The standard Oxford edition of his poems for years has included on the cover an oddly approporiate self-portrait that Hopkins sketched of himself, using his reflection in a stream. The unusual, even eccentric, angle of view, like the fact it presents the young man reflected in nature, seem characteristic of this very visual poet. A student at Oxford during the years when John Ruskin and Walter Pater had great influence on undergraduates, Hopkins himself skteched and knew a great deal about the contemporary art world.

Hopkins seems to share a great deal with the early Pre-Raphaelites who, following Ruskin, attempted to combine an extreme hard-edge realism with elaborate symbolism derived ultimately from habits of reading scripture common to both Protestants and Catholics.

Looking at his major poems — take The Windhover," or "Pied Beauty" as examples — can you see any parallels with Pre-Raphaelite painting? What purely visual details seem particular (and particularly appropriate) to literature?

The heavily illustrated All My Eyes See: The Visual World of Gerard Manley Hopkins, ed. R. K. R. Thornton (Sunderland: Sunderland Arts Centre, 1975), contains essays on Hopkins's drawings and their arttistic context, Hopkins as art critic, and discussions of people and places the poet knew.


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Last modified 3 July 2007