Structure and versification in Hurrahing in Harvest

Sonnet structure

There are so many features of patterning, that it is impossible to list them all. The rhyme pattern and basic sonnet structure are Petrarchan, with each quatrain of the octave ending in a question, though the first question is a rhetorical one. This is in line with the Petrarchan tradition, where the octave question is met with the sestet answer. However, it is not really an answer: only a development of the philosophy underneath the perceptions of the octave.


The lines are basically iambic pentameter:

  • some lines are slightly shorter (unusually so), as in l.12
  • a number are longer (more typically), as in ll.1,8,14

Using Hopkins' theory of sprung rhythm, it is possible to scan the other lines with five feet:

  • 1.9 has stresses on ‘-jest-','stall-','stal-','vi-', and ‘sweet'
  • Hopkins counted the ‘-wart' as an outrider (i.e. as extra and not to be counted in the scansion), suggesting that after an outrider, you should take a pause
  • his hyphenating of ‘very-violet-sweet' means all the syllables run together, rather than being seen as three separate words, so ‘very' can be counted as no more than two unstressed syllables, sort of murmured.

There are some dramatic examples of enjambement (run-on lines):

  • at the end of l.l: ‘the stooks rise / Around', where the rising is caught in the carried-over rhythm
  • in l.8, where the carried over word ‘Majestic' hits us forcibly.

Such carried-over lines help the counterpointing, one rhythm laid on top of another.


The other obvious patterning feature is the use of repetition, mainly of individual words but sometimes phrases:

  • in l.1 ‘now; now', the immediacy of the scene is dramatically conveyed
  • ‘l lift up, I lift up' and ‘These things, these things' suggest emphatic speech rather than lyrical.

It is once again the sheer energy of the sonnet, its real excitement, that dictates such word usage.

Investigating Hurrahing in Harvest
  • See if you can scan 11.4,14.
  • Try reading 1.9 in various ways, putting stresses where you would expect them to be (as opposed to where Hopkins might have placed them), and putting pauses where you think best.
    • What seems to you the better reading?
  • Try reading the poem dramatically; then lyrically (i.e. with a much smoother, more regular rhythm).
    • Which do you prefer?
  • Find two other examples of enjambement.
    • Can you see what effect they have on both the rhythm and the emphasis of the poem?
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