Imagery and symbolism in Henry Purcell

The seabird

The poem finishes with a very dramatic image of a great sea-bird. Hopkins was fascinated with birds, as well as with the sea and the shore (The Wreck of the Deutschland, The Sea and the Skylark). Here, he sets the seabird against an equally dramatic shoreline:

‘The thunder purple seabeach' repeated in ‘plumèd purple-of-thunder'.

The image in the final tercet has developed through the first:

  • ‘angels' introduces the idea of wings or ‘pinions'
  • This moves on to ‘pelted plumage', on which are ‘moonmarks', a curious made-up word (usually called a neologism)
  • ‘Quaint' clearly does not mean ‘oddly old-fashioned', as it does to-day, but skilled, ingenious. Probably Hopkins meant, then, ‘distinctive markings which look something like those of the moon', a very particular image.

This image of the bird is one of the best examples of Hopkins' use of the extended metaphor.

Investigating Henry Purcell
  • There are some difficult images in the second quatrain.
    • What do you make of ‘forgèd features' (presumably not ‘fake'!) and ‘proud fire'?
  • Do any of the images seem particularly musical?
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