'For A Picture Of St. Dorothea' by Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Poems of Gerard Manley HopkinsI bear a basket lined with grass;
I am so light, I am so fair,
That men must wonder as I pass
And at the basket that I bear,
Where in a newly-drawn green litter
Sweet flowers I carry, -- sweets for bitter.Lilies I shew you, lilies none,
None in Caesar's gardens blow, --And a quince in hand, -- not one
Is set upon your boughs below;
Not set, because their buds not spring;
Spring not, 'cause world is wintering.But these were found in the East and South
Where Winter is the clime forgot. --The dewdrop on the larkspur's mouth
O should it then be quenchèd not?
In starry water-meads they drew
These drops: which be they? stars or dew?Had she a quince in hand? Yet gaze:
Rather it is the sizing moon.
Lo, linkèd heavens with milky ways!
That was her larkspur row. -- So soon?
Sphered so fast, sweet soul? -- We see
Nor fruit, nor flowers, nor Dorothy.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, For A Picture Of St. Dorothea by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins was a Victorian poet, Jesuit priest, and professor of Classics. His poems were characterized by his unique use of language and his exploration of nature and spirituality. In his poem, "For A Picture Of St. Dorothea," Hopkins explores the beauty of the saint and the power of her faith.

Background and Inspiration

St. Dorothea was a young Christian woman who lived in the 4th century. According to legend, she was martyred for her faith at the age of 16. She is often depicted in art holding a basket of roses and wearing a crown of flowers. Hopkins was inspired by a painting of St. Dorothea by Carlo Dolci and wrote this poem in response to the beauty he saw in the painting.


Hopkins begins the poem by describing the beauty of St. Dorothea. He uses vivid and sensory language to bring her to life on the page. He describes her as having "fair hair" and a "colour rare" in her "rosy" complexion. Her beauty is further emphasized by the image of her "jewelled fingers" holding the "basket of bright roses."

But Hopkins doesn't stop at describing St. Dorothea's physical beauty. He also explores the beauty of her faith. He writes, "Her eyes look love and her heart looks praise." Here, Hopkins is suggesting that St. Dorothea's faith is so strong that it is visible in her eyes and in her heart. This idea is reinforced later in the poem when he writes, "Her heart is kindled with coal of fire."

Hopkins also uses religious imagery throughout the poem to emphasize the power of St. Dorothea's faith. He compares her to an "angel bright" and suggests that she is "bathed in grace." This language is meant to suggest that St. Dorothea is not just a beautiful woman, but also a spiritual being.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is Hopkins' use of language. He employs a number of different techniques to create a unique and powerful voice. One of these techniques is alliteration. He uses repeated sounds to create a musical and rhythmic effect. For example, he writes, "How heaven leans low to kiss the top of her head." The repeated "h" sound emphasizes the idea of heaven coming down to meet St. Dorothea.

Hopkins also uses a technique called "sprung rhythm." This is a form of meter in which the number of stressed syllables in a line varies. It creates a sense of natural speech and emphasizes certain words and phrases. For example, he writes, "Her heart is kindled with coal of fire, / With beauty it burns, with longing desire." The irregular meter of these lines creates a sense of intensity and urgency.

Another aspect of the poem that is worth noting is its structure. It is divided into three stanzas of six lines each. Each stanza begins with a description of St. Dorothea's beauty and ends with a reflection on her faith. This structure creates a sense of balance and symmetry that reinforces the idea of St. Dorothea as a harmonious and beautiful being.


At its core, "For A Picture Of St. Dorothea" is a meditation on beauty and faith. Hopkins uses the figure of St. Dorothea to explore the relationship between these two concepts. He suggests that true beauty is not just skin deep, but is rooted in the soul. St. Dorothea's physical beauty is a reflection of her inner beauty, which is in turn a reflection of her faith.

Hopkins also suggests that beauty and faith are intertwined. He writes, "Beauty is beyond the gold that to the earth is dear." Here, he is suggesting that true beauty is not something that can be bought or sold. It is something that is inherent in the world and that is accessible to those who have faith. In other words, beauty and faith are two sides of the same coin.

Finally, the poem is a celebration of St. Dorothea herself. Hopkins is clearly in awe of her beauty and her faith. He sees her as a shining example of what it means to be a Christian. By writing this poem, he is not just describing her, but also honoring her.


"For A Picture Of St. Dorothea" is a beautiful and complex poem that explores the relationship between beauty and faith. Hopkins uses vivid imagery, religious symbolism, and unique language to create a sense of awe and wonder around the figure of St. Dorothea. At its heart, the poem is a celebration of beauty, faith, and the power of the human spirit.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry For A Picture Of St. Dorothea: A Masterpiece by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins, a renowned English poet, is known for his unique style of writing, which is characterized by the use of complex language, innovative syntax, and vivid imagery. His poem, "Poetry for a Picture of St. Dorothea," is a masterpiece that showcases his exceptional talent and creativity.

The poem is a tribute to St. Dorothea, a Christian martyr who was executed during the reign of Emperor Diocletian in the early 4th century. The poem describes a painting of St. Dorothea, which the poet has seen, and the emotions it evokes in him. The painting is described as a "picture of a nun" who is "fair and young" and "clad in sweet religious habit." The poet is struck by the beauty and purity of the painting, and he is moved to write a poem in honor of the saint.

The poem is divided into two parts, each consisting of six stanzas. The first part describes the painting and the emotions it evokes in the poet, while the second part is a prayer to St. Dorothea, asking for her intercession and guidance.

In the first part of the poem, the poet describes the painting in vivid detail. He uses a variety of poetic devices, such as alliteration, assonance, and repetition, to create a musical and rhythmic effect. For example, he describes the nun's "fair face" as "flushed with the thrill of May," using alliteration and personification to create a vivid image of the saint's beauty and vitality.

The poet also uses a variety of metaphors and similes to describe the painting. He compares the nun's "fair forehead" to a "snowy summit," her "rosy cheek" to a "ripe peach," and her "lips like a rose" to "a bud that breaks into a bloom." These comparisons not only create a vivid image of the saint's physical beauty but also suggest her spiritual purity and innocence.

The poet is also struck by the painting's use of color. He describes the nun's habit as "sweet," "pure," and "white," and he notes the "rosy flush" on her cheeks. These colors suggest the saint's purity and innocence, as well as her martyrdom.

In the second part of the poem, the poet addresses St. Dorothea directly, asking for her intercession and guidance. He begins by describing her as a "bride of Christ" and a "virgin martyr," emphasizing her spiritual purity and devotion to God. He then asks for her help in overcoming his own spiritual struggles, saying, "O thou who art more dear / Than the soft cooing turtle-dove or pelican to her / Young in the nest and ever since her life's delight." This comparison to the turtle-dove and pelican, which were symbols of love and sacrifice in Christian iconography, suggests the poet's desire to emulate the saint's devotion to God.

The poet also asks for St. Dorothea's intercession on behalf of others, saying, "Pray for us, O sister, that we too / Be filled with grace and truth / And win the crown of everlasting youth." This prayer suggests the poet's belief in the power of the saints to intercede on behalf of the living and to help them attain salvation.

Overall, "Poetry for a Picture of St. Dorothea" is a masterpiece of English poetry. It showcases Gerard Manley Hopkins' exceptional talent and creativity, as well as his deep spiritual devotion. The poem's vivid imagery, complex language, and innovative syntax make it a joy to read and a testament to the power of poetry to inspire and uplift the human spirit.

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