Synopsis of Inversnaid

A Scottish visit

Hopkins wrote Inversnaid in September 1881, having just completed his duties as a parish priest in Liverpool. He had been sent to Loch Lomond, photo by Rosalind Mitchell, available through Creative CommonsSt.Joseph's, Glasgow for a month on temporary assignment before moving back to Manresa House, Roehampton to complete his novitiate. This is his only recorded visit to Scotland. He went on a day's excursion to Loch Lomond some thirty miles to the north-west of the city, on the edge of the Highlands.

Wild beauty

The Scottish Highlands had been associated with beauty and grandeur even before William Wordsworth and the Romantic poets. They were becoming quite popular with Victorian tourists as railway travel made them much more accessible. Even so, the area was still much less developed than today, and Hopkins clearly wanted it to stay that way. However, he makes little attempt to establish its Scottish identity. He uses the Scottish term ‘burn' and ‘braes', but nothing else, not even ‘loch' for the English ‘lake'. To him, what is important is its wild, undeveloped quality.

The dangers of development

Inversnaid is not the only poem of Hopkins that deals with ecological concerns, but other poems are usually in terms of urbanization encroaching on the surrounding countryside, as in Ribblesdale, which was written the next year, or Duns Scotus' Oxford or Binsey Poplars, both about the spread of Oxford. God's Grandeur and The Sea and the Skylark are similar in theme. But, in Inversnaid, there is no immediate danger of encroachment, just a general fear. Nor does it contain any theological statement, as the other poems do. It is more a spontaneous cry from the heart.

Investigating Inversnaid
  • Pick out words or phrases that infer the poet's emotions
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