Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Hopkins was born in London of Welsh ancestry. He was the son of an insurance agent, and was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, where he became a follower of Edward Pusey and a member of the Oxford Movement. It was also at Oxford that he forged the friendship with Robert Bridges which would be of importance in his development as a poet. In 1866, following the example of Newman, he converted to Roman Catholicism, and in 1868 he decided to enter the priesthood. In 1882 he became a teacher at Mount St. Mary's College, Sheffield, and Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, from where he progressed to professor of Greek at University College Dublin, though remaining a priest.
During his lifetime, Hopkins published few of his poems. It was only through the efforts of his friend, Bridges, that his collected verse was published in 1918. These included The Wreck of the Deutschland (written in 1876), The Windhover and Pied Beauty. Today he is one of Britain's most admired poets.
The reintroduction of sprung rhythm to English verse
Much of Hopkins' 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 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. Sprung rhythm is structured around feet with a variable number of syllables, generally between one and four syllables per foot, with the stress always falling on the first syllable in a foot.
Hopkins saw sprung rhythm as a way to escape the constraints of 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 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
- The Wreck of the Deutschland
- God's Grandeur
- As Kingfishers Catch Fire
- Pied Beauty,
- Carrion Comfort
- The Windhover: To Christ our Lord
- Spring and Fall, To a Young Child
- The Sea and the Skylark
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