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

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Spring and Fall: To a young child

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.

Submitted: Monday, January 20, 2003


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

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Comments about this poem (For a Picture of St. Dorothea by Gerard Manley Hopkins )

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  • Andrew Hoellering (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.

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  • Steve W (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.

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