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Poems to Roll Around on Your Tongue

By November 7, 2013

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Gerard Manley Hopkins was a Jesuit priest in Edwardian England, a strikingly experimental poet in a time when most verse was traditional in form and conservative in manner—an inventive oddball whose poems were not really appreciated until well after his death. He is known as the poet of “sprung rhythm,” a form of prosody based on speech, which unlike traditional meters allows freedom in the number of unaccented syllables, while maintaining its structure of accents. And his poems fairly demand to be spoken, rolled around in your mouth and throat. He was also fond of Old English poetry, and often echoed its alliteration and compound word-pairs in his own poems—just listen to all the Ls and Ws in the opening lines of his winter poem, “The Times Are Nightfall,” singing down the darkness:

“The times are nightfall, look, their light grows less;
The times are winter, watch, a world undone:
They waste, they wither worse...”
Or fill your throat with his song of “The Woodlark”:
“Teevo cheevo cheevio chee:
O where, what can tháat be?
Weedio-weedio: there again!
So tiny a trickle of sóng-strain...”
More on Gerard Manley Hopkins:
Our library of Hopkins poems
Listen to the Woodlark’s Song: “Lullula” (2006)

Comments

November 8, 2012 at 7:54 am
(1) katzideas says:

I have liked his poetry ever since we did a “modern” Englsh Lit course at school when I was 15.. good to be remindedd

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