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Inversnaid Gerard Manley-Hopkins. Inversnaid. This darksome burn, horseback brown, His rollrock highroad roaring down, In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

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Inversnaid Gerard Manley-Hopkins

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Inversnaid gerard manley hopkins l.jpg

Inversnaid

Gerard Manley-Hopkins


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Inversnaid

  • This darksome burn, horseback brown,His rollrock highroad roaring down,In coop and in comb the fleece of his foamFlutes and low to the lake falls home.


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  • A windpuff-bonnet of fawn-frothTurns and twindles over the brothOf a pool so pitchblack, fell-frowning,It rounds and rounds despair to drowning.


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  • Degged with dew, dappled with dewAre the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.


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  • What would the world be, once bereftOf wet and of wildness? Let them be left,O let them be left, wildness and wet;Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.


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  • He was a committed Christian and became a Jesuit priest, but became exhausted after working in several parishes all over Britain. When he was 40 he was appointed professor of Greek and Latin at University College, Dublin.


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  • He loved writing, but found it hard to be a poet and serve God at the same time: when he first became a priest he stopped writing and destroyed his earlier work. He was inspired to start again in 1875 when he heard about the terrible shipwreck which inspired his great poem The Wreck of the Deutschland, and thereafter produced quite a large body of uniquely individual work.


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  • His poetry was neither appreciated nor published in his lifetime. A Jesuit magazine to which he submitted some of it turned it down, and only a handful of friends who read his work gave him any encouragement. He died of typhoid in 1889, aged just 45.

  • His poems were often in praise of God, celebrating God's glory through His works. He believed that God's goodness could be seen through the natural world.


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  • The poem describes a stream in the Highlands of Scotland. In the first stanza we see the brown stream falling over a waterfall to the lake below; the second describes the froth blown above the water in a pool; and the third the landscape which the stream passes through. The poem ends as the poet wonders what would become of the world without such wet and wild landscapes, and pleads for them to be retained.


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Form and Rhyme

  • FormThe poem is written in four four-line stanzas. Each of the first three stanzas is a complete sentence; the last stanza is two sentences. Yet despite this rigid form, the poem feels very free and apparently unconfined, like the burn itself.


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Rhyme

  • The poem is written in rhyming couplets, so that the rhyme scheme of each stanza is:AA BBThe couplets help convey the movement of the rushing water they describe: because there is only a tiny pause at the end of each line, the eye jumps from line to line, like the water rushing down from pool to pool.


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language

  • Gerard Manley Hopkins is famous for 'playing' with language. He invented new words and gave known words new meanings. Some of the compound words in this poem will not be found in a dictionary, but make sense as you read, like rollrock (line 2) or pitchblack (line 7). Portmanteau words like twindles are combinations of other words, created by Hopkins to give exactly the right meaning to his poem, while words like bonnet and rounds contain hidden historical meanings which - when you know them - add to the work the words can do.


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  • He also uses dialect words, like burn, fell and degged. These give the language the rugged, earthy feel of colloquial speech. Think how different the poem would sound if he had used stream, hill and sprinkled instead


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  • Hopkins does not bother too much with conventional grammar. In stanza 1, for example, the subject of the sentence starts as This darksome burn, then switches half way through to the fleece of his foam, while stanza 3 is more of a list of things than a sentence!


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  • The tone of the poem changes in the last stanza. Having focussed on the burn in great detail, Hopkins now asks us to consider areas of wet and wilderness in general. His question is rhetorical - he is not expecting us to answer - but by asking us to consider what the world would be like without such places, he wants to open our eyes to the wild beauty of the world. He pleads for the beauty to be allowed to remain, with the unspoken idea that the world would be far less marvellous without it.


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Sound

  • Hopkins wanted his poetry to work in the ear like music. This poem really needs to be read aloud, because so much of its effect is achieved through its rich sounds and sound patterns:


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  • There is a lot of alliteration and assonance in the poem. For example, as the water cascades over the waterfall - His rollrock highroad roaring down - we can hear the roaring of the water in the repeated r and o sounds. The ls and and long os in low to the lake falls home - suggest fluidity and stillness and depth. The repeated rs and ds and echoingou sounds in rounds and rounds Despair to drowning imitate the deep, dark swirling water. Look at all the 'w' sounds in the last stanza. What do you think they contribute?


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  • The sense of some lines flows over into the next line, as in the fleece of his foam / Flutes (lines 3 / 4). This helps to suggest the free, unconfined flowing movement of the water.

