Synopsis of To Seem the Stranger

A complaint

This was one of five poems found in Hopkins' papers after his death. W.H.Gardner, the editor of the Penguin edition, supposes it is also one of which Hopkins said:

‘(they) came like inspirations unbidden and against my will.'

It was written in Ireland between 1885-1886. Unlike some of the later ones, it is a poem of loneliness and isolation rather than any agony of the soul. Hopkins questions God, as he does in some of the other later sonnets, wondering why God has allowed such ‘baffling ban' on his voice being heard. This is presumably a reference to the fact that his poetry was at that point still not being noticed. In this, the poem belongs to a type of literature called the complaint.

Investigating To Seem the Stranger
  • Can you see any irony in Hopkins' complaint that no-one listens to him?
    • Why do you think the poem may have come ‘against his will'?
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