Binsey Poplars (Felled 1879) by G.M. Hopkins Summary & Analysis
Non-African Poetry: Binsey Poplars (Felled 1879) by G.M. Hopkins Summary, Setting, Author's Background, Themes, Language and Style / Poetic Devices for JAMB, WAEC and NECO Literature Students 2021 - 2025 Syllabus.

It is no longer news that the above selected poetry is among the selected texts for literature students in the WAEC, NECO and JAMB Syllabus for 2021 - 2025.


Well we have decided to help students by providing some insights such as background, poetic devices, themes, structure and about the poet summary to aid them understand and prepare ahead of their examination.

ABOUT THE POET

Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ (28 July 1844 — 8 June 1889) was an English poet and Jesuit priest.

His bold advances in poetry were often unappreciated by his Victorian contemporaries, and it was only in the early twentieth century that his genius was recognized.

His manipulation of prosody - particularly his concept of "sprung rhythm" established him as an innovative writer of verse, as did his technique of praising God through vivid use of imagery and nature. After his death, his posthumous fame established him among the leading Victorian poets.

By 1930 his work, was recognized as one of the most original literary accomplishments of his century. It had a marked influence on, such leading 20th century poets as T. S. Eliot. Dylan Thomas, W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis.

Hopkins died in 1889, aged only forty-four.

BACKGROUND OF THE POEM

Gerard Manley Hopkins "Binsey Poplars" was written in the ‘19th century. 1879 to be precise. During this time, the English society was undergoing multiple transformations such as urbanization, change in ideology, etc. During the Industrial Revolution swathes of the countryside were destroyed to create railways and Hopkins was dismayed to discover that the wood from these very trees. Binsey Poplars was used to make brake pads for a local train company. whom he held responsible for carving up much local
farmland.

Hopkins. being a devout Jesuit, wrote about nature as a way to show God's greatness, through the wonder of creation. The felling of these trees affected Hopkins that he viewed it as a disfigurement of the beauty of Nature.

In this light, we can arguably deduce that the poem was written in response to the feeling of a double row of aspen trees. The poet bemoans man's reckless destruction of the environment as well as its effects.

SUMMARY OF THE POEM

In "Binsey Poplars", the poet mourns the loss of the aspen trees which grew along the river, a scene that he took in often, on his much-loved walks towards Binsey in Oxford.

He thinks of the act of tree felling as needless destruction and total environmental vandalism, and he thinks that such actions only strip Nature of her beauty.

It is important to note that it is not simply the trees that he misses, but the whole scene of which they were part, where water, air, and earth collided, to create a thing of wonder. Through the poem "Binsey Poplars", the poet persona seems to work, through the emotions of grief and sadness, anger, and finally wistfulness that this quietly glorious sight will never be available to future generations.

Finally. the poem accentuates the effect of the felling of trees to show the larger picture of the devastating effect of industrialization on the earth.

SETTINGS

The poem is set in the nineteenth century during the Victorian era. This era was marked as an immensely prosperous and chaotic time for the people of Great Britain. it was the beginning of industrialization and mechanization. However. the emergence of these inventions and more innovation led to the loss of more lands that cause a shift in the European mindset from nature and natural way of doing things to technology and innovations to get them done in an easier and faster way.

STRUCTURE AND FORM OF THE POEM

Binsey Poplars" is set out in two stanzas and follows the "sprung rhythm," the innovative metric form developed by Hopkins. In sprung rhythm, the number of accents in a line is counted, but the number of syllable's is not.

The result, in this poem, is that Hopkins can group accented syllables, creating striking onomatopoeic effects. In the third line, for example, the heavy recurrence of the accented words "all" and "felled" strike the ear like the blows of an axe on the tree trunks. However, in the final three lines, the repetition of phrases works differently.

Here the technique achieves a more wistful and song-like quality; the chanted phrase "sweet especial rural scene" evokes the numb incomprehension of grief and the unwillingness of a bereaved heart to let go. This poem offers a good example of the way Hopkins chooses, alters, and invents words with a view to the resounding of his poems.

Here, he uses "dandled" (instead of a more familiar word such as "dangled") to create a rhyme with '"sandalled" and to echo the consonants in the final three lines of the stanza. He also makes extensive use of internal rhyme and compound adjectives which lend the poem a certain urgency that effectively conveys his sadness and shock, that his beloved trees have been chopped down.

THEMES OF THE POEM

The Orderliness of Nature

Hopkins Binsey Poplar" intensifies that there is orderliness in Nature. This orderliness is captured in lines 12-15 of the poem: "Since the country is so tender/To touch, her being so slender/That like this sleek, and seeing ball/but a prick will make no eye at all." Here, the beauty and the orderliness in nature were glorified.

The Fierce Feeling of Loss

The theme of loss is another prominent theme, In stanza one, the poet eulogizes the tree with a tinge of melancholy and the whole of the poem revolves around a loss, First, the loss of some trees, especially poplars. Then he laments that the felling had disrupted the shade it provides from the sun.

Then in stanza two, the feeling of loss became intended as the poet persona now mourns the loss of familiar terrain, places he considers a heritage a natural beauty and a habitat that are now under threat from humans good intentions.

Nature is Beneficial to Human

Through this theme, the poet was able to emphasize the relationship between man and his environment, humans can't live in isolation from the environment, regardless of how hard he tries, The trees give shade and provide a cool spot for different elements of nature to find shelter from the sun.

However, humans do not reciprocate this kindness to nature. Humans would not hesitate to cut any tree with no thought of it as a negative effect on the environment, or even on humans.

Therefore, the poem emphasized that the relationship between man and nature is not balanced.

Effect of Civilization on Nature.

Civilization is good, it has brought man out of different ages from the time age to that of the iron age. Man. now has industrialization and mechanized tools that make his work, easier and faster but unfortunately, civilizations come with a steep price, and often time, nature pays for it. Factories and manufacturing companies have magnanimously contributed to the deforestation of many trees without replanting them. Also, they added to the problems by their massive release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the trees that could have absorbed this excess carbon have been felled.

POETIC DEVICES

Alliteration

The use of Alliteration in this poem makes the different words blend into each other and weave into each other harmoniously. Examples are:
Line 2. '"quelled, Quenched"
Line 3. All felled, felled are all felled"
Also See:
Line 4, Line 7, Line 8, Line 11, Line '19


Diction

The poet's use of words has been deliberately chosen to project the poet's message about the destruction of the environment. In line 6, the use of the word "dandled". which doesn't have a relation with what is being discussed in the poem base on its original meaning but the poet needed the imagery of the word as it applies to his idea.

Also, the poem contains words that are formal or high in a conversational structure. This technique is believed to give the poem some aristocratic and regal relevance.

Imagery

The poem is flush with the use of imagery. The