Commentary on The May Magnificat

MaryThe Catholic veneration of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is one significant difference between Catholic and Protestant spirituality. Hopkins seems to have found such a change easy at his conversion and there are many references to Mary in his poems, such as The Starlight Night and Duns Scotus's Oxford.

The Magnificat

The Magnificat of Mary is Mary's song of praise to God when her cousin Elizabeth confirmed to Mary the divine nature of her pregnancy, as recorded in Luke's Gospel Luke 1:46-55). The song finds its place in the liturgy of both the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. The word itself is the first word of the Latin translation, as found in the Catholic Vulgate Bible. It means ‘It magnifies'. To quote the passage in the AV:

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed (Luke 1:46-48 AV)

A simple ballad

The poem itself is quite unlike most of Hopkins' other poems. It is ballad-like, akin to some folk poem, certainly child-like. However, it is not childish, an important distinction which Hopkins' contemporary, Matthew Arnold, made when speaking of Wordsworth's poetry.

The poem is a double celebration, of Mary and of Spring, and Hopkins makes many similarities and parallels, as he does with the other poem about Mary.

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