Gerard Manley Hopkins' "Spring"
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Introduction and Text of Poem, "Spring"
Father Gerard Manley Hopkins' "Spring" is a Petrarchan sonnet, with the rime scheme ABBAABBA in the octave and CDCDCD in the sestet.
(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")
The sonnet dramatizes the theme stated in the first line, "Nothing is so beautiful as spring," as it relates the season of renewal to the Resurrection of Christ.
Father Hopkins' "Spring" dramatizes the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lamb of God, along with the returned greening of the landscape as well as the new birth of foliage, flowers, and fowl.
Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.
Reading of "Spring"
Octave: "Nothing is so beautiful as spring"
The speaker makes a simple claim that spring surpasses the beauty of all other seasons. He then offers a description of spring's features, qualities, and activities that lead him to believe his claim.
Spring is the time, "When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush."
The speaker is so enthralled with the warming season that he even finds beauty where many would not: in weeds. His alliteration, "long and lovely and lush," offers liquid evidence that those weeds growing "in wheels" are truly beautiful.
The eggs of a bird, the thrush, are so beautiful that they remind the speaker of "little low heavens"; instead of merely being the place where new birds are being nourished, the eggs offer celestial possibilities, while the living, parent bird sings a song that "echo[es]" through the woods.
The thrush's song is so refreshing that it is able to "rinse and wring / The ear." And the song is so uplifting and stark that, "it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing."
While listening to the glad thrush's beautiful tones, the speaker observes, "the glassy peartree leaves and blooms." The leaves "brush / The descending blue."
The wind ruffles them, and they scrap across the sky "all in a rush / With richness." He then notes, "the racing lambs too have fair they fling."
Sestet: "What is all this juice and all this joy?"
The speaker has just described a scene of pure beauty and wonder brought about through the natural evolution of one season into another.
The speaker then asks rhetorically, what is the cause of all this magnificence and splendor. It is but a "strain of the earth's sweet being."
It reminds this speaker of the first garden, in Eden, before the fall, before "it cloud / / and sour with sinning." He thinks of the "innocent mind / / in girl and boy." And most of all he remembers, "O maid's child, thy choice and worthy the winning."
Hopkins as a Devout Christian
The speaker of Hopkins' "Spring" is a devout Christian, and to him the season of spring is much more than the mere beginning of the growing season.
While this speaker delights in the beauty of new life sprouting in the plants and the newly laid bird's eggs and the cavorting of lambs, to him the most important lamb if the Lamb of God, or Jesus Christ.
Spring, of course, is the time that growing things grow again, the time for human revitalization, and the time of the Resurrection of Christ; for this speaker, the Resurrection is of greatest importance.
It is no coincidence that Easter is celebrated in spring.
© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes