'The May Magnificat' by Gerard Manley Hopkins
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May is Mary's month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season—
Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May,
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honour?
Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?
Is it opportunest
And flowers finds soonest?
Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring?—
Growth in every thing—
Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and greenworld all together;
Throstle above her nested
Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.
All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathising
With that world of good,
Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord.
Well but there was more than this:
Spring's universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May.
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
And thicket and thorp are merry
With silver-surfèd cherry
And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
And magic cuckoocall
Caps, clears, and clinches all—
This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ's birth
To remember and exultation
In God who was her salvation.
Editor 1 Interpretation
The May Magnificat: A Masterpiece of Hopkinsian Poetry
Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Jesuit priest and Victorian poet, is known for his innovative and highly experimental style of writing, which is characterized by a fusion of Christian theology, natural imagery, and linguistic originality. His poems are often challenging and complex, and require careful and attentive reading to fully appreciate their beauty and significance. One of his most celebrated poems is "The May Magnificat," which is a sonnet that celebrates the Virgin Mary and her role in salvation history. In this essay, I will provide a detailed literary criticism and interpretation of this masterpiece of Hopkinsian poetry, with a focus on its themes, imagery, and language.
Overview and Context
"The May Magnificat" was written by Hopkins in 1877, during his time as a professor of classics at University College Dublin. The poem is a sonnet, which is a fourteen-line poem that follows a strict rhyme scheme and meter. Hopkins was a master of the sonnet form, and he often used it to explore his religious beliefs and his love for nature. The poem is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, who is a central figure in Catholic doctrine and devotion. May is the month that is traditionally associated with Mary, and many Catholic countries celebrate May as Mary's month, with special devotions, processions, and prayers. Hopkins wrote this poem as a way of expressing his own devotion to Mary, and as a tribute to her greatness and beauty.
The main themes of "The May Magnificat" are the Virgin Mary, nature, and salvation. The poem is a hymn of praise to Mary, whom Hopkins sees as the embodiment of God's grace and mercy. He sees Mary as a model of faith and obedience, who accepted God's will with humility and love. Hopkins uses natural imagery to describe Mary's beauty and purity, and to show how she reflects God's goodness and love. The poem also expresses Hopkins's belief in the power of salvation, which he sees as a free gift from God that can transform human beings and bring them closer to God. Hopkins's vision of salvation is rooted in his Catholic faith, which sees Mary as the mother of the Redeemer and the mother of all believers. The poem thus celebrates the beauty and goodness of God's creation, and invites us to contemplate the mystery of salvation and the beauty of Mary's love.
The imagery of "The May Magnificat" is rich and varied, and shows Hopkins's mastery of language and poetic form. Hopkins uses a wide range of natural images to describe Mary's beauty and grace, and to show how she reflects God's goodness and love. One of the key images in the poem is the image of the "brown brinked, isinglass" river, which symbolizes the purity and clarity of Mary's soul. Hopkins describes the river as "crispÃ¨d and dappled, all trades their gear and tackle and trim." This image conveys the idea that Mary's beauty and purity are timeless and enduring, and that they are reflected in the beauty and harmony of nature.
Another important image in the poem is the image of the "weed-winding bank," which symbolizes the fallen state of humanity and the need for salvation. Hopkins describes the bank as "a long lea-lowing, a maze of mare's tails and worm-hair." This image conveys the idea that humanity is trapped in a maze of sin and error, and that only through the grace of God can we be saved and redeemed.
Hopkins also uses a number of other natural images to describe Mary's beauty and grace, such as the "blue-bleak embers," the "jarred grey-browns," and the "wiry, swinging creepers." Each of these images adds to the overall impression of Mary's beauty and goodness, and shows how Hopkins uses language to create a sense of wonder and awe.
The language of "The May Magnificat" is highly original and innovative, and shows Hopkins's skill as a poet and a linguist. Hopkins uses a wide range of linguistic devices to create a sense of rhythm and flow in the poem, such as alliteration, assonance, and internal rhyme. He also uses unusual and archaic words, such as "brinked," "isinglass," "lea-lowing," and "jarred grey-browns," to create a sense of richness and depth in the language.
