Themes in Spring

The origin of vitality and joy

Only in the sestet is any question or problem raised- just as in The Starlight Night. It is a straightforward question about being:

  • What is ‘this juice', the life-giving force that wells up?
  • And where does the joy that goes with it originate?

The answer to this deceptively simple question is quite philosophical, referring us back to the Garden of Eden. This is part of the biblical account of the Creation of the world by God:

And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. (Genesis 2:8)

The spring with which the poem is concerned is a ‘strain' of this, meaning both a fragment of a song and a genetically derived type. So by observing this particular spring, Hopkins believes people can gain some sense of what Eden was like.

Original innocence

The part of the Eden account Hopkins does not mention, but which is implied, is the innocent presence of Adam and Eve in the Garden, followed by their expulsion after they had given way to temptation from a serpent (aka the Devil) to disobey God:

Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden … and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims and a flaming keep the way of the tree of life. (Genesis 3:23-24)

Hopkins' prayer to Christ voices his main concern, which is to preserve innocence in children. It is a fervent, though a generalised prayer: he has no particular children in mind. The Romantic poet, Wordsworth, linked children and Nature together, too, in terms of innocence. The greater the contact with Nature, the slower the loss of innocence.

Innocent or tainted?

Part of the Victorian debate about childhood was whether children were born ‘naturally vicious', as one of Dickens' characters puts it; or born innocent, as Hopkins and Wordsworth believed:

  • ‘Is it not your most worthwhile task to preserve innocence as long as possible?'

Hopkins asks Christ, who was himself the child of an innocent maid:

  • ‘How will this be,' Mary asked the angel (who had told her she would get pregnant with Jesus) ‘since I am a virgin?' (Luke 1:34)
Investigating Spring
  • What makes a wish into a prayer?
  • Where and how is the energy directed in the sestet?
    • What words suggest urgency?
  • What is ‘worthy the winning'?
  • Do you feel Hopkins makes innocence attractive?
    • Or do you feel he is ‘pushing religion' at any potential readers?
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