1. Hopkins’s sonnets typically shift from a personal, often sensual experience rooted in the physical world to moral, philosophical, and theological reflections. Discuss this movement in relation to several poems.
2. Trace some images of science and technology in Hopkins’s poems. How did he reconcile scientific understanding with religious belief?
3. Why do you think the method of “sprung rhythm” appealed to Hopkins? How does it contribute to his poems?
4. How does Hopkins think and write about his religious vocation, and how does that relate to his sense of his work as a poet? What other kinds of work or trades appear in Hopkins’s poem, and what does his attitude seem to be toward physical labor?
5. Think about some of the images that recur in Hopkins’s poems, and discuss why they are appropriate to the themes that most concerned him as a poet.
6. Are Hopkins’s poems at all political? Do they make any attempt to come to terms with questions of history or nation? If so, where and how?
7. Hopkins is famous as a poet of both nature and religion. How does he combine these two traditional poetic subjects, and to what effect?
8. What does Hopkins believe about the presence of God in the natural world? Illustrate your answer with reference to two or more poems.
9. Does Hopkins’s poetry more closely resemble Romantic or Modernist poetry? Explain your answer.
10. Hopkins often said that he wanted his poetic language to be true to living speech. In what ways do his unusual diction and his “sprung rhythm” succeed or fail in this capacity?
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