Structure and versification in Inversnaid

Songlike form

The verse form here is not a sonnet, but a simpler quatrain form, with mainly iambic tetrameter (four stressed syllables to a line). This is more songlike and creates a faster pace to the poem. Hopkins himself marked some of the stresses, many of which are more obvious because of the striking alliteration, for example the many ‘b's' and ‘f's' of the first stanza.

The rhyme scheme is also quite simple. What gives the poem rhythmic strength is the use of clear rhymes in tension with equally obvious enjambement or carried - over lines. So in stanza one, the verse rushes on to ‘flutes' in line 4, then pauses as the water tips over the final drop into the lake. Although each stanza has two rhymes, they are very similar to each other, thus emphasising line endings, although the enjambement demands we read through them. Once again, Hopkins shows his technical dexterity to create a dramatic counterpointing.

Investigating Inversnaid
  • What effect do you think the ‘b' and ‘f' alliteration has?
  • Try reading the poem twice:
    • once stopping at the end of each line;
    • the other, following the punctuation only.
      • Which gives the better reading?
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