Twenty-nine years elapsed from the time the poet Robert Bridges first published his edition of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ POEMS to publication of the definitive collection edited by the great Hopkins scholar, W. H. Gardner. Within that time Hopkins had been firmly established as an important if not a major British poet, not of his age but of the present. Undoubtedly, many of the conflicts over his life and work will have been resolved by the hundredth anniversary of the year Bridges first presented a small number of Hopkins’ poems in important anthologies (1893).
Certain it is that the interest when this brilliant genius was in vogue, during the decade after 1918, has changed to something more deeply critical and scholarly. The letters, notebooks, and essays as well as the complete poems—no one now believes the best of the poet’s work was destroyed—are now available to all, and hardly a year passes without the appearance of a volume of criticism or biography of the extremely paradoxical G. M. Hopkins.
Of utmost importance in understanding the very powerful poetry of this often misunderstood poet is his eclecticism, his wide knowledge and deep insights. While it is true that the preponderance of criticism has dwelt on Hopkins’ innovations in rhythm-rhyme and imagery (“instress” and “inscape” summarize the two main facets), his whole poetic output indicates that he followed in the great European poetic tradition from...
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