Gerard Manley Hopkins

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In "Spring and Fall," who is Margaret, and what does the poem reveal about her grief?

In “Spring and Fall,” Margaret is a young girl. The poem reveals that her grief is about the changing seasons and her loss of innocence.

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In Gerard Manley Hopkins ’s poem “Spring and Fall,” Margaret is a young girl. Her age is alluded to in the poem's fourth line when Hopkins notes her “fresh thoughts.” In the tenth line, Hopkins directly speaks to Margaret again. This time, he doesn’t call her by her name, he...

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In Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “Spring and Fall,” Margaret is a young girl. Her age is alluded to in the poem's fourth line when Hopkins notes her “fresh thoughts.” In the tenth line, Hopkins directly speaks to Margaret again. This time, he doesn’t call her by her name, he addresses her as “child.” Taking these two pieces of evidence into account, as well as the innocence that Hopkins confers upon her throughout the poem, it’s reasonable to claim that Margaret is a young person—a child.

In the poem, Margaret is upset. According to the speaker, she’s grieving. Her grief relates to the changing of the seasons and the “Goldengrove unleaving.” In other words, the enchanting Fall leaves are disappearing; hence Hopkins’s idiosyncratic term unleaving.

The speaker tries to console Margaret. As she ages, Margaret will become accustomed to “such sights.” She will get used to seeing things come and go and not react with such acute emotion. Of course, she will retain some feelings, yet she will “know why” she feels the way she does. With time, she will understand that all seasons—all aspects of life—have their concomitant sadness.

In the final line, the poem appears to reveal that Margaret is grieving over more than the loss that comes with each passing season. She seems to be grieving her former self. “It is Margaret you mourn for,” the speaker tells Margaret. It’s as if Margaret is two people. At the start of the poem, she’s a child learning to adapt to the natural changes in the world. By the end, she’s an experienced person mourning her prior innocence.

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