Use of symbols of Hopkins

Question: Comment on Hopkins’ use of symbols.

Or, Hopkin’s appreciation of nature. 

Or, images of Hopkin’s poetry.


Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) was a Jesuit priest and posthumously recognized Victorian religious poet. He is most famous for his invention of curtail sonnet, sprung rhythm, the coin of words and symbols. The symbol means the use of words to express the targeted meaning but in literature, only use of words is not a symbol. It can be different types such as figure of speech, situation or actions of characters. Hopkins poems are replete with symbols and imagery.

Click here: for all the notes of poetry

Nature and seasons

Nature and seasons are the prime sources of the poets. Hopkins has also shown his extra-ordinary symbol making power like P.B. Shelley. The nature of his poems is symbolic to declare the glorification of the Omnipotent. All the dapple things of nature represent the grandeur and bounty of the creator at deep level. In the poem “Pied Beauty”, the poet declares:

“Glory be to God for dappled things –

For skies of couple-color as a brinded cow;”

  The season has twist meanings in Hopkins poems. Spring and Autumn or Fall are at the same symbol of birth and youth and aging and death.

Birds such as falcon and dove

The traceable symbolic feature of Hopkins’ poetry is “Birds” which appear throughout Hopkins’ poems. Birds frequently stand for God and Christ in his poems. “The Windhover” which is a dedicated poem to Christ talks about the beautiful flying and controlling power of the bird named falcon. Early in the morning, the speaker watches that a falcon is flying in the sky and he finds traces of Christ in its flight. As it is well known that beautiful manifestation of nature is the creative credit of Hopkins, the beautiful flying bird is nothing but the symbol of the beauty of Christ. This can be proved by citing the opening passage of the poem:

“I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-

dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon,”

 According to Christian Iconography, the visual images and symbols used in the work of art, birds are the reminders that there is life away from the earth, in heaven – and the Holy Ghost is often represented as a dove that is the symbol of peace. So, birds are Hopkin’s delegates to declare the grandeur and beauty of the Omnipotent.

The images of fire

The images of fire in Hopkins’s poems symbolize religious passion and God and Christ. The fire has been used by Hopkins to compare the glory of God and his grandeur beautiful bounty of the world to it, fire. Fire and Christ have been linked in “The Windhover” when the speaker sees a flame burst and at the very moment, he also realizes that the falcon contains Christ. It is in the poet’s tongue:

“AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion

Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!”

Human characters

In Hopkins poems, human characters and actions of the characters are not surface but have symbolic significance. In the poem “Spring and Fall”, Margaret is the symbol of innocence and at the same time symbolic allegory of the change of time and destruction because the poem talks about the child’s maturation, aging, and mortality which are inevitable journeys for all human beings. The final couplet of the poem dramatizes the symbolic journey of human beings in a heart-touching way.

“It is the blight man was born for,

It is Margaret you mourn for.”

Felix Randal is another actional symbolic character created by G.M. Hopkins. By this actional character, the poet means to say that it is the natural tendency of human beings not to have far-reaching outlooks regarding illness while leading a flamboyant youth. The critical time of misery makes us regretful and very submissive to God.


Thus, we may conclude that symbol is the guiding force of Hopkins poetry though he is also outstanding for curtail sonnet, sprung rhythm, and coined words.

Ruhul Huda
Ruhul Huda

You can call me Mr. Huda. I am a researcher and doing this work for years. I like to learn everywhere. So, feel free to share your experience with me.

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