Poetry Lesson


Students will examine how Hopkins conveys a tragic sense toward  human mortality  through a child’s first intimation of human connections with a decaying nature; they will  look into  Hopkins’s language such as diction, alliteration, structure  and imagery for their analysis of the poem

Aim: What does the speaker suggest Margaret is really crying about, even though she doesn’t know it? Why? How does Hopkins convey the tone of his poem through Margret’s first intimation of human connections with nature?

Text: “ Spring and Fall: to a young child” by Gerard Manly Hopkins

Materials: a copy of the poem, and discussion questions

Motivational Activity-

Briefly respond: What do you see in nature that mirrors our human life or world? Why?

Spring and Fall:

to a young child

1.Márgarét, áre you grieving

2.Over Goldengrove unleaving?

3.Leáves, líke the things of man, you

4.With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

5.Áh! ás the heart grows older

6.It will come to such sights colder

7.By and by, nor spare a sigh

8.Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;

9.And yet you wíll weep and know why.

10.Now no matter, child, the name:

11.Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.

12.Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed

13.What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:

14. It ís the blight man was born for,

15. It is Margaret you mourn for.

–Gerard Manly Hopkins [Written 1880, Published 1918]



Mini Lesson

  • About the poet
  • His influence on the modern literary world: W.H.Auden, Dylan Thomas, Theodore Roethke, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath and Seamus Heaney
  • His invention of Sprung Rhythm, inscape

First we’ll read the poem out loud.  Afterwards we’ll, take a few steps to reread  the poem closely before  we hasten to answer the question of “ what is  Margaret  really crying about ?”

I’ll give you the prompts and you respond to each one accordingly in writing.

  1.  Notice & Focus + Ranking (pay particular attention to details that convey a sense of structure and contain interesting diction as well as examples of alliteration & imagery)
    1. What do you find most interesting? Strange? Revealing? Make a list of such details you notice.
    2. Are there any example of imagery, diction, or alliteration in the details you have noticed ? Rank the details. What are the top three?  Why ?
  2. The method ( follow the consecutive order of the steps)
    1. What repeats? Any particular imagery or diction? What motif does the repetition suggest?
    2. What goes with what ( strands) or what connections do I see among the details?  What  effects do examples of alliteration create? Sad? Weary? Pessimistic?
    3. What is opposed to what (binaries)? Opposing imager? -à( for all these questions) SO WHAT?
    4. What doesn’t fit? -> SO What?
    5. If you find an anomaly that does not fit, ask a question beginning with “why”. Write down your question on a post-it and return it to me.

Assessment: Based on the details you have observed and examined, answer the question “ What  is Margaret really crying about?”  Why? Jot down a brief response. Remember this is our initial assessment of the poem’s meaning.

Let’s share our responses.

Independent Practice and Assessment

We will continue to explore what Margaret is mourning for and how her “mourning ” contributes to the author’s creating a tragic sense about human mortality. Bear in mind we are examining the meaning through the use of various poetic devices, in particular, syntax, diction, imagery and alliteration.

In pairs, we will discuss some assigned questions. We will then share our responses to the questions. Take notes during our discussion. We may also share some questions you have raised.

Discussion Questions

(1)    Why is the poem entitled “Spring and Fall?” Is the poem about spring and fall or something else? Why?

(2)     What is Margaret crying about in the opening lines? What does she see that saddens her?

(3)    What do the word “unleaving” , “wanwood” and “leafmeal” mean? How do you know ? What imagery do these coined words create? What sense?

(4)    Why  are leaves “like the things of man”? Why are Margaret’s thoughts “fresh”? What connotations does that word have instead of “innocent” or “immature” or “young”? How do the two line indicate a shift?

(5)     What is strange about the phrase coming to “sights colder”? What does “colder” connote?

(6)    What imagery does the line “worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie” create? What effet does it create?

(7)    How does the speaker say Margaret will react in the future to the sight of dead plants?

(8)    Why does the poet say that the “name” doesn’t matter in line ten? Whose name is he talking about?

(9)    What does the example alliteration “sorrow’s springs are the same” suggest? What kind of sense does it create?

(10) For what purpose are people born, according to the poem?


Based on our detailed discussion of the poem, respond as completely as possible the same question: What does the speaker suggest Margaret is really crying about, even though she doesn’t know it? Why ( provide the best textual evidence for your answer)? Why does the poem begin with Margaret’s grieving and end with Margaret’s mourning? What does such a structure suggest?

Exit Slip:  What is the most effective poetic device Hopkins uses to convey a tragic tone toward human mortality? How has reading the poem affected you ?

Homework: Write an analysis in which you discuss how Hopkins conveys a tragic sense toward the human mortality  through Margret’s first intimation of human connections with nature?  You may consider author’s use of  diction, alliteration, structure  or  imagery for the  analysis.

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