Imagery and symbolism in To What Serves Mortal Beauty

Image carries thought

Hopkins thinks by means of images, condensing his thought into poetry. For example, in the first three lines: beauty sets ‘dancing blood':

  • The ‘dancing' is really transferred from the following ‘Purcell tune lets tread to'
  • If beauty causes blood to dance, it also ‘keeps warm'
  • If it is dancing that keeps you warm, how can you keep warm to ‘the things that are'?

It is in the act of puzzling out the image that we stumble upon the meaning. The little image of the slave-boys is unusual for Hopkins, since it is an extended example of what he means!

‘Self flashes' doesn't mean a self-centered ego but a person's true self, or inscape. ‘Flashes' is similar to images of light in As Kingfishers Catch Fire and The Windhover: they refer to almost mystical glimpses of hidden glory.

Investigating To What Serves Mortal Beauty
  • What images are associated with ‘Those lovely lads'?
    • How are they appropriate?
  • What does ‘flung rounder form' suggest?
    • look also at l.5 of Henry Purcell)
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