Commentary on The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo

The poem is interesting because of Hopkins' experiments with his verse. There are very long lines, interspersed with occasional much shorter ones. The rhyme follows no particular pattern. Rather, Hopkins seems to take the idea of echo, where a sound is repeated several times before it dies away, and re-creates its effect in his verse by repeating significant words and syllables.

Hopkins had some discussion with his friend, Robert Bridges, as to whether he was influenced by the contemporary American poet, Walt Whitman, who writes in very free verse, often using long lines and repeating phrases and words. Whilst Hopkins admitted some influence, he felt that the greater influence was from Greek literature, especially the long choruses to be found in Greek tragedies and also the poet Pindar. Whatever the influence, Hopkins has created a highly unusual poem. Among his own writing, only Spelt from Sibyl's Leaves is anything like it.

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