Themes in No Worst, There is None

Mental suffering

To those who have not suffered mentally, through depression or some other form of mental illness, there is often an air of fear or unreality about it, even an impatience: the attitude which says, ‘Oh, pull yourself together.' However that is like asking someone to fly by pulling on his shoelaces. Acute mental distress is a frightening, tormenting experience and Hopkins captures it through this poem.

The dark night of the soul

As a Christian, Hopkins is aware of the spiritual aspect of his suffering. God seems a million miles away, which is a shock when we consider the optimistic and celebratory poems he wrote earlier in his life. However, Hopkins is, above all, an honest poet, who is not going to fake poems or feelings to satisfy some sort of self-image as a priest, nor minimise what he feels. Rather, his job as a poet is to find words and images sufficient to convey the true power of his inner feelings.

Investigating No Worst
  • Take one of Hopkins' earlier poems and compare it to this one.
    • If you hadn't known they were by the same poet, would you still be able to tell?
      • Explain how.
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