'The Bugler's First Communion' by Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Poems of Gerard Manley HopkinsA buglar boy from barrack (it is over the hill
There)-boy bugler, born, he tells me, of IrishMother to an English sire (he
Shares their best gifts surely, fall how things will),This very very day came down to us after a boon he on
My late being there begged of me, overflowingBoon in my bestowing,
Came, I say, this day to it-to a First Communion.Here he knelt then ín regimental red.
Forth Christ from cupboard fetched, how fain I of feetTo his youngster take his treat!
Low-latched in leaf-light housel his too huge godhead.There! and your sweetest sendings, ah divine,
By it, heavens, befall him! as a heart Christ's darling, dauntless;Tongue true, vaunt- and tauntless;
Breathing bloom of a chastity in mansex fine.Frowning and forefending angel-warder
Squander the hell-rook ranks sally to molest him;March, kind comrade, abreast him;
Dress his days to a dexterous and starlight order.How it dóes my heart good, visiting at that bleak hill,
When limber liquid youth, that to all I teachYields tender as a pushed peach,
Hies headstrong to its wellbeing of a self-wise self-will!Then though I should tread tufts of consolation
Dáys áfter, só I in a sort deserve toAnd do serve God to serve to
Just such slips of soldiery Christ's royal ration.Nothing élse is like it, no, not all so strains
Us: fresh youth fretted in a bloomfall all portendingThat sweet's sweeter ending;
Realm both Christ is heir to and thére réigns.O now well work that sealing sacred ointment!
O for now charms, arms, what bans off badAnd locks love ever in a lad!
Let mé though see no more of him, and not disappointmentThose sweet hopes quell whose least me quickenings lift,
In scarlet or somewhere of some day seeingThat brow and bead of being,
An our day's God's own Galahad. Though this child's driftSeems by a divíne doom chánnelled, nor do I cry
Disaster there; but may he not rankle and roamIn backwheels though bound home?-
That left to the Lord of the Eucharist, I here lie by;Recorded only, I have put my lips on pleas
Would brandle adamantine heaven with ride and jar, didPrayer go disregarded:
Forward-like, but however, and like favourable heaven heard these.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Bugler's First Communion: A Masterpiece of Hopkins' Poetry

Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Jesuit priest and a Victorian-era poet, is known for his unique style of poetry that combines religious themes with his observations on nature. One of his most celebrated poems is "The Bugler's First Communion," a poem that reflects Hopkins' deep faith and his appreciation for the simple joys of life. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will delve into the nuances of Hopkins' poem, exploring its themes, language, and imagery.


"The Bugler's First Communion" was written in 1866 while Hopkins was studying theology at St. Beuno's College in North Wales. The poem was dedicated to his brother, who was also training to be a Jesuit priest. The poem is based on a true incident that Hopkins witnessed during his time at the college. It tells the story of a young bugler who receives his first communion and experiences a moment of spiritual awakening that transforms his life.


At its core, "The Bugler's First Communion" is a poem about the transformative power of faith. Hopkins was deeply committed to his Catholic faith, and his poetry reflects his belief that religious experiences can have a profound impact on an individual's life. The poem also explores the themes of innocence, purity, and the beauty of nature. The bugler, who is described as a "child," symbolizes innocence and purity, while the natural world around him represents the beauty and wonder of God's creation.

Structure and Language

"The Bugler's First Communion" is a sonnet, a traditional form of poetry that consists of 14 lines with a specific rhyme scheme. Hopkins' sonnet follows the Petrarchan rhyme scheme, with the first eight lines (the octave) rhyming ABBAABBA and the last six lines (the sestet) rhyming CDCDCD. The poem is written in Hopkins' signature style, which he called "sprung rhythm." Sprung rhythm is characterized by irregular meter and stresses on certain syllables, creating a unique musical quality to the verse.

Hopkins also uses vivid imagery and sensory language in the poem. He describes the bugler's experience of receiving communion in detail, using words like "sweetness," "warmth," and "tenderly." He also uses sensory language to describe the natural world around the bugler, including "soft-falling shower" and "the soft rich smell of the ripe corn." Through his language, Hopkins creates a sense of intimacy and closeness between the bugler and the natural world, emphasizing the interconnectedness of all things.


