Language and tone in The May Magnificat

Though the diction is simple, there are some deliberate archaisms, perhaps to retain the ballad feel, for example:

  • ‘Bliss', ‘mirth', ‘thorp' and ‘brake'
  • ‘Thorp' means a hamlet
  • ‘brake' a patch of waste ground covered by a thicket of fern or bracken.

On the other hand, he puts in a few of his favourite devices, such as compound epithets: ‘azuring-over' and ‘drop-of-blood-and-foam-dapple'. The latter phrase is anything but childish, being loaded with symbolism:

  • ‘drop of blood' suggests Jesus' own death
  • ‘foam', linking with ‘surfèd' in the same stanza, refers to another of Mary's designations: ‘Stella Maris', Queen of the Sea
  • ‘dappled' reminds us of Hopkins' own fascination with this colour formation, as in ‘Glory be to God for dappled things' (Pied Beauty) or the poplars of Binsey Poplars.
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