Language and tone in Duns Scotus' Oxford

Two things strike us about Hopkins' diction: the way he compounds words, especially epithets, and the use he makes of alliteration.


l.2 is composed entirely of compound epithets:

  • ‘The dapple-eared lily' (l.3) reminds us of the ‘dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon' of ‘The Windhover' and ‘dappled with dew' of ‘Inversnaid'. Dappling was a visual effect that fascinated Hopkins.
  • ‘rarest-veinèd' we have already commented on. The pronounced final syllable, marked ‘è', is perhaps Hopkins trying to re-create the pronunciation of medieval English, where the –ed would always be pronounced in poetry. Thus ‘bell-swarmèd' in l.2.


The f- alliteration of ‘folk, flocks and flowers' echoes a famous medieval poem, ‘Piers Plowman', which starts with: ‘A fair field full of folk'. Hopkins' use certainly helps the medieval ambiance. Otherwise, it is the compounds that carry the alliterations apart from ‘graceless growth' and a few other examples.


Hopkins uses repetition here, most noticeably the ‘Rural rural' of l.8. The repeated word actually makes the line stretch beyond its pentameter form, pushing it to a hexameter (a 6 foot line).

Investigating Duns Scotus' Oxford
  • What is the effect of the compound epithets in l.2?
  • What other alliterating phrases can you find?
  • Do you see any patterning in the alliteration, or does it just serve the immediate effect of the diction?
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