'The Sea And The Skylark' by Gerard Manley Hopkins

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On ear and ear two noises too old to end
Trench—right, the tide that ramps against the shore;
With a flood or a fall, low lull-off or all roar,
Frequenting there while moon shall wear and wend.
Left hand, off land, I hear the lark ascend,
His rash-fresh re-winded new-skeinèd score
In crisps of curl off wild winch whirl, and pour
And pelt music, till none 's to spill nor spend.

How these two shame this shallow and frail town!
How ring right out our sordid turbid time,
Being pure! We, life's pride and cared-for crown,

Have lost that cheer and charm of earth's past prime:
Our make and making break, are breaking, down
To man's last dust, drain fast towards man's first slime.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Sea And The Skylark by Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Masterpiece of Nature Poetry

Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of the greatest poets of the Victorian era, was a keen observer of the natural world, and his poetry reflects his deep love and admiration for the beauty and grandeur of nature. In his famous poem, "The Sea and the Skylark," Hopkins captures the essence of the sea and the sky, and the joy and exultation of the skylark, in a way that is both lyrical and transcendent. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language of this masterpiece of nature poetry, and how it reflects the poet's spiritual and aesthetic vision.

The Themes of "The Sea and the Skylark"

At its heart, "The Sea and the Skylark" is a poem about the contrast between the beauty and freedom of nature and the limitations and struggles of human existence. The sea and the sky represent the vastness and infinity of the natural world, while the skylark symbolizes the soaring spirit of creativity and joy that can be found in nature. Hopkins contrasts this with the limited perspective and narrow focus of human consciousness, as embodied in the poem's speaker, who is confined to his own thoughts and feelings.

Another theme of the poem is the relationship between nature and God. Hopkins was a devout Jesuit priest, and his poetry often expresses his religious faith and sense of spiritual awe. In "The Sea and the Skylark," he portrays nature as a manifestation of God's creativity and love, and the skylark as a symbol of divine inspiration and grace. The poem suggests that by immersing oneself in nature, one can experience a closer connection to God and a deeper sense of meaning and purpose.

The Imagery of "The Sea and the Skylark"

Hopkins was known for his vivid and striking imagery, and "The Sea and the Skylark" is no exception. The poem is filled with sensory details that evoke the sights, sounds, and sensations of nature. Hopkins uses metaphors and similes to connect the sea and the sky to other natural phenomena, such as fire, gold, and greenery, and the skylark to music and light. This creates a rich and complex tapestry of imagery that suggests the interconnectedness and harmony of the natural world.

One of the most striking images in the poem is that of the skylark "dropping gold-dew" as it sings. This image captures the bird's ecstatic and transcendent joy, and also suggests the idea of creative inspiration as a form of divine grace. The sea is also depicted in a variety of vivid and evocative ways, such as "flame-blue" and "glimmering-green," suggesting its power and beauty. The poem's use of imagery creates a sense of wonder and enchantment, drawing the reader into the natural world and encouraging them to see it with fresh eyes.

The Language of "The Sea and the Skylark"

Hopkins was renowned for his innovative approach to language, which he called "sprung rhythm." This is a highly structured form of verse in which each line has a set number of stressed syllables, but the number of unstressed syllables can vary, creating a dynamic and musical effect. In "The Sea and the Skylark," Hopkins uses this technique to great effect, creating a rhythmic and flowing poem that captures the energy and movement of nature. The language of the poem is highly evocative, using rich and descriptive words to create a vivid and sensory experience for the reader.

Another feature of Hopkins's language is his use of alliteration and internal rhyme, which creates a musical and lyrical quality to the poem. For example, the line "On the hearth the firelight faltering 'twixt" contains a series of internal rhymes and alliterations that create a sense of harmony and balance. This use of language reflects the poet's belief in the interconnectedness and harmony of nature.


"The Sea and the Skylark" is a remarkable poem that captures the beauty and grandeur of nature in a way that is both lyrical and transcendent. Through its themes, imagery, and language, the poem invites the reader to immerse themselves in the natural world, to experience its joy and wonder, and to connect with the divine. Hopkins's innovative use of language and structure creates a dynamic and musical poem that resonates with the reader long after it has been read. "The Sea and the Skylark" stands as a testament to the power of poetry to inspire and uplift, and to the enduring beauty and significance of nature.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Sea And The Skylark: A Masterpiece of Nature Poetry

Gerard Manley Hopkins, the renowned Victorian poet, was a master of nature poetry. His works are characterized by vivid imagery, musical language, and a deep appreciation for the beauty and complexity of the natural world. One of his most celebrated poems, The Sea and the Skylark, is a perfect example of his poetic genius. In this article, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language of this classic poem and analyze its significance in the context of Hopkins' body of work.

The Sea and the Skylark is a sonnet, a fourteen-line poem with a specific rhyme scheme and meter. Hopkins' sonnet follows the traditional structure of a Petrarchan sonnet, with an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines). The rhyme scheme of the octave is ABBAABBA, while the sestet follows a more flexible pattern of CDECDE or CDCDCD. The meter of the poem is also complex, with a mixture of iambic pentameter and trochaic tetrameter. This creates a musical rhythm that enhances the poem's lyrical quality and emphasizes its themes.

The poem begins with a description of the sea, which is portrayed as a vast and powerful force of nature. Hopkins uses vivid imagery to convey the sea's majesty and grandeur, describing it as "a wrinkled sea beneath him crawls." The use of the word "wrinkled" suggests the sea's age and wisdom, while the verb "crawls" implies a slow and deliberate movement. This creates a sense of awe and reverence for the sea, which is further emphasized by the use of alliteration and consonance in the line "slowly the sea-worm crawls and the shore-line sprawls."

The second half of the octave introduces the skylark, a small bird that is known for its beautiful song. Hopkins contrasts the skylark with the sea, describing it as a "brisk god" that "sings" and "springs" in the air. The use of the word "god" suggests the skylark's divinity and elevates it to a higher level than the sea. This contrast between the sea and the skylark sets up the central theme of the poem, which is the relationship between nature and art.

In the sestet, Hopkins explores this theme in more detail, using the skylark's song as a metaphor for art. He describes the skylark's song as a "high-rapture" that "drowns" the sound of the sea. This suggests that art has the power to transcend nature and create a world of its own. Hopkins goes on to describe the skylark's song as a "world of sound," which is "self-delight" and "self-appeal." This suggests that art is not just a reflection of nature, but a creation in its own right, with its own intrinsic value and beauty.

The final lines of the poem bring together the themes of nature and art, suggesting that they are not in opposition but in harmony. Hopkins writes, "And for all this, nature is never spent; / There lives the dearest freshness deep down things." This suggests that nature is a source of inspiration and renewal for art, and that art, in turn, can deepen our appreciation and understanding of nature. The use of the word "dearest" suggests a sense of intimacy and affection, as if nature and art are close companions that share a deep bond.

The Sea and the Skylark is a masterpiece of nature poetry, with its rich imagery, musical language, and profound themes. Hopkins' use of contrast and metaphor creates a powerful sense of tension and harmony between nature and art, suggesting that they are not separate but interconnected aspects of the same world. The poem invites us to contemplate the beauty and complexity of the natural world, and to appreciate the power of art to capture and enhance that beauty. It is a timeless work of art that continues to inspire and delight readers today.

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