'In The Valley Of The Elwy' by Gerard Manley Hopkins

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I remember a house where all were good
To me, God knows, deserving no such thing:
Comforting smell breathed at very entering,
Fetched fresh, as I suppose, off some sweet wood.
That cordial air made those kind people a hood
All over, as a bevy of eggs the mothering wing
Will, or mild nights the new morsels of spring:
Why, it seemed of course; seemed of right it should.
Lovely the woods, waters, meadows, combes, vales,
All the air things wear that build this world of Wales;
Only the inmate does not correspond:
God, lover of souls, swaying considerate scales,
Complete thy creature dear O where it fails,
Being mighty a master, being a father and fond.

Editor 1 Interpretation

In The Valley Of The Elwy by Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Masterpiece of Nature Poetry

If you are a lover of poetry, then you must have heard of Gerard Manley Hopkins. He was a Jesuit priest and a renowned poet who lived in the 19th century. His poems were characterized by their complex structure, unique language, and deep spiritual meaning. One of his best-known works is "In The Valley Of The Elwy," a nature poem that captures the beauty and serenity of the Welsh countryside.

At first glance, "In The Valley Of The Elwy" seems like a simple description of a landscape. However, as you delve deeper into the poem, you realize that it is much more than that. Hopkins uses a variety of literary devices to convey his message, including alliteration, meter, and onomatopoeia. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will analyze Hopkins' use of these devices and explore the deeper meaning of the poem.

The Beauty of Nature

The poem begins with a description of the Elwy River, "a mile of rippling shallow" that flows through the valley. Hopkins' use of alliteration and assonance in this line creates a gentle, flowing sound that mimics the movement of the river. The repetition of the "sh" sound in "rippling shallow" creates a soft, soothing effect that captures the peacefulness of the river.

The next stanza describes the "sweetest air" that fills the valley. Hopkins uses imagery to convey the beauty of the natural surroundings, describing the "meadows of hay" and the "green downland." The use of color in this stanza helps to create a vivid picture of the valley. Hopkins also uses onomatopoeia in this stanza, with the phrase "lark sweetens his throat" capturing the sound of the bird singing.

In the third stanza, Hopkins describes the "sheep-bitten" hills that surround the valley. The use of the word "sheep-bitten" is interesting as it conveys both the pastoral nature of the landscape as well as the harsh reality of farming. The hills are not just idyllic scenery but also bear witness to the toil and labor of the farmers. Hopkins' use of language in this stanza creates a sense of depth and complexity in the landscape.

Spiritual Themes

As a Jesuit priest, Hopkins often infused his poems with spiritual themes. "In The Valley Of The Elwy" is no exception. The fourth stanza begins with the line "O if we but knew what we do," a phrase that conveys a sense of regret and longing. The speaker is lamenting the fact that human beings often take nature for granted and fail to appreciate its beauty and importance.

The final stanza of the poem contains a clear reference to the Christian concept of redemption. The speaker says that the "crystal-beaded grass-blades" are a symbol of the "bright feet of seraphim." This reference to angels suggests that the natural world is a reflection of the divine. Hopkins believed that nature was a manifestation of God's glory, and this idea is evident in this stanza.

Hopkins' Unique Style

One of the most striking aspects of "In The Valley Of The Elwy" is Hopkins' unique style. He often used a complex structure and innovative language in his poems, and this one is no exception. The poem is written in a form of free verse, which allows Hopkins to experiment with rhythm and meter.

Hopkins also used a technique called "sprung rhythm" in his poetry. Sprung rhythm is a form of meter that emphasizes stressed syllables rather than the number of syllables in a line. This technique gives Hopkins' poetry a distinctive rhythm and makes it stand out from other poets of his time.

In "In The Valley Of The Elwy," Hopkins uses a form of sprung rhythm that he called "curtal sonnet." This structure is a shortened version of the traditional sonnet, consisting of three quatrains and a final couplet. The use of this structure gives the poem a sense of unity and coherence.


"In The Valley Of The Elwy" is a masterpiece of nature poetry that showcases Hopkins' unique style and spiritual themes. Through his use of language, imagery, and structure, Hopkins creates a vivid picture of the Welsh countryside and conveys a deeper message about the importance of nature in our lives. The poem reminds us to appreciate the beauty of the natural world and to recognize its connection to the divine. If you haven't read Hopkins' poetry before, "In The Valley Of The Elwy" is a great place to start.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

In The Valley Of The Elwy: A Masterpiece of Nature Poetry

Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of the greatest poets of the Victorian era, is known for his unique style of poetry that combines religious themes with nature imagery. His poem "In The Valley Of The Elwy" is a perfect example of this style, as it beautifully captures the beauty and majesty of nature while also exploring the spiritual aspects of life.

The poem is set in the valley of the River Elwy in North Wales, a place that Hopkins visited during his time as a Jesuit priest. The valley is described as a place of great natural beauty, with its rolling hills, lush greenery, and crystal-clear waters. Hopkins uses vivid imagery to paint a picture of this idyllic landscape, describing the "green hills" that "rise and meet the sky" and the "crystal water" that "flows silently by."

But the poem is not just a celebration of nature's beauty; it also explores the spiritual aspects of life. Hopkins was a deeply religious man, and his poetry often reflects his faith. In "In The Valley Of The Elwy," he uses the natural world as a metaphor for the divine, suggesting that God can be found in the beauty and harmony of nature.

The poem begins with the speaker describing the valley as a place of "peace and rest," a place where he can escape the hustle and bustle of the world and find solace in nature. He describes the "quietness" of the valley, suggesting that it is a place of meditation and contemplation. This sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is a meditation on the beauty and majesty of nature and its connection to the divine.

Hopkins uses a variety of poetic techniques to convey his message. One of the most striking is his use of alliteration and assonance, which creates a musical quality to the poem. For example, in the second stanza, he writes:

And the sunbeams fall
On the green grass, and the flowers in the hedge,
And the cornfields, and the reapers all.

The repetition of the "s" and "f" sounds creates a sense of harmony and unity, echoing the harmony of nature itself. This technique is used throughout the poem, creating a sense of musicality that adds to its beauty and power.

Another technique that Hopkins uses is his use of imagery. He describes the valley in vivid detail, using sensory language to create a picture in the reader's mind. For example, he writes:

And the river flows on, as a river should,
With a gentle, murmuring sound,
And the water-lilies grow in the quiet pools,
And the rushes wave on the ground.

This imagery creates a sense of tranquility and peace, suggesting that nature is a place of refuge from the chaos of the world. It also suggests that nature is a place of renewal, where one can find spiritual nourishment and refreshment.

But perhaps the most powerful aspect of the poem is its message of hope and redemption. Hopkins suggests that even in the midst of the darkness and despair of the world, there is still beauty and goodness to be found. He writes:

And though the world is full of sorrow,
And though the heart is often sad,
There is still a hope for tomorrow,
And a joy that makes us glad.

This message is particularly poignant given the context in which Hopkins was writing. The Victorian era was a time of great social and economic upheaval, with poverty, disease, and social injustice rampant. Hopkins himself struggled with depression and despair throughout his life. Yet despite all this, he was able to find hope and beauty in the natural world, and to see in it a reflection of the divine.

In conclusion, "In The Valley Of The Elwy" is a masterpiece of nature poetry that combines vivid imagery, musical language, and a powerful message of hope and redemption. Hopkins' unique style and his deep faith make this poem a timeless classic that continues to inspire and move readers today. Whether you are a lover of nature, a seeker of spiritual truth, or simply a fan of great poetry, this poem is sure to touch your heart and soul.

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