Imagery and symbolism in Hurrahing in Harvest


The imagery in the sonnet mainly stems from its underlying sense of life: the sense of everything being alive in human terms is conveyed by personification:

  • In the octave, the clouds have a ‘lovely behaviour', an attribute we would expect only of people
  • ‘eyes, hearts' are given characteristics as if they were whole people, rather than those parts of the body which symbolise mental and emotional activities (i.e. metonymic - parts symbolising certain attributes).
  • ‘lips' is an example of synecdoche (a part of the body representing the whole speech organs ).

All this figurative language can be rather difficult to categorise, but what is important to realise is how dense Hopkins' rhetoric and imagery is: it carries the thought rather than being decoration added afterwards.

Natural imagery

In the sestet, the predominant images of life centre round animals and birds:

  • The hills look like God's shoulder and a stallion
  • The heart finally turns figuratively into a bird, with ‘wings bold and bolder' as it takes flight in its ecstacy (as the windhover did literally in The Windhover)
  • In l.4 the cloud patterns are described as ‘meal-drift'. Hopkins used the image of meal (ground cereal seeds) in The Starlight Night with ‘mealed-with-yellow sallows'. The texture of the material obviously fascinated him.
  • Work out fully the visual description of l.4.
  • Can you find any other examples of personification?
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