Reading poem 47 ("My own heart let me have more pity on"), I was impressed by the sense of an interior space of self that Hopkins was able to create out of so sparse a poem. This poem complicates resolution because the speaker does not exactly get to the point in the poem where he or she can imagine a exterior, large, smiling space. I found it difficult to tell whether or not the speaker’s own malcontent took up a lot of space or a very little. The idea of proportion is interesting in the context of a religious relationship because there are somewhat contradictory Christian images of God as impossibly large, and God as man-sized, and God as something much less bounded.

My own heart let me have more pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst's all-in-all in all a world of wet.

Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
's not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather — -as skies
Betweenpie mountains — lights a lovely mile.

Questions

In the octet, these words repeat in some form: “let”, “tormented/ing”, “I”, “comfort/less”, “thirst”, “all-in-all”. In the sestet, these words repeat: “self” “god” “knows” “you” “seen”. How do you think this progression matches up against the direction in which the poem seems to go. What do you make of the emphasized duality of each of these things?

How does the “mountain/valley” image function in the poem? Is this the conventional way this image seems to function? If so, what might that mean in the face of Hopkins overall style of innovation? If not, does this contribute or detract from the conclusion of the poem? Does this relate to any images in other Hopkins poems?

What are the connotations of Hopkins’ “mile”? It seems like a dark word, despite “light” and “lovely”, to me. What are the connotations in the context of this poem, is this different or similar to what you would expect?

How does the compression of syntax affect the images in the first stanza? In particular, who’s jaded, what of the dark, what does “all in all in all a world of wet” mean? How many ways does “call off” mean? What do you make of Jack? I could not find “jackself” in the OED.

I didn’t find a clear point of turn towards resolution, the entire poem seemed to be a sort of diffuse petition to self, does this affect the effectiveness of the poem?

What of the physical shape of the poem? The version I have has “I cast for comfort I can no more get” slightly indented from the left and right boundaries of the first stanza. There is a lot of punctuation in the second stanza, many commas, many dashes, as if stalling, or making an effort to turn an argument, or as if something needs to constantly be qualified. Does this contribute or detract from the effectiveness of the poem?

What are the connotations of “root-room”, room for what roots? How does this related to the reference to “wrung” (which besides squeeze, also means to contract or contort). How might this relate to the mile/mountain image?

The rhyme in the first stanza is mostly “-ind”, a fairly closed syllable- this is broken up with “let”, “wet”, “yet”, “get” which are more open vowel sounds. What do you make of this? The rhyming words in the second stanza are “advise”, “awhile”, “size”, “smile”, “skies”, and “mile”. Is this a shift?

What do you make of the “I” and the “you”- differences between the two? What is the relationship between the speaker and the sky, or the mountain or mile?


G. M. Hopkins Leading Questions

Last modified 17 November 2003