Poem introduction

Given the terrible destruction we have wrought on our planet, Hopkins’ lament for the felling of the trees he knew so well while studying at Oxford, seems more relevant than ever, though he could hardly have guessed at the scale of destruction a hundred or more years later. This poem is a heartbreaking cry, outcry, for the consequences of industrialisation on a large scale. But also, on a local scale, bemoans our small, mindless acts against nature, which, given Hopkins’ belief in the unifying design of creation, also blind us to the presence of God. Ghosting behind the poem is Christ’s prayer: Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. All of Hopkins’ onomatopoeic effects come into play here and the repetitions at the end are heart-wrenching in their expression of numb grief and his inability to let go, to leave the scene, to leave the poem.

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