Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) was an British poet and Jesuit priest, whose verse has been widely admired for the vividness of its expression.
The Reintroduction of Sprung Rhythm to English Verse
Much of his historical importance has to do with the changes he brought to the form of poetry.
Prior to Hopkins most Middle English and Modern English poetry was based on a rhythmic structure inherited from the Norman side of English's literary heritage. This structure is based on repeating groups of two or three syllables, with the stressed syllable falling in the same place on each repetition. Hopkins called this structure Running Rhythm, and though he wrote some of his early verse in the Running Rhythm he became fascinated with the older rhythmic structure of the Anglo-Saxon tradition, of which Beowulf is the most famous example. Hopkins called this rhythmic structure Sprung Rhythm. This Spring Rhythm is structured around feet with a variable number of syllables, generally between one and four syllables per foot, with the stress always falls on the first syllable in a foot.
Hopkins saw the Sprung Rhythm as way to escape the strictures of the Running Rhythm, which he said inevitably pushed poetry written in it to become "same and tame." Many contemporary poets have followed Hopkins lead and abandoned the Running Rhythm, though most have not adopted Sprung Rhythm, but have instead abandoned traditional rhythmic structures all together adopting free verse instead.
Hopkins Most famous Poems include:
- The Wreck of the Deutchland
- God's Grandeur
- As Kingfishers Catch Fire
- Pied Beauty
- Carrion Comfort
- The Windhover: To Christ our Lord
All of his work is in the public domain, so if we can find good sources we can add the verse here too.
- be careful about the edition! Hopkins may be long dead, but the text of his poems is quite a problem. Some of the poems have been published in editions to which copyright is perhaps not available (I don't know, I'm just cautioning).