Please discuss the meaning of "Spring" by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gerard Manley Hopkins was a Catholic priest.  Unfortunately for the poetic world, Hopkins wrote for only twelve years because he died from an epidemic or typhoid.  Hopkins love of life and joy in nature makes his poetry memorable and he is regarded as one of England’s best poets of the latter part of the nineteenth century. 

The poet’s love of God and the natural world pervades his poetry.  However, he still is uncertain about some aspects of the world and his beloved religion.   He has questions like the rest of us about life, nature, and death.

Spring is awesome.  What a statement about a season!  Nothing can compare with Spring.  The speaker even loves the weeds that come up.   

  • Employing a simile, he compares the bird eggs to the heavens which seem to bring them closer together.
  • The poet seems to think Spring brings a feeling of heaven on earth. Maybe instead we can notice that, by leaving out the "like" he reduces the sense of distance, bringing the eggs and the newborn birds that much closer to being little low heavens.
  • The thrush’s song echoes throughout the woods.   The poet uses enjambment to continue the thought in the next line.
  • The song rinses and wrings the listener’s ear which takes on a religious and refreshing air. It strikes like lightning. Since this is the first bird sound of spring, the poet listens and receives a striking feeling.
  • As he observes Spring taking over nature, he watches the pear tree bud and bloom; the spring lambs are born,

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,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy...

The poet asks God to bring the innocent into the Christian fold and save his soul. The poem converts to a prayer like poem asking Jesus to save the innocent from sin. Using the word choice elicits many questions about God’s giving man free will; thus, he must allow man to make his own way and choose his own path.

epollock | Student

“Spring” is a poem of celebration—celebration of the time of year, the existence of the world and the universe, the glorious sounds of English words, and the Resurrection. Like “Kubla Khan,” it is a virtuoso piece of sound. Readers can appreciate the repeating segments, as in patterns like “weeds, wheels,” “long and lovely and lush,” and “strikes like lightnings,” to quote just a few of the many ringing examples. Images supportive of the beauty of spring include lushly growing weeds, bird songs, blue skies, and leaves and flowers. Except for the weeds, they are not unexpected. What seems unusual is the language of movement in which the speaker expresses them. Imagery of motion is the thrush song “like lightnings,” the leaves brushing “the descending blue,” the blue being in “a rush,” and the lambs racing. These are dynamic images, suggesting that the speaker is surrounded by a season of moving color and sound. This pristine beauty is like Eden before the fall and is equally at risk because of sin (line 12). But for now it is all new and lovely. For many readers, the references to Christ, and the assertion that this Edenic world is worthy of him, might make the poem seem nothing more than an intellectual and religious exercise.

kaluki | Student

I would suggest that the weeds are indeed expected in a celebration poem by GMH. Refer to Inversnaid, which builds to the passionate conclusion:

"Let them be left, O let them be left, wildness and wet; Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet."

Weeds are the exuberant expression of life's vitality and innocence. But while Spring opens with those wheels of long and lovely weeds, that gradually "[and] sour with sinning (Man's lot), Inversnaid closes with a plea that the lovely world, that vitality -- untouched by man -- be allowed to grow in peace, perhaps even in unseen protection (as the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast and with ah, bright wings), lest our world end "bereft of wet and of wildness"?

The Divine Chevalier may save those who call out to him, in despair or otherwise, but there is a special love for those who begin as the springing weeds and bouncing lambs.