spring | fall poem explaination gm hopkins



Margaret , are you grieving 
Over Goldengrove unleaving ?  
Leaves , like the things of man , you 
With your fresh thoughts care for , can you ?  
Ah!  as the heart grows older 
It will come to such sights colder 
By and by , nor spare a sigh 
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie ;  
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter , child , the name : 
Sorrow's springs are the same.  
Nor mouth had , no nor mind , expressed
 What heart heard of , ghost guessed : 
It is the blight man was born for , 
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Explanatory Notes

Lines 1-9 .  The child , Margaret , is dismayed at the autumnal fall of leaves in the woods.  The poet , with the experience of life behind what he says , consoles her by saying that decay is the rule of all human things.  There is a cool acceptance of the inevitable transience in the human world.  Mark the conversational mode of the poem and how the speaker is endowed with a sense of superior intelligence, maturity and certitude.  The question mark at the end of line four is significant.  Hopkins ' originality lies in his coining of new words like ' wanwood ' which is suggestive of the autumnal wood from which all the summer colors have gone .  Another example of new coinage is ' leaves lie leafmeal ' on the ground , like ' piecemeal '.  

Lines 10-15 .  The child will need to know and experience sorrows and joys with equanimity.  Margaret who is crying over the fall of leaves is metaphorically crying over the shortlivedness of all human possessions.  The way the speaker views the experiences of spring and fall and the way Margaret views them are bound to be different on account of the ' inscape ' each one contains.  The speaker's calm acceptance of the transitoriness of all human things and Margaret's weeping and violent protest against it are the result of the ' stress ' of each and give rise to the unique ways in which people experience and respond to things.

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