'Binsey Poplars Felled /79' by Gerard Manley Hopkins

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My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
{'A}ll f{'e}lled, f{'e}lled, are {'a}ll f{'e}lled;
Of a fresh |&| following folded rank
Not spared, not one
That dandled a sandalled
Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow |&| river |&| wind-wandering weed-winding bank.
O if we but knew what we do
When we delve or hew --
Hack |&| rack the growing green!
Since country is so tender
To t{'o}uch, her b{'e}ing s{'o} sl{'e}nder,
That, like this sleek |&| seeing ball
But a prick will make no eye at all,
Where we, even where we mean
To mend her we end her,
When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
Strokes of havoc unselve
The sweet especial scene,
Rural scene, a rural scene,
Sweet especial rural scene.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Binsey Poplars Felled /79: A Study of Hopkins’ Poetic Genius

Gerard Manley Hopkins’ Binsey Poplars Felled /79 is a powerful poem that touches upon themes of nature, loss, and spiritual renewal. Written in 1879, the poem is a response to the felling of a row of poplar trees near the village of Binsey, Oxfordshire. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the various elements that make this poem a timeless masterpiece.

Hopkins’ Innovative Use of Language and Form

One of the most striking aspects of Binsey Poplars Felled /79 is Hopkins’ innovative use of language and form. Hopkins was known for his experimentation with language and his creation of a unique poetic form known as “sprung rhythm.” Sprung rhythm is a complex system of meter that is based on the number of stressed syllables in a line, rather than the number of syllables overall. This creates a highly rhythmic and musical effect, which is evident in Binsey Poplars Felled /79.

Hopkins’ use of language is equally innovative. He employs a range of poetic techniques, including alliteration, assonance, and internal rhyme, to create a rich, textured layer of meaning. For example, in the opening lines of the poem, Hopkins writes:

My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled, Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun, All felled, felled, are all felled;

Here, Hopkins uses alliteration to create a sense of rhythm and musicality. The repetition of the “qu” sound creates a sense of movement and energy, while the repetition of the word “felled” reinforces the sense of loss and devastation.

Themes of Loss and Renewal

At its core, Binsey Poplars Felled /79 is a poem about loss and renewal. The felling of the poplar trees represents the destruction of the natural world, and the speaker mourns this loss in the opening lines of the poem. However, as the poem progresses, the speaker begins to see the destruction as a catalyst for spiritual renewal. He writes:

And since, although our griefs remain and mourn, Yet theirs have flown, heaven-given, to be gay, Nay, they have left us, and gone to the grail.

Here, the speaker suggests that the trees’ destruction has allowed them to transcend their earthly existence and move on to a higher plane of existence. He also suggests that this destruction has the potential to provide a renewal of the spirit for those left behind.

Religious Imagery and Symbolism

Religious imagery and symbolism are prominent throughout Binsey Poplars Felled /79. Hopkins was a devout Jesuit priest, and his faith is evident in much of his poetry. In this poem, the felling of the poplar trees is likened to Christ’s crucifixion, and the trees themselves are seen as martyrs. The speaker writes:

Were grief and grudge and greed more stronger then Than joy, than love than faith that leans to see? Ah! ah, when shall I be, where shall I be, The long days through nor all the nights from then, Snatched from the labouring oar and the sharp whizzing of the quill, Quiet as that endured and done?

Here, the speaker suggests that the trees’ sacrifice is a testament to the power of faith and love. He also implies that those who have faith will be rewarded with a sense of peace and tranquility.


In conclusion, Gerard Manley Hopkins’ Binsey Poplars Felled /79 is a powerful and complex poem that explores themes of loss, renewal, and spiritual faith. Hopkins’ innovative use of language and form, combined with his skillful employment of religious imagery and symbolism, create a rich and textured work that continues to resonate with readers today. As we reflect on the destruction of the natural world and the potential for spiritual renewal, Binsey Poplars Felled /79 remains a powerful reminder of the enduring power of poetry.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry is a form of art that has the power to evoke emotions and stir the soul. Gerard Manley Hopkins, a renowned poet of the Victorian era, was a master of this art. His poem, "Binsey Poplars Felled /79," is a prime example of his ability to capture the beauty of nature and the pain of its destruction.

The poem was written in 1879, after Hopkins had witnessed the felling of a group of poplar trees in the village of Binsey, near Oxford. The trees had been a part of the landscape for centuries, and their sudden removal had a profound impact on Hopkins. In the poem, he expresses his grief and anger at the loss of these trees, which he saw as a symbol of the destruction of nature.

The poem is divided into two parts, each with its own distinct tone and imagery. The first part describes the beauty of the poplar trees and the landscape they inhabited. Hopkins uses vivid imagery to paint a picture of the trees, describing their "graceful beauty" and the way they "shook their green heads in the breeze." He also describes the landscape around them, with its "blue-bleak embers" and "water that swam or sank."

The second part of the poem is a lament for the loss of the trees. Hopkins expresses his anger and sadness at their destruction, describing the scene as a "murder" and a "wound." He also reflects on the impact that the loss of the trees will have on the environment and on future generations, saying that "what will be is not for guessing."

One of the most striking features of the poem is Hopkins' use of language and sound. He employs a variety of poetic techniques, such as alliteration, assonance, and internal rhyme, to create a musical and rhythmic effect. For example, in the first part of the poem, he uses alliteration to emphasize the beauty of the trees: "With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim." In the second part, he uses repetition and internal rhyme to convey his sense of loss: "All felled, felled, are all felled; / Of a fresh and following folded rank / Not spared, not one / That dandled a sandalled / Shadow that swam or sank / On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank."

Hopkins also uses religious imagery and themes in the poem. He compares the poplar trees to "Christ's cross" and the "rood of a wry-necked fife," suggesting that their destruction is a sacrilege. He also reflects on the concept of redemption, saying that "Christ's crop / Rebuffs death's blade with his resurged rod." This religious imagery adds depth and complexity to the poem, and suggests that Hopkins saw the destruction of the trees as a spiritual as well as an environmental tragedy.

Overall, "Binsey Poplars Felled /79" is a powerful and moving poem that captures the beauty and fragility of nature, and the pain of its destruction. Hopkins' use of language and imagery is masterful, and his passion for the natural world shines through in every line. The poem is a reminder of the importance of preserving our environment, and of the profound impact that even small acts of destruction can have on the world around us.

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