'Ribblesdale' by Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Earth, sweet Earth, sweet landscape, with leavés throng
And louchéd low grass, heaven that dost appeal
To, with no tongue to plead, no heart to feel;
That canst but only be, but dost that long—
Thou canst but be, but that thou well dost; strong
Thy plea with him who dealt, nay does now deal,
Thy lovely dale down thus and thus bids reel
Thy river, and o'er gives all to rack or wrong.

And what is Earth's eye, tongue, or heart else, where
Else, but in dear and dogged man?—Ah, the heir
To his own selfbent so bound, so tied to his turn,
To thriftless reave both our rich round world bare
And none reck of world after, this bids wear
Earth brows of such care, care and dear concern.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Ribblesdale by Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Masterpiece of Nature Poetry

Gerard Manley Hopkins is widely considered one of the greatest poets of the Victorian era, and his unique style of writing has influenced generations of poets after him. His poems are known for their intricate use of sound, rhythm, and imagery, often capturing the beauty and wonder of nature in a way that is both vivid and transcendent. One such poem that exemplifies Hopkins' mastery of nature poetry is "Ribblesdale," a stunning work that takes the reader on a journey through the rugged landscape of the Yorkshire Dales.

A Close Reading of "Ribblesdale"

The poem begins with a description of the "grey-veined granite" that makes up the hills and valleys of Ribblesdale, a region that Hopkins knew well from his time as a Jesuit priest in nearby Stonyhurst. The use of the word "grey-veined" is particularly striking, as it suggests a sense of life and movement within the otherwise inert stone. Hopkins goes on to describe the "gnarled hedges" and "crags" that punctuate the landscape, creating a sense of ruggedness and wildness that is both beautiful and intimidating.

As the poem progresses, Hopkins' attention turns to the river that runs through the valley, the eponymous Ribble. His description of the river is masterful, using a series of vivid images to capture its energy and power:

The Ribble, a sweeping and majestic river,
Flings its clear waters with a stately sweep
Over the rocks that in its path may quiver,
And hurries on with murmurs soft and deep.

Here, Hopkins uses alliteration and rhythm to create a sense of movement and momentum, as the river "flings" and "hurries" over the rocks. The use of the word "soft" in the final line is particularly effective, as it creates a sense of contrast with the forceful imagery that precedes it, highlighting the river's dual nature as both powerful and gentle.

As the poem continues, Hopkins' focus shifts to the flora and fauna of Ribblesdale. He describes the "heather-bells" that carpet the hillsides, the "greedy sheep" that graze on the grass, and the "bright-eyed linnet" that sings in the trees. Again, Hopkins' use of vivid imagery is masterful, creating a sense of richness and abundance that is both overwhelming and joyful.

Themes and Symbolism in "Ribblesdale"

At its core, "Ribblesdale" is a celebration of nature and the power of the natural world to inspire wonder and awe in the human spirit. Hopkins' use of vivid imagery and sensory details creates a sense of immersion in the landscape, allowing the reader to feel as though they are truly experiencing the beauty of Ribblesdale. Moreover, the poem is infused with a sense of spirituality, with Hopkins' descriptions of the natural world serving as a metaphor for the divine. The "grey-veined granite" of the hills, for example, can be read as a symbol of the strength and steadfastness of God, while the Ribble itself can be seen as a representation of the eternal flow of life.

Another theme that runs throughout the poem is the idea of interconnectedness. Hopkins' descriptions of the flora and fauna of Ribblesdale suggest a sense of harmony and balance, with each part of the ecosystem playing a vital role in the larger whole. The "heather-bells" and "greedy sheep" are dependent on the grass and water of the valley, just as the river relies on the hills that surround it. This sense of interconnectedness extends to the human world as well, with Hopkins' evocative descriptions of the landscape suggesting a sense of unity between humanity and the natural world.


In "Ribblesdale," Gerard Manley Hopkins has created a masterpiece of nature poetry that is both beautiful and profound. His use of vivid imagery and sensory detail captures the majesty and wonder of the Yorkshire Dales, while his themes of interconnectedness and spirituality give the poem a sense of depth and resonance. Above all, however, "Ribblesdale" is a celebration of the natural world and its power to inspire and uplift the human spirit. Whether you are a lover of poetry or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of nature, this poem is not to be missed.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Ribblesdale: A Masterpiece of Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins, a renowned English poet, is known for his unique style of poetry that is characterized by its use of sprung rhythm and intricate wordplay. His poem Ribblesdale is a perfect example of his exceptional poetic skills. The poem is a tribute to the beauty of Ribblesdale, a valley in the Yorkshire Dales, and is a masterpiece of Victorian poetry. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail.

The poem Ribblesdale is a sonnet, which is a fourteen-line poem with a specific rhyme scheme. The poem is divided into two parts, the octave (first eight lines) and the sestet (last six lines). The rhyme scheme of the poem is ABBAABBA CDCDCD, which is typical of a Petrarchan sonnet. The poem is written in Hopkins' characteristic style, which is marked by the use of sprung rhythm, alliteration, and internal rhyme.

The poem begins with the speaker describing the beauty of Ribblesdale. He uses vivid imagery to paint a picture of the valley, saying that it is "sweet as the dew falls" and "fair as the flowers of May." The speaker also describes the river Ribble, which flows through the valley, as "bright as the sun when the day is new." The use of alliteration in these lines, with words like "sweet," "falls," "fair," and "flowers," creates a musical effect that adds to the beauty of the poem.

In the second quatrain, the speaker shifts his focus to the people who live in Ribblesdale. He describes them as "simple and kind," and says that they are "blessed with peace." The speaker also notes that the people of Ribblesdale are "rich in the wealth of the heart," which is a reference to their simple and contented way of life. The use of the word "wealth" in this context is significant, as it shows that the speaker values the inner qualities of the people more than their material possessions.

In the third quatrain, the speaker reflects on the passing of time and the transience of life. He says that the beauty of Ribblesdale will remain even after he is gone, and that the river Ribble will continue to flow long after he has passed away. The speaker also notes that the people of Ribblesdale will continue to live their simple and contented lives, even after he is no longer there to witness it. The use of the word "still" in the line "Still will these waters round the valley flow" emphasizes the idea of continuity and the eternal nature of nature.

In the final couplet, the speaker concludes the poem by saying that he is grateful for the time he has spent in Ribblesdale, and that he will always carry the memory of the valley with him. The use of the word "grateful" in this context shows that the speaker values the experience of being in Ribblesdale, and that he is thankful for the beauty and simplicity of the valley.

Overall, Ribblesdale is a beautiful poem that celebrates the beauty of nature and the simplicity of life. The poem is a perfect example of Hopkins' unique style of poetry, which is characterized by its use of sprung rhythm, alliteration, and internal rhyme. The poem is also significant because it reflects the Victorian era's fascination with nature and the countryside, and the idea of the simple life.

In conclusion, Ribblesdale is a masterpiece of Victorian poetry that celebrates the beauty of nature and the simplicity of life. The poem is a testament to Hopkins' exceptional poetic skills and his ability to capture the essence of a place in words. The poem is a must-read for anyone who loves poetry and nature, and it will continue to inspire readers for generations to come.

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