extensive influence on modern poets, involves a set number of accented syllable in each line but no predetermined number of unstressed syllables. Thus, some lines may be short and others long. Sprung rhythm is similar to the system of metrics used by Anglo Saxon poets "Prize to Chaucer." Its great advantage, is that it approaches the rhythm of natural impassioned speech. Its disadvantage, is that it may tend toward looseness. To counteract this, Hopkins further patterned the lines with alliteration, internal and end rhyme, assonance, and numerous other devices, all of which he used not merely or namely but to convey meaning. Both inscape and sprung rhythms are exemplified by Hopkins most famous poem "The Wind hover".