Gerard Manley Hopkins's poem "Spring" is a Petrarchan sonnet that praises the beauty of Spring. The speaker first comments on the beauty of spring, then provides vivid images of plants, birds and their eggs, trees, and lambs. The speaker then connects these physical features and sensory impressions to Judeo-Christian beliefs about creation, including the Garden of Eden. The last part praises Christ as well as the innocence that preceded sin.
A sonnet is a poem of fourteen lines. The Petrarchan form uses two stanzas. The first, the octave, has eight lines, while the second, the sestet, has six lines. The octave uses a rhyme scheme of abba abba to form two quatrains. The sestet typically uses a cdcdcd rhyme scheme, but Hopkins repeats the a rhyme, which ends in ing, to create a scheme of cacaca.
The poem begins with hyperbole, an extreme exaggeration for effect, in praising the exemplary beauty of Spring. The octave is especially rich in imagery, especially visual and auditory. Hopkins several types of repeated sounds, often in combination, to create unity of sound and enhance flow. Alliteration is the repetition of initial consonant sounds, while consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds elsewhere in a word. Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds anywhere in a word. In lines 2–4, he uses alliteration with the w, l, t, and r sounds and consonance using l, t, and r. Assonance is used with the long e, short e, and short i. Several related o and u sounds also add to the harmonious tone.
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring...
While the sonnet typically uses iambic pentameter, Hopkins varies the rhythm by adding or removing syllables. Lines 1 and 3, for example, begin with a stressed syllable rather than an unstressed one. The irregularity creates a contrast with the smooth effect of the frequent alliteration and assonance. In the second stanza, the syntax also becomes irregular, even staccato through uses of several monosyllabic words; nevertheless, consistency is emphasized by repetition.
Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord...
The second stanza also switches to religious concepts and questions. The speaker links nature's coming to life with the beginnings of humankind in Eden. The "joy" of the natural phenomena is associated with Christ and connects with the "lambs" of stanza 1, as the lamb is a symbol of Christ. Childish innocence is also linked to Christ, as the speaker addresses him directly and evokes a time before things are spoiled or go "sour with sinning."