"The Bugler's First Communion" is a poem that can be interpreted in many ways, depending on the reader's perspective. On one level, the poem is a celebration of the Catholic sacrament of communion and the transformative power of faith. The bugler's experience of receiving communion is described as a moment of enlightenment, where he feels a sense of connection to God and a renewed sense of purpose in life. The poem can be read as an invitation to embrace one's faith and to seek out moments of spiritual connection in everyday life.

On another level, the poem can be interpreted as a reflection on the beauty and wonder of nature. Hopkins' descriptions of the natural world around the bugler are rich and detailed, highlighting the beauty and complexity of God's creation. By connecting the bugler's spiritual awakening to his experience of nature, Hopkins suggests that the two are intimately linked, and that moments of spiritual connection can be found in the most unexpected places.

Finally, the poem can be read as a celebration of innocence and purity. The bugler, who is described as a "child," represents a kind of innocence and purity that is often lost as we grow older. By suggesting that this innocence can be reclaimed through moments of spiritual connection, Hopkins offers a vision of hope and renewal that is both deeply personal and universal.


"The Bugler's First Communion" is a masterpiece of Hopkins' poetry, combining his unique style with his deep faith and his love of nature. Through its themes of faith, nature, and innocence, the poem offers a vision of hope and renewal that is both timeless and deeply personal. Whether read as a celebration of the Catholic sacrament of communion, an ode to the beauty of nature, or a meditation on innocence and purity, this poem remains a testament to the enduring power of poetry to transform our lives and our perspectives on the world around us.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Bugler's First Communion: A Masterpiece of Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins, a renowned poet of the Victorian era, is known for his innovative and experimental style of poetry. His works are characterized by complex language, vivid imagery, and religious themes. One of his most celebrated poems is "The Bugler's First Communion," which is a powerful and moving piece that explores the themes of faith, sacrifice, and redemption.

The poem is written in the form of a dramatic monologue, where the speaker is a young boy who is about to receive his first communion. The boy is a bugler in the army, and he is torn between his duty to his country and his devotion to God. The poem is divided into three parts, each of which explores a different aspect of the boy's dilemma.

In the first part of the poem, the boy reflects on his past and his present situation. He talks about how he used to play his bugle for the army, and how he was proud of his role in defending his country. However, he also feels a sense of guilt and shame for his past sins, and he longs for redemption. He says, "I have sinned and I am sorry, and I long to be forgiven."

The second part of the poem is the most powerful and emotional. Here, the boy describes his inner struggle between his duty to his country and his devotion to God. He says, "I am torn between two loves, two loyalties." He knows that he must choose between his duty to his country and his duty to God, and he is afraid of making the wrong choice. He says, "I fear to choose, yet I must choose."

The third part of the poem is the most hopeful and uplifting. Here, the boy finally makes his choice, and he chooses God over his duty to his country. He says, "I choose the better part, and I will not be ashamed." He knows that his decision will have consequences, and he is prepared to face them. He says, "I am ready to suffer, to be mocked and scorned, to be cast out and despised."

The poem is filled with vivid and powerful imagery, which adds to its emotional impact. For example, the boy describes his inner struggle as a battle between two armies, and he says that his heart is like a battlefield. He also uses religious imagery to describe his devotion to God, such as when he says that he is "a soldier of the cross."

The poem is also notable for its use of language and sound. Hopkins was known for his innovative use of language, and this poem is no exception. He uses alliteration, assonance, and other sound devices to create a musical and rhythmic effect. For example, he uses the phrase "soul's self" to create a sense of internal conflict, and he uses the phrase "bugle-blasts" to create a sense of military urgency.

In conclusion, "The Bugler's First Communion" is a masterpiece of Victorian poetry. It explores complex themes of faith, sacrifice, and redemption, and it does so with powerful imagery and innovative language. The poem is a testament to Hopkins' skill as a poet, and it continues to be celebrated and studied today.

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