'The Starlight Night' by Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Look at the stars! look, look up at the skies!
O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!
The bright boroughs, the circle-citadels there!
Down in dim woods the diamond delves! the elves'-eyes!
The grey lawns cold where gold, where quickgold lies!
Wind-beat whitebeam! airy abeles set on a flare!
Flake-doves sent floating forth at a farmyard scare!—
Ah well! it is all a purchase, all is a prize.
Buy then! bid then!—What?—Prayer, patience, aims, vows.
Look, look: a May-mess, like on orchard boughs!
Look! March-bloom, like on mealed-with-yellow sallows!
These are indeed the barn; withindoors house
The shocks. This piece-bright paling shuts the spouse
Christ home, Christ and his mother and all his hallows.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Starlight Night: A Dazzling Display of Hopkins' Linguistic Genius

Gerard Manley Hopkins is known for his unique style of poetry, characterized by his use of sprung rhythm and unusual syntax. In his poem "The Starlight Night," Hopkins showcases his literary prowess by creating a dazzling display of language that captures the beauty of the night sky. With its rich imagery and musicality, the poem is an ode to the wonder and mystery of the universe.

The Poem's Structure and Form

Hopkins' poetry is known for its complex structure, and "The Starlight Night" is no exception. The poem is written in a modified sonnet form, consisting of fourteen lines with a rhyme scheme of abba abba cdc dcd. However, Hopkins deviates from the traditional sonnet form by using irregular meter and syntax. The poem is written in sprung rhythm, a poetic meter that emphasizes stressed syllables and allows for flexibility in the number of unstressed syllables. This gives the poem a unique musicality and emphasizes the natural rhythms of speech.

The Poem's Themes

At its core, "The Starlight Night" is a meditation on the beauty of the night sky and the mystery of the universe. Hopkins uses a variety of images to convey the majesty of the stars, describing them as "watery" and "diamonded." The poem is also a celebration of the natural world, with Hopkins describing the stars as "clad" and "freckled" like a living being. The poem's final lines suggest a sense of awe and wonder at the vastness of the universe, with Hopkins acknowledging that "Men keen-eyed / Shall not perceive what rings them as they ride."

The Poem's Language and Imagery

Hopkins' use of language and imagery is what makes "The Starlight Night" such a stunning poem. He uses a variety of poetic devices, including alliteration, assonance, and onomatopoeia, to create a rich and vivid description of the night sky. For example, in the second line of the poem, he writes:

Bright and fierce and fickle is the South
And dark and true and tender is the North.

The alliteration of "bright and fierce and fickle" and "dark and true and tender" creates a sense of contrast and emphasizes the beauty of both the northern and southern skies. He also uses imagery to convey the vibrancy of the stars, describing them as "watery beams" and "diamonded light." The use of the word "diamonded" creates a sense of preciousness and rarity, elevating the stars to a divine level.

The Poem's Religious Undertones

As a Jesuit priest, Hopkins often infused his poetry with religious themes and imagery. In "The Starlight Night," he references the "great God," suggesting a sense of divinity and transcendence. The poem's final lines also suggest a spiritual dimension to the universe, with Hopkins acknowledging that "there lives the dearest freshness deep down things." This echoes the Christian concept of God's presence within all creation.


"The Starlight Night" is a stunning piece of poetry that showcases Gerard Manley Hopkins' linguistic genius. With its use of sprung rhythm and vivid imagery, the poem captures the beauty and mystery of the night sky. Hopkins' religious undertones add a spiritual dimension to the poem, elevating the stars to a divine level. Overall, "The Starlight Night" is a testament to the power of language to capture the wonder and majesty of the natural world.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Starlight Night: A Poem of Wonder and Awe

Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of the greatest poets of the Victorian era, was known for his innovative use of language and his ability to capture the beauty of nature in his works. Among his many poems, "The Starlight Night" stands out as a masterpiece of poetic expression and a celebration of the wonder and awe of the natural world.

The poem begins with a description of the night sky, with its "brimming, booming" stars that seem to fill the entire universe with their light. Hopkins uses vivid imagery to convey the vastness and beauty of the night sky, describing it as a "sea" that stretches out endlessly in all directions. The stars themselves are described as "diamonds" that sparkle and shine with a brilliance that is almost overwhelming.

As the poem progresses, Hopkins shifts his focus to the earth below, describing the landscape as a "darkness" that is illuminated by the stars above. He marvels at the way in which the stars seem to transform the world around him, turning even the most mundane objects into things of beauty and wonder. He describes the trees as "sparks" that glow in the starlight, and the grass as "jewels" that shimmer and shine.

Throughout the poem, Hopkins uses a variety of poetic techniques to convey his sense of wonder and awe. He employs alliteration and assonance to create a musical quality to the poem, and he uses repetition to emphasize certain words and phrases. He also uses a variety of metaphors and similes to compare the stars to other objects, such as diamonds and pearls, and to describe the landscape below.

One of the most striking aspects of "The Starlight Night" is the way in which Hopkins uses language to convey his sense of wonder and awe. He uses words like "brimming" and "booming" to describe the stars, and he uses phrases like "worlds of wanwood leafmeal" to describe the landscape below. These words and phrases are not only beautiful in themselves, but they also convey a sense of the infinite and the eternal, as if the world around us is filled with hidden depths and mysteries waiting to be discovered.

Another important aspect of the poem is its religious undertones. Hopkins was a devout Catholic, and his poetry often reflects his faith and his sense of wonder at the beauty of God's creation. In "The Starlight Night," he uses the stars as a metaphor for God's presence in the world, describing them as "the eyes of the Lord" that watch over us and guide us on our journey through life.

At the same time, however, Hopkins also acknowledges the limitations of human understanding. He recognizes that there is much about the world that we cannot comprehend, and he suggests that the stars themselves are a mystery that we can never fully understand. He writes, "What is all this juice and all this joy? / A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning / In Eden garden."

In this way, "The Starlight Night" is a poem that celebrates both the beauty of the natural world and the mystery of existence itself. It is a poem that invites us to look up at the stars and marvel at their beauty, but also to recognize our own limitations and the vastness of the universe around us.

In conclusion, "The Starlight Night" is a masterpiece of poetic expression that captures the wonder and awe of the natural world. Through its vivid imagery, musical language, and religious undertones, the poem invites us to look up at the stars and marvel at their beauty, while also recognizing the mystery and complexity of existence itself. It is a poem that speaks to the human spirit and reminds us of the infinite possibilities that lie within us and the world around us.

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