Structure and versification in Tom's Garland

  • The metre is largely dominated by sprung rhythm, as most lines are expanded iambic pentameters with outriders or ‘hurried feet', as Hopkins called them here
  • The choice of diction partly determines this: there are many compound words, such as ‘fallowbootfellow', ‘rockfire homeforth', ‘prickproof', ‘mainstrength'. These naturally attract considerable emphasis
  • There are also large clusters of monosyllabic nouns and verbs, such as ‘world's weal rare gold, bold steel, bare'
  • 'mammock' is a dialect word meaning ‘to tear into fragments'.

Complex sentences

The sentence structure, too, is highly extended. Usually in poetry, sentences are no more than two or three lines. Here they are three or four, and the last sentence begins ‘But no way sped..' and covers the remaining eight lines of the poem! You need to note the parenthesis beginning l.5 and running through to l.8. The main sentence reads ‘he his low lot...swings through', referring to the rhythm of daily work as well as the rhythm of the pick and shovel. But the rhythm here is disrupted by the parenthesis, partly to reinforce Hopkins feeling that the country is disrupted, and partly, perhaps, because Hopkins is not used to making such polemic statements.

Investigating Tom's Garland
  • Trace the words ‘treads through', ‘plod' and ‘despair' back to other poems.
    • What weight does Hopkins give these terms?
  • Can you identify the political stance that Hopkins seems to take?
    • What seems to be his emotional attitude to the working class?
      • Do you sense any patronising or idealising, or even fear?
  • Can you see why Tom's garland is steel?
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