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Spring and Fall, to a Young Child -- Gerard Manley Hopkins

Guest poem sent in by Kamal Janardhan
(Poem #59) Spring and Fall, to a Young Child
Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
-- Gerard Manley Hopkins
A bit about this poem, it takes a few readings to truly "get" it.  About a
little girl who weeps for the leaves that die in fall.  Hopkins language
here is a lot less compressed than most of his other works and hence in
being less ornate it ends up being startlingly elegant.


  Gerard Manley Hopkins is one of the great unsung poets, virtually unknown
  in his lifetime. We have his poetry today only because it was collected
  and published by his friends after his death. It has some of the obsessive
  ornateness and sentimentality of the Victorians, but also a startling
  musicality which is ahead of its time and ours.

  Hopkins began his adult life, like many others of his time and
  middle-class background, as an earnest student at Oxford, concerned with
  the minutest details of religious practice. Like many others, Hopkins
  wound up "swimming the Tiber", that is, going from the Church of England
  to the Church of Rome: and, like many others, he was received there by
  John Henry Newman. The feelings of the converts' families are exemplified
  by a Mrs. Arnold, who wrote to Newman, "Sir, you have now for the second
  time been the cause of my husband's becoming a member of the Church of
  Rome and from the bottom of my heart I curse you for it." Not content with
  this, she also threw a brick through the window of the church where her
  husband was being received. Hopkins died in Dublin in 1889, aged 44. The
  first collection of his poetry was published in 1918.


56 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Rick Domas RCN Acct said...

To Whom It May Concern:

I was introduced to this poem in I believe a college (or was it high
school?) intro English lit course and fell in love with it from the
beginning. Now, as I truly am older, bearing the weight of the deaths of
family members, friends and the horrible events of Sept 11 2001, the deeper
meaning of this poem is oh so clearly evident.

Rick in Needham

Filmalinda said...

As one of the other readers has already pointed out, you have not only the
title of the poem wrong, but the author's name. Appalling.

jodeci jodeci said...

This is quite an eloquent poem and it's symbolism sparks fire in a romantic's heart. The poem speaks; Not just for itself but to the heart of the readers. It is a poem about the fall from innocense to experience the sudden realization of a mans mortality to a child

palindsay said...

I believe this poem is not about true death but the death of childhood. She is mourning the loss of her youth and innocence as we do when we first become aware of the world around us. I first read this poem in high school and have loved it ever since.

Dorothy Robinson said...

For me, this is a timeless moved me when I was young, and moves me

Thanks for all the work that goes into making poetry available online!

--Sister Dorothy, OSB

Alan Madsen said...

Am i th only one who thinks this a sonnet with an extra line?

Alan Madsen said...

I think that this poem is not just a fifteen line poem, but a sonnet with an added line

Michael Gilman said...

I first came accross this wonderful poem, and Hopkins, in the book, "A View From A Broad," by, of all people, Bette Midler!


damon isherwood said...

Palindsay you are right - it is about the loss of innocence; it is about having to repress our soul and resign ourselves to a life of superficiality and alienation - in religous terms 'the fall'. That is the 'blight' Hopkins is referring to, the Human Condition no less. Google 'Jeremy Griffith'.

Anonymous said...

Natalie Merchant has just released an album of 19th century poems for children which includes this one, beautifully. See this video:

Generic Viagra said...

I'd say it's a little hard to "receive" or "absorb", because I don't really think we can GET a poem. It's not about "understanding" it. Still, nice poem. Nice style.

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Anonymous said...

It's a beautiful poem certainly, but i don't think you could call it a sonnet. Sonnets have the rhyme scheme ababcdcdefefgg, which this poem does not.

buy generic viagra said...

It's a nice poem but it has some similarities with Ruben Dario from nicaragua, you know, the work with rhymes is almost the same and that is somethin I never liked on poetry!

Rosemarycxy878 said...

This reminds me of my wonderful writer M.H.Abrams of Yale University for his Twentienth Century English Criticism lectures. Its really a novel to listen and view.

Thank you poeticchannel .Thank you google.

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gerard barry said...

I was introduced to this poem in a year 12 Lit. essay in 1971 and have loved it ever since. It addresses the big question of human experience and does so with such clarity, economy and power. I agree, it has all the elements of a sonnet except 14 lines.

Anonymous said...

Terry Gross recently interviewed Kenneth Lonergan whose film "Margaret" was named for the character in this poem. He loved and memorized the poem early in his life and it clearly had a profound effect on him. Full interview at: I wanted to read the entire poem and looked it up here. Glad I is a beautiful and poignant picture of a universal experience.

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Shawn said...

I first read this poem in high school and have loved it ever since. Thank you for share it.

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