  • The final stanza contains lots of repetition to emphasise the poet's heart-felt plea. Like a politician or a priest, he reinforces his main message.


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Imagery

  • The burn is described as horseback brown (line 1). This suggests that the water is a deep brown colour - maybe because it is in shadow, or because it is carrying particles of soil. The idea of the movement of a horse is continued in line 2, roaring down the rollrock highroad (a waterfall) to its home (line 4). The burn has the energy of a galloping horse.


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  • There is also a suggesiton that the burn is like a sheep (the fleece of his foam, line3) or even a young deer (fawn-froth, line 5); while the grazing animal imagery is again hinted at in the heathpacks and flitches of line 11.

  • A windpuff bonnet - a hat (or a sail) - of this foam, fawn-coloured from the brown water, is blown over a dark whirlpool in stanza 2. It's a light-hearted, almost comic, image


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  • The pool is pitchblack (line 7) partly because it is in the shadow of a fell, or mountain. Fell-frowning personifies the fell as a dark, brooding, judge-like presence.

  • The last line of stanza 2 is puzzling. Is Despair itself drowned in the swirling dark pool - or is it the pool's dark depths that are an image of Despair? Both readings are possible. Either way, the froth survives the pool. Does the pool represent Hell, and the froth the human soul, helped by God to escape from Hell?


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  • The brook is personified in line 10 as a person or animal as it treads through its steep dewy banks.

  • The beadbonny ash tree is also personified as a girl wearing a bead necklace. This suggests how beautiful the ash berries are: the tree wears them like jewellery.


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  • The language in the final stanza is much simpler, perhaps to stress the simple message that the poem conveys. The enormity of the potential loss of the wet and wilderness to the world is shown by the use of the word bereft (line 13), which is usually used to describe someone in mourning. Losing the wild landscape would be like the death of a loved one


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Ideas

  • Hopkins took passionate pleasure in nature, and kept journals in which he described and drew the natural world in great detail. He believed that every natural object or scene had its own completely unique inner quality or design, which he called its "inscape". He also believed that the act of seeing or sensing an object's inscape was an intense creative experience - he called it "instress" - which revealed the divine in things.

  • Inversnaid records an experience of instress, recreating Hopkins' insight into the uniquely divine nature of the scene he saw that day.


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  • Hopkins' descriptions are always seeking to capture the detailed, precise, individual nature of something. If the burn is horseback brown, if its foam is fawn-froth, if its eddies twindle - this is because only these fresh new words can do justice to the freshly individual qualities of Hopkins' tumbling stream.


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What to look for in your comparison

  • Shakespeare: Sonnet 130- Both poems are written from a personal viewpoint. - Both express love. Shakespeare writes to his mistress, Hopkins writes about a much-loved landscape.- Shakespeare mocks the common cliches that poets use about their mistresses - lips redder than coral, breasts whiter than snow, etc - to emphasise the reality of his love. Hopkins also wants to get away from the cliched use of language - by inventing words, like rollrock and twindles, to pinpoint his meaning.


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  • Armitage: Homecoming- Both poems are written from a personal viewpoint, describing an experience which is for the poet is intensely present. - Both poets use an extended image to put their point across. The canary-yellow cotton jacket is the central image in Homecoming. A row over the jacket caused the family row; the reconciliation is likened to putting the jacket back on. For Hopkins, the darksome burn represents all areas of wilderness in the world that could be vulnerable to man.- Armitage uses colloquial language to help us 'hear' events in the poem - Temper, temper... Blue murder. Hopkins uses different techniques - alliteration, assonance and rhythm - to help us hear the sound of the rushing water.- Hopkins uses a more rigid structure and rhyme scheme than Armitage. What is the effect of this?


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  • Duffy: Anne Hathaway- Hopkins writes from personal experience whereas Duffy's poem is a dramatic monologue. - Both express love, Anne Hathaway of her dead husband, Inversnaid of a place.- Duffy's imagery is very vivid - The bed we loved in was a spinning top. She uses startling metaphors to show the intensity of the love, while Hopkins invents words or uses dialect (a windpuff bonnet of fawn-froth) to convey his feelings.- Anne Hathaway's love of Shakespeare is confident and will last forever - I hold him in the casket of my widow's head - while Hopkins' is more tentative - he fears for the future and asks What would the world be? without the wilderness his poem evokes.


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