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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-97
JournalLiterature and Theology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2012


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