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     English Wordplay ~ Listen and Enjoy

Hopkins loved Our Lady. I therefore dedicate these pages to her namesake, my beloved daughter, Mary. Hopkins aged 15 Hopkins as a Jesuit Priest


His Life through his Poetry

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TRACK 9: Playfulness

Read by Claire Marchionne
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while you read

He began to write poetry while a border at Highgate School.  To his contemporaries he stood out for his simplicity and his good humour.  One of them reported that:

"He was full of fun, rippling over with jokes, facile with pencil and pen, rhyming jibe or cartoon. Then as always I should have described Skim as he was called, as one of the best and nicest boys in the school.  With his face always set to do what was right.  When he was moved into our bedroom he was the only boy who regularly read to himself a small portion of the New Testament, in accordance with a promise given to his mother.  At first it provoked a little ridicule, but I remember that my set decided that the promise was quite a sufficient reason and we all agreed that Skim was not to be hindered in anyway."

His sense of playfulness continued throughout his life.


The Woodlark

TEEVO cheetio cheevio chee:
O where, what can thát be?
  Weedio-weedio:  there again!
So tiny a trickle of sóng-strain;
And all round not to be found
For brier, bough, furrow, or gréen ground
Before or behind or far or at hand
Either left either right
Anywhere in the súnlight.
Well, after all! Ah but hark--
'I am the little woodlark.

Hopkins' wit was demonstrated in his epigrams.

To rise you bid me with the lark:
With me 'tis rising in the dark.

You ask why can't Clarissa hold her tongue.
Because she fears her finger will be stung.


REPEAT that, repeat,
Cuckoo, bird, and open ear wells, heart-springs, delight-
     fully sweet,
With a ballad, with a ballad, a rebound
Off trundled timber and scoops of the hillside ground,
     hollow hollow hollow ground:
The whole landscape flushes on a sudden at a sound.


The next track: The Bugler's First Communion

Introduction to this Hopkins Feature

Gerard Manley Hopkins Workshop

Home Page

We recommend the Oxford Edition and in particular Sean Street's account of The Wreck of the Deutschland, which he was inspired to write from hearing my production of Paul Scofield's reading for BBC Radio 3.  We also highly recommend Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Study of Poetic Idiosyncrasy in Relation to Poetic Tradition by Professor Helen Gardner: