Journal Article

Hopkins’ Yonder

Francis O’Gorman

in Literature and Theology

Volume 27, issue 1, pages 81-97
Published in print March 2013 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online May 2012 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI:
Hopkins’ Yonder

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Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89) had, it seems, little to say in his poetry about the destiny of immortal souls, a theological topic that deeply troubled many other Victorian writers and thinkers. Conceptions of eternity or the vastness of God are often associated with imaginative flatness in Hopkins’ mature poetry and only in the late sonnets did he openly allude to the fate of some of the dead, but then only as a startling way of speaking about his own depression. Yet amid this general reticence, the seeming lack of comfort, there is a persistent though unemphatic habit in Hopkins’ mature poetry of associating surviving souls, and human legacies, with the air. The comfort of the Virgin Mary is explicitly compared to the air, but elsewhere Hopkins’ poetry probes air’s suggestiveness in relation to the future of souls and the enduring legacies of art. In musical airs carried in the air, in the air breathed at Oxford, and in the reader’s own breath are hints of perpetuations beyond the tomb. Hopkins makes no mere ‘propositions’ in the poetry about immortality. But this essay, nevertheless, explores how the possibilities of hope may linger around a figure of speech, indicating the exceptional sophistication of Hopkins’ poetic language as it obliquely figured what words would not explicitly say.

Journal Article.  7481 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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