WILLIAM BLAKE AND GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS
William Blake (1757-1827)
Little Lamb, who make thee
Dost thou know who made thee,
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, wolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee;
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb
He is meek, and He is mild,
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
As we know, we are going to compare a Romantic and Victorian poet, for that we need to investigate about their life and social time. First of all, separately and then we will compare it.
William Blake was a poet who lived during the Romanticism, although he was considered pre-romantic, because he started to write before this time, as he was a prophet, and he treated some topics that will have some influence in the future, for instance: marriages without love, slavery, religion... His best-known books are: Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, which represent the state of the soul. In these books, we find two poems: “The Lamb” and “The Tyger”, which put in contrast the innocence of the childhood and the corruption of the adult life. As we also know, Blake has a strong influence on the Holy Scriptures, and those poems are taken from the Urizen Books, that contain several poems about the problem of the origins as it happens in “The Lamb”, when the child in Innocence asks: “Little Lamb who made thee”. For Blake, the act of creation is itself a fall into the material world, where flawed creators struggle with each other and with the intractable elements of the cosmos. (http://www.blakearchive.org/saxon/servlet/SaxonServlet?source=/blake/documents/biography.xml&style=blake/shared/styles/wba.xsl&targ_div=d4&targ_pict=1&render=text&clear-stylesheet-cache=yes)
Gerard Manley Hopkins was a Victorian poet influenced by the Romantic poet John Keats in his first poems; the Pre-Raphaelites (Walter Pater, for whom art was a sin of love, beauty…) and Oxford’s Movement (Newman, who influenced in Hopkins to change of religion) both of them influenced strongly in him. Hopkins has been seen as a precursor of the modernist poetry and the bridge between Romanticism and Victorian Era, due to his description of love of nature in his poems; since he was a contemporary of Charles Darwin (world of Nature), and we can see this kind of description in his poem: Pied Beauty.
This sonnet (Pied Beauty) was written when he was in St. Beuno’s College, in North Wales, where he was studying Theology to become a priest.
Both poets were born into middle-classes families in London who were against their religion established; and Blake took part in a minoritary-religious group, the “Dissenters” who refused the authority of the Anglican Church; whereas, Hopkins was converted to Catholicism to serve the poor, he studied theology in Wales to become a priest. In these authors religion plays an important role, as we will see when we analyze the poems. But, it exists a small difference on the way to write poetry related to religion between them, because Hopkins was a priest and he had some topics prohibited, and for this reason when he became priest he had to burn some of his poems; while Blake had more freedom to write. It is said that they are two of the most relevant writers of English poetry. Their inspirations for writing poetry were very different. William Blake decided to write poetry due to his mystical visions; whereas Hopkins decided to do it, because his father published a volume of poetry the year before his birth; perhaps, he tried to follow the steps of his father.
As we will see, both writers write poetry influenced by their period time. William Blake lived in a period of transition (Enlightenment- Romantic period), and Hopkins lived in the Victorian Era.
The Age of Enlightenment in 17th century is the period of philosophers and rationalism, capitalism, liberalism, power of science, democracy, freedom… and the Romantic Period is the opposite to Age of Enlightenment, is a break, in which the importance of rationalism disappears and is replaced by the imagination, feelings, importance of nature, subjectivism… Romantic Period appears in Western Europe in 18th century. The above mentioned period is marked by the French Revolution, which is a revolution against the aristocracy, because bourgeoisie wanted the same privileges than aristocracy. Because in that moment, there was a crisis in the finances, and the taxes arose, and the aristocracy did not pay the taxes, for this reason the bourgeoisie were revealed against. So, Blake who was a bourgeois, he also revealed against.
The Victorian Era was the period of the Queen Victoria. This period was marked by the Industrial Revolution. During the Victorian Era, in England the society was structured in four classes: Church, Aristocracy, middle-class and working-class. The middle class were owners of factories, and the working-class the people who worked in those factories. There was a separation in the working- class in people who worked and people who did not. And all of them had to pay taxes, and they lived under bad conditions. And they were revealed against because their managers took advantage of them, and they worked so hard, but they did not earn “anything”.
Both of them were rebels against the society of their time. But the difference was important because Blake was a well-known rebel in his time and was considered crazy by people, whereas Hopkins was popular after his death thanks to his friend Robert Bridges, who published his poems. Pied Beauty appeared in the first collection of Hopkins, “Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins” (1918).
As we know, and we have seen in my first paper, Blake lived during the French Revolution, and even he has a poem with this title; while Hopkins lived during Victorian Period, one of the best moments for England in which was richest and strongest country. Now, we are going to talk about the difference between Romantic poetry and Victorian poetry, taking the examples of Blake and Hopkins. On the one hand, W. Blake as a romantic poet uses ordinary language and appeal to reader’s emotions and reason. On the other hand, Hopkins as a Victorian poet expresses optimism. And he invented the “sprung rhythm”, which consists in a system of versification in which the importance is the accented rhythm, and no the number of syllables, and he also invented the Caudate sonnet and the Curtal sonnet. The Caudate sonnet is an expansion of the traditional sonnet with 14 or 15 with a CODA. And the Curtal sonnet, we will see it better when we analyze the poem.
