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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Walter

Poetry Blog #13: Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley HopkinsLet’s get back on track here. In our past series of poetry bee installments, we have talked about sons of clergymen, rather than clergymen. But our main topic is clergyman, so let’s return to it.

Some of our younger readers may wonder what a clergyman is. Let me explain. A clergyman is anyone who has some official employment, or “job” in a church—whether it is Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, or Episcopalian. That recognition may come in some ceremony, such as the Presbyterians do, with the laying on of hands, or by some official election by senior clergymen, such as with the pope in the Roman Catholic Church. In the Roman Catholic Church, many priests and monks take holy vows, or promises to obey the rule and practices of a certain order. One such poet that took vows when he joined the order of Jesuits was Gerard Manley Hopkins.

The Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins may have been faithful to his holy vows, but he certainly was a “rebel” when it came to the common practices in poetry of his day, especially regarding stress and meter. Hopkins’ poems use a very different form of rhythm called sprung rhythm. Basically speaking, sprung rhythm does not have a regular number of syllables per line, but supposedly follows the rhythm of natural speech. 

In the C is for Cottage and Vice and Virtue classes, we already reviewed stress patterns in poetry. We studied the term “foot,” which is a unit or measure of syllables. There are various terms applied to a specific line of poetry according to the number of feet it has.

Monometer  (MON-ah-MEE-ter)

ONE foot per line

Dimeter (DIM-ah-ter)

TWO feet per line

Trimeter (TRIM-ah-ter)

THREE feet per line 

Tetrameter (te-TRAM-ah-ter)

FOUR feet per line

Pentameter (pen-TAM-ah-ter)

FIVE feet per line

Hexameter (hek-SAM-ah-ter)

SIX feet per line

Heptameter (hep-TAM-ah-ter)

SEVEN feet per line

Octameter (ok-TAM-ah-ter)

EIGHT feet per line

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