1 Answer | Add Yours
Hopkins's view of the interplay between God and his creations are best described by the terms "inscape" and "instress." Hopkins coined these terms himself. Inscape describes the uniqueness of all things, while instress is the presence of God in that uniqueness. Hopkins was an avid scholar of the thirteenth-century theologan Duns Scotus, and he draws his ideas about inscape and instress from Scotus's notions of haeccitas ("thisness," the unique qualities that make something what it is) and individuation (the way each thing distinguishes itself from all other things).
The two most famous poems in which Hopkins explores inscape and instress are "As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Dragonflies Draw Flame" and "God's Grandeur." In the first poem, Hopkins describes how everything in nature "selves" itself. He claims that "each mortal thing does one thing and the same" (5): bells must ring, the strings on a musical instrument must be plucked, and a dragonfly's wings must shimmer in the sunshine. It is this unique action that makes a dragonfly a dragonfly, or that makes a bell a bell--this is a classic description of the notion of inscape or "thisness." However, Hopkins draws this parallel further, claiming that, as just men must act just, they become like Christ, because justness is also Christ's defining characteristic. The poem ends with the beautiful claim that "Christ plays in ten thousand places," and that he is visible, or instressed, in everything on the earth (12).
Similarly, in "God's Grandeur," every single thing in nature contains "the dearest freshness deep down things" (10). Again, Hopkins asserts that "the world is charged with the grandeur of God," which allows (in a parallel to the Resurrection) for the earth to be continually renewed (1). Another instance of renewal and change in the earth is Hopkins's poem "Pied Beauty," which contrasts the mutability and even inconsistency of the earth with the steadfastness of God.
I hope this is helpful; Hopkins's unique theology can be very confusing at times, but knowledge of the ideas of inscape and instress make understanding the poetry easier.
We’ve answered 319,195 questions. We can answer yours, too.Ask a question