Critical Appreciation of Spring And Fall
G.M. Hopkins is a curious literary instance of a poet being far ahead of his times. His poetry is so original in poetic craftsmanship and thought so utterly different in form from Victorian poets that its publication would have been unacceptable to the contemporary taste. He gives a far pro founder than any poet since the 17th century. He sought to make a poem as compact and unified as a tune, and words and grammar are subdued to this effect. There is in Hopkins, a complex doctrine of ‘Instress and Inscape’ derived partly from medieval philosophy in which the distinctive design of anything echoes its reason for existence and its uniqueness. Hopkins was concerned with the unique, the original spare, strange in person, emotions or nature. This individualizing quality he called ‘Inscape’ and the individual response which the ‘inscape’ aroused in him he called ‘Instress’.
Being an ordained priest of the Society of Jesus, Hopkins was conscious of the individualist poet who had a strong feeling for the beauty of the world within himself. It gave birth to an obsession with futility and failure and his best poems reveal an agonizing, sense of frustration and suffering. ‘Spring and Fall’ is a deceptively simple looking poem embodying a profound idea. The poet expresses the idea of the sad ‘Mortality’ of man and nature alike. The child that weeps because of the golden leaves falling in autumn really mourns, though she does not yet know it is her own mortality.
The child stands alone in a wood sadly watching the leaves fall. This is the autumn season and a grave of tress the leaves of which have turned red and yellow are falling. The word also signifies the ‘golden days of youth’ as well as the autumnal woods in the context of ‘Fall’, ‘Goldengrove’ takes on implications of the Garden of Eden, a witness to the fall of Adam. Margaret is a small child and even as she observes the falling leaves, she does not understand that they are also telling the tragic story of a man’s similar end. The autumn leaves simply reflect the fall of Adam in the garden of Eden. On the other hand, these leaves strike close similarity with the transience of human life. Their transitoriness is a common destiny. As the child grows older the heart becomes colder and less sensitive. But the sorrow for falling leaves originated from the source as that for the transience of human existence. This realization will be experienced by the child when she grows up.
The poet, addressing Margaret says that all sorrow has a similar origin but the realization remains unrevealed. Neither mouth nor mind had expressed that which the heart heard and soul guessed. Man is fated to die. So when Margaret grieves for death, she may as well be grieving for her own death. According to Catholic doctrine, all men are blighted by the Fall and all sorrow comes from this recognition perhaps for people who do not accept this stern doctrine, it can mean that we weep for the transience of our own lives for which the falling of the leaves is a metaphor. The poet’s reflections imply that the cause of Margaret’s grief is Mortality, the fate that hangs our leaves, mankind, and Margaret.
Hopkins poetry is remarkable for its experimental quality. He introduced a new rhythmic pattern called ‘Sprung Rhythm’ which is based on accepting only with the foot varying from one to four syllables. Elliptical syntax word coinages Compound metaphors are the chief experimental devices used by Hopkins.
The poem is compact and lyrical. The experimental devices of inversion (care for, can you) and compound metaphors (wanwood leafmeal) make the communication intense, though a little difficult in the beginning. But the newness in stylistic experimentation makes it fresh and stimulating.