The poems that we are going to analyze are: “The Lamb” by W.Blake, which is a poem published in his book “Songs of Innocence”, that relates to “ The Tyger”, in the book “Songs of Experience”; The Lamb represents the innocence of a child and the Tyger represents the experience of a man; and “Pied Beauty” by G.M.Hopkins, which is related to the way of seeing the nature by Charles Darwin; and as we have said before those poems are related to religion; those poems represent the influence of God in our daily life, I mean each thing (animal, object, person, feeling, colour…) that we have, we see, we touch… are created by God, who is represented in the poems as a superior person and creator of everything, he is “perfect”, and I suppose as in religion. To conclude, we will say that both poems talk about the beauty and perfection of nature, created by God, and about the relation of man with nature.
In “The Lamb”, the poem by Blake, starts asking someone who created the little Lamb, and then Blake continues asking who gives food to the little Lamb, who gives a soft voice, and he starts asking again who created the little lamb and finally says I’m going to tell who creates the little Lamb and who gives him food and a soft voice, the person who gives to the little Lamb is also called Lamb, because he is meek, when the author says the creator is meek and also is represented as a child (comparison), I think that he tries to approach to us, using this comparison he compare the Lamb with a child and then with God, and finally the author blesses God. Blake describes the world of the Lamb as perfect and happy. The relation of man with nature it can be classified as, the nature is a world that man is learning how to discover; I mean the nature gives everything to the man and the man had to learn how is structured the nature. In this poem the man is represented as an “ignorant” in front of nature.
In “Pied Beauty”, the poem by Hopkins, starts giving thanks to God for multicoloured skies, cows, trout, roasted chestnuts, wings of birds, landscapes, and tools used by humans. In the second paragraph, the author gives thanks to the contrasts: counter, original, spare, strange; slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim… we realize that structure of our world is made by contrasts and as one of our proverb says in the contrast is the diversity, the beauty… In this poem the world is not perfect (contrasts), but it is accepted as it is, and the author in the first paragraph for the adjectives used is happy to live in this world, for him is nearly perfect, even with contrasts. The relation of man in this poem is quite different, since in this poem the man is not represented as an “ignorant” as it was in “The Lamb”, in this poem the man knows what is produced by nature and how, he had learnt all about the nature, even the contrasts, he realized that nature changes.
Both poems gives thanks to God, but the first one describes an “ideal, perfect” world, and also a “perfect” God, whereas the second one describes a “real” world with its advantages and disadvantages, and a God with imperfections as everybody has.
The language used in both poems is imaginary and symbolic, in “The Lamb” the language is imaginative because the poet describes a beauty image of the Lamb, and also is symbolic because the Lamb in the Bible is a symbol of purity, peace and innocence. In “Pied Beauty”, the colours of the sky represent several worlds (contrast), and how all of them fit together (harmony). “Pied Beauty” can be classified as a prayer, because all the time is giving thanks to God and its structure is similar to our prayers or hymns. We could classify this poem as a Platonic Dialogue.
Now, we are going to analyze the style of the poem, in “Pied Beauty”, Hopkins uses his famous sprung rhythm, and his rhythm is based on Anglo-Saxon and Welsh poetry. The number of unstressed syllables does not follow a regular pattern, instead of the stressed syllables. The rhyme is not a traditional one is the eye rhyme, for example: things, wings… that consist in a similarity in spelling that, reinforce all the beauty in which the world is created. The poem is characterized by the use of alliteration and syntax in a short way. The poem is a Curtal sonnet, which is another invention of Hopkins, which consists in a poem of ten and a half lines, that is based on a Petrarch sonnet and whose rhyme follows this skill: abcabc, dbcdbc.
In “The Lamb” Blake uses repetition asking who made the little Lamb to reflect God’s creation; and the masculine rhyme, which the stress is on the final syllable of the word, for example: name, child, mild… The tone, structure and form seem to a song.
The atmosphere created in the poem is also an important part, so in “Pied Beauty” the author creates a perfect atmosphere using adjectives with a positive connotation in this case, for example: skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow… using also comparisons. Whereas, in “The Lamb” the atmosphere is created by questions to the Lamb, without any answer for his part, and answering the author giving God as the answer.
Finally, I will say that both poems have a different vision of the religion and our world in which we live; W. Blake thinks that our world is perfect and has been created by God, who has not any fault, I think that his reading of the Bible, maybe was not correct, because it’s true that God is superior to us, but it does not imply that he was perfect in everything; G.M.Hopkins, being a priest, has a different vision of our word and religion, he sees the contrast the advantages and disadvantages in life, he says that we do not live in a pink world, and everything is provided by God. He is saying that God helps us, but we have to learn to face the life.
To conclude, I would like to do a little reflection of how these authors have influenced in our times?
Both authors can be considered modern, one (Blake) for his topics in his poems: the women rights, the slavery, and the marriages without love… he showed us what the society is going to reveal against. So, he is showing again that is a prophet of times to come. On the other one (G.M.Hopkins), for his innovative language, rhythm, metre and style and also his sprung rhythm, this will become the new way of writing poetry.
As some poems of W.Blake, Pied beauty became a new song thanks to its easy words and rhythm. This poem made into a song by Vaughan Williams and John Tavener.
As we know the last years of Hopkins were in Dublin working as a teacher at University. Hopkins died in Dublin and every year, The Irish Hopkins Society, has organized The Gerard Manley Hopkins International Summer School, to commemorate him in July. And there are also some art expositions in his name.
The Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica has recognized William Blake as a Saint.
By: Sélica Honrubia Gomar