Rhythm and Dictions in Gerard Manley Hopkins' "Spring and Fall"

Essay by hellothere419A+, January 2007

download word file, 6 pages 0.0

Downloaded 15 times

In Gerard Manley Hopkins' "Spring and Fall," the speaker of the poem describes the changing phases of an individual's understanding about loss and death from a childhood to maturity. Throughout the poem, the child's innocence is gradually lost over time as her weeping for the dying leaves turns into weeping for her own mortality. As if putting on a play for his readers, the poet incorporates visual images as well as aural effects into his poem. In "Spring and Fall", Hopkins uses rhythm, word choice, and alliteration to fully integrate the readers, as if the readers were right next to Margaret as she undergoes these changes.

"Spring and Fall" is a short poem in one stanza; however, Hopkins' choice of rhythm divides the poem into two distinct sections. The first section illustrates the childlike mind, while the second section portrays the grown-up perspective. In the first eight lines, the speaker addresses to Margaret, a young girl weeping over falling leaves.

These eight lines contain a lyrical rhythm in couplet form. The beats are straightforward and do not cause accents to fall in unusual places. For example, "By and by, nor spare a sigh / Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;" (7-8) have a very even, four beats per line measure. In fact, when these lines are read out loud, their rhyming pattern is similar to a nursery rhyme. Since nursery rhymes usually have a sing-song effect, these first eight lines suggest a livelier tone. This is allows the readers to feel the lively spirit of young Margaret.

On the other hand, the last seven lines do not have this light lyrical effect. In fact, lines 9-15 have very uneven beats and sudden breaks in continuity. For example, in "will weep" (9) and "no matter, child, the name:" (10), the...