One of the most striking linguistic features of the poem is Hopkins's use of sprung rhythm, which is a kind of meter that he invented himself. Sprung rhythm is based on the natural stress patterns of English speech, and is characterized by irregular and unpredictable beats. Hopkins uses sprung rhythm to create a sense of energy and movement in the poem, and to convey the idea that Mary's beauty and grace are dynamic and life-giving.
Another important feature of Hopkins's language is his use of repetition and variation. Hopkins repeats certain phrases and words throughout the poem, such as "brown brinked, isinglass," "weed-winding bank," and "May Magnificat." This repetition creates a sense of unity and coherence in the poem, and helps to reinforce its themes and imagery.
"The May Magnificat" is a complex and challenging poem that requires careful and attentive reading to fully appreciate its beauty and significance. The poem is a hymn of praise to the Virgin Mary, and celebrates her beauty, purity, and grace. Hopkins uses natural imagery to describe Mary's greatness, and to show how she reflects God's goodness and love. The poem also expresses Hopkins's belief in the power of salvation, and invites us to contemplate the mystery of God's grace and love.
One of the key themes of the poem is the idea of transformation and renewal. Hopkins sees Mary as a model of faith and obedience, who accepted God's will with humility and love. He also sees Mary as a source of renewal and transformation, who can help to transform our lives and bring us closer to God. The poem thus invites us to contemplate the beauty and goodness of God's creation, and to seek renewal and transformation in our own lives.
Another important theme of the poem is the idea of redemption and salvation. Hopkins sees salvation as a free gift from God, which can transform human beings and bring them closer to God. He sees Mary as the mother of the Redeemer, and as the mother of all believers. The poem thus celebrates the mystery of salvation, and invites us to contemplate the beauty and power of God's love.
"The May Magnificat" is a masterpiece of Hopkinsian poetry, and a testament to Hopkins's mastery of language, form, and imagery. The poem is a hymn of praise to the Virgin Mary, and celebrates her beauty, purity, and grace. Hopkins uses natural imagery to describe Mary's greatness, and to show how she reflects God's goodness and love. The poem also expresses Hopkins's belief in the power of salvation, and invites us to contemplate the mystery of God's grace and love. In the end, "The May Magnificat" is a powerful and moving poem that invites us to contemplate the beauty and goodness of God's creation, and to seek renewal and transformation in our own lives.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The May Magnificat: A Celebration of Spring and Renewal
Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of the most celebrated poets of the Victorian era, was known for his innovative use of language and his deep spiritual insights. His poem, The May Magnificat, is a beautiful celebration of the arrival of spring and the renewal of life that it brings. In this 14-line sonnet, Hopkins captures the essence of the season and its transformative power.
The poem begins with a reference to the Virgin Mary, who is often associated with the month of May in Catholic tradition. Hopkins writes, "May is Mary's month, and I/Muse at that and wonder why." This opening line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is filled with wonder and awe at the beauty of the natural world.
Hopkins goes on to describe the various sights and sounds of spring, from the "thrush's eggs look little low heavens" to the "lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn." He uses vivid imagery to paint a picture of the season, and his use of alliteration and internal rhyme adds to the musicality of the poem.
But The May Magnificat is not just a celebration of spring; it is also a meditation on the power of renewal and transformation. Hopkins writes, "All things rising, all things sizing/ Mary sees, sympathizing." Here, he suggests that Mary, as a symbol of divine compassion, is present in the natural world, witnessing and empathizing with the cycles of birth, growth, and decay.
The poem's final lines are perhaps its most powerful: "Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)/ With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim." Here, Hopkins acknowledges the unpredictability and complexity of life, with its many contradictions and uncertainties. But he also suggests that this very unpredictability is what makes life so beautiful and worth celebrating.
Overall, The May Magnificat is a stunning tribute to the power of nature and the resilience of life. Hopkins' use of language is masterful, and his ability to capture the essence of the season is truly remarkable. But perhaps what makes this poem so enduring is its message of hope and renewal, which speaks to us even today, over a century after it was written.
In conclusion, The May Magnificat is a true masterpiece of Victorian poetry, and a testament to Hopkins' genius as a writer. Its celebration of spring and renewal is both timeless and timely, and its message of hope and compassion is one that we can all take to heart. As we enter the month of May, let us remember the beauty and power of the natural world, and let us celebrate the many gifts that it brings.
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