Language and tone in The Starlight Night

Hyphenated words

The most obvious feature of the language is Hopkins' use of hyphenated words and clusters of an adjective plus a noun:

  • thus, ‘fire-folk', ‘circle-citadels', ‘elves' eyes', most of which are alliterative.
  • some such words are obvious, but ones like ‘Flake-doves' and ‘piece-bright' are a little more obscure.
  • in ‘mealed-with-yellow' we have a double hyphenation.
  • in ‘withindoors' two words elided into one, a portmanteau word.

To some extent, it could be said Hopkins is still experimenting with his poetic style. The young Tennyson similarly enjoyed hyphenating words, many of which were separated again on revision.

  • The word ‘quickgold' appears to be made-up, perhaps as a parallel to 'quicksilver', which was a common name for the element mercury.
Investigating The Starlight Night
  • What is the difference between a hyphenated phrase, and a straightforward adjective-noun phrase?
  • What is the force of the interjections ‘Ah well!' and ‘What?'?
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