Gerard Manley Hopkins

(28 July 1844 – 8 June 1889 / Stratford, Essex)

Spring And Fall: To A Young Child - Poem by Gerard Manley 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.


Comments about Spring And Fall: To A Young Child by Gerard Manley Hopkins

  • Paul Amrod (10/1/2015 5:22:00 PM)


    I find this poem in some way difficult but brilliant and could be a perfect text for a Procol Harum song. You can read this eleven times through and experience something totally different (Report) Reply

    4 person liked.
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  • Paul Amrod (10/1/2015 5:20:00 PM)


    I find this poem in some way difficult but brilliant and could be a perfect text for a Procol Harum song. You can read this eleven times through and experience something totally different. (Report) Reply

  • Paul Amrod (10/1/2015 5:19:00 PM)


    I find this poem in some way difficult but brilliant and could be a perfect text for a Procol Harum song. You can read this eleven times through and experience sonthing totally different. (Report) Reply

  • (10/1/2015 4:41:00 PM)


    One of the best poems I have read for some time. Both Frank Avon and Andrew Hoellering made some great points in their comments.
    Frank, I can't even imagine how I would choose my ten favorite poems if all others had to be destroyed, so I won't even think about it!
    (Report) Reply

  • Edward Kofi Louis (10/1/2015 5:30:00 AM)


    By and by with the muse of nature. Nice work. (Report) Reply

  • (10/1/2015 2:12:00 AM)


    If all poetry in English were being destroyed, and I could choose only ten poems to preserve, this would be on my list of ten. It's the epitome of what I call indispensable English poetry. Yes, Andrew Hollering is right, though I would state the same idea somewhat differently: it is actually an English sonnet, though with fifteen lines instead of fourteen. It has an octave of four rhymed couplets, presenting an enigma: the child weeps but doesn't understand why, the older person does not weep but understands why one might. The sestet, of six rhymed couplets, reconciles the two: the intuition of the child (what heart heard of, ghost guessed) and the understanding of the adult (mouth had, mind expressed) . It is the sense of mortality (Margaret, you mourn for) . The swing line between the octave and sestet is a perfect balancing point, combining the child's intuitive grief with the adult's conscious understanding and willful grief: And yet you will weep and know why. Like most of Hopkins' surviving poetry, it experiments with form, language, and rhythms.

    Modern poetry was invented severally by Walt Whitman (free verse) , Emily Dickinson (colloquial, conversational, or idiosyncratic language in a straight traditional form, the hymn or ballad stanza) , and Hopkins (formal, but experimental, with attention to all linguistic dimensions, not just rhythm, meter, rhyme, and figurative language; e.g., goldengrove unleaving, worlds of wanwood leafmeal, heart heard of, ghost guessed.

    What masterful verse!
    (Report) Reply

  • (2/28/2015 5:46:00 PM)


    I rate this poem highly. There is the sadness of the child, autumn, and it compares the falling leaves to man's mortality. The line length and rhyming couplets are just right. (Report) Reply

  • (1/10/2010 3:06:00 AM)


    The poem has 15 lines. Hopkins could have rendered it in traditional sonnet form but chose not to, allowing content to dictate form. This is typical of this most original of poets.
    Why is Spring and Fall so powerful, so moving? Each of us will answer the question in our own way.
    Margaret (who could be fictional) guesses that ‘goldengrove unleaving’ stands for the human condition. We are of nature, and our years fall away like leaves until we die.
    With age we become less honest; less emotionally open even should ‘worlds of wanwood leafmeal life.’ An equivalent to this phrase is the emotional overkill of TV news, with its never-ending concentration on pain and suffering. We become hardened to this with time, and our giving to charities is likewise affected.
    Not so with Margaret and the young, who are inconsolable (see my comment on another fine Hopkins poem, Felix Randall.) Their living (and lived) concern remains an inspiration to us all.
    (Report) Reply

  • (2/26/2008 3:43:00 PM)


    Despite GMH regarding this poem as disposable, I regard it as his best. It's a profound comment on getting older. I return to this poem time and time again. He is on a par with R.S. Thomas and Shakespeare on this topic. (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: sorrow, child, spring, heart, children



Poem Submitted: Monday, January 20, 2003



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