Gerard Manley Hopkins

Start Free Trial

Student Question

Analyse the rhythm and meter of Hopkins' poem "Spring".

Quick answer:

The third line of the poem "Spring" begins with a single anapest, whereby the first two syllables are unstressed and the third is stressed. The rest of the line is written in iambic meter, meaning every second syllable is stressed. The fourth line comprises four anapests, meaning it is written in anapestic tetrameter.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The first stanza of "Spring" by Gerard Manley Hopkins has an abba rhyme scheme, meaning that the stanza's eight lines can be divided into two groups of four lines each, and in each group of four lines the first and fourth lines rhyme with one another and the second and third lines rhyme with one another. Thus the first line ends with the word "Spring" and the fourth line ends with the word "wring," and the second and third lines end with the words "lush" and "thrush" respectively. This regular rhyme scheme lends a musicality to the poem which reflects the happy, almost reverential tone of the speaker.

In the second stanza, the rhyme scheme changes to ababab. This rhyme scheme is still regular and continues to contribute to the musicality of the poem. The fact that the rhyme scheme is different in each stanza helps to emphasize that each stanza has a different focus. The first stanza is focused on the beauty of spring, and the second stanza focuses on the analogy between the season of spring and the innocence of childhood.

In terms of the meter of the poem, there is no regular, consistent meter. The opening line, for example, is a mixture of iambic and dactylic meter. The first four syllables ("Nothing is so") and the last two syllables ("as Spring") are written in iambic meter, whereby every second syllable is emphasized. I have indicated these emphases in bold. The three syllables of the word "beautiful," in the middle of the line, are dactylic, whereby the first syllable is emphasized and the next two are not. This inconsistent meter is repeated throughout the poem and perhaps echoes the unpredictability, spontaneity, and freedom associated with the season of spring.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Analyze the 3rd and 4th lines of the meter and rhythm for the poem "Spring" by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

The fact that the third line is written mostly in iambic meter means that it has a quicker rhythm than the fourth line, which is written in anapestic meter. This is because in an iambic meter, the stressed syllable, which provides the "beat" of the line, is more frequent. By contrast, in an anapestic meter whereby the beat is less frequent, the rhythm is slower. Perhaps one reason as to why Hopkins decides to slow the pace, or rhythm, in the fourth line is to onomatopoeically echo the slow resonance of the "echoing timber" described in the fourth line.

When a line finishes with a stressed syllable, this is called a rising meter. A rising meter creates a rising intonation which lends to a poem an upbeat, positive tone. This is in contrast to a line which finishes with an unstressed syllable. This is called a falling meter, and a falling meter creates a falling intonation which lends itself more easily to a downbeat, perhaps sad, tone. Lines three and four of "Spring" both finish on a stressed syllable, and are thus written in a rising meter. This rising meter creates a positive tone which reflects the speaker's enthusiasm, in the first stanza, for the season of spring.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on