Gerard Manley Hopkins

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The journal entries for May 3, 1866, and August 10, 1872, both focus on scenes. How do Hopkins’s descriptions of these scenes compare to his poetry? How much (and what) of Hopkins the poet can we see in these?

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Gerard Manley Hopkins’s journal entries for May 3, 1866, and August 10, 1872, are similar in offering detailed descriptions of the natural environment in which the author was walking that day. The May entry focuses on significant features associated with spring—notably color, flowering plants and trees, and birds—and includes observations about the sky as well as the earth. In the August entry, the author offers his observations on the ocean at a cliffside location, speaking extensively about the qualities of the water, including color, and also mentions the sky. In both entries, the prose includes considerable imagery and other literary devices such as alliteration that often appear in his poetry. The close attention that Hopkins pays to nature in his poems is evident in these passages.

On May 3, Hopkins’s admiration for trees is clear; he observes numerous trees and notes the state of their leaves. In observing flowers, he often uses alliteration in his descriptions. Alliteration is the repetition of initial consonants. This passages uses alliteration in the initial C sounds.

Elms in small leaf, with more or less opacity. White poplars most beautiful in small grey crisp spray-like leaf. Cowslips capriciously colouring meadows in creamy drifts.

His poem “Binsley Poplars” often mentions trees affectionately, and he employs alliteration in the initial QU and L sounds.

My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,

Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun.

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