Themes in Spring and Fall


The poem's feeling is the opposite of Hurrahing in Harvest, another autumn one. That is celebratory; this is melancholy. It has been suggested that the poem is ‘wholly pagan', without any Christian thought, or that it is only a mood poem. Many people are subject to melancholy in the autumn, but that is perhaps because, as Hopkins says, it is natural for them to grieve for their mortality.

But such grieving is not ‘wholly pagan'. There are sufficient biblical echoes and expressions of man's ‘fading' for it to be contained within a biblical framework of thought and feeling. For example, in the Old Testament is found:

We do all fade as a leaf; and our iniquities like the wind have taken us away.' (Isaiah 64:6)

Whilst the New Testament includes another Old Testament reference:

For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away.' (1 Peter 1:24, quoting Isaiah 40:6-8)

It would be fairer to say that the transience of humankind is part of what has been called lachrymae rerum, or ‘the tearfulness of things', and all writers recognise this as part of the human condition.

There is a biblical echo in ll.12,13, of:

Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man. (1 Corinthians 2:9)

except that the biblical writer, Paul, was talking about good news, whilst Hopkins is referring to bad.

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