Language and tone in As Kingfishers Catch Fire

Specific attributes

Hopkins' language is very physical, although the whole poem is really philosophical.

  • each creature mentioned is given specific words and images that are vivid (‘catch fire', ‘draw flame') or detailed
  • the stones don't just have a sound: they have a specific ringing sound when they are tumbled (not just dropped) down a well, and a ‘roundy' one at that. That is their sound
  • when Hopkins can't think of an existing verb, he makes one up, such as ‘justices'.

Sound effects

Hopkins uses particular patterns of words to create sounds and echoes. There are rhyme schemes and alliterative patterns or groupings:

  • the alliterating first line is especially memorable, helped by the careful balance
  • there are many internal rhymes: ‘hung/swung/tongue' (ll.3,4); ‘ring/string' 9l.3) for example
  • Added to these is the assonance of the short ‘u' of ‘tumbled/tucked'. The long ‘i' sound is repeated in ‘myself' (l.7; ‘I' twice (l.8);'I' l.9, ‘eye' (l.11 twice), ‘eyes' (l.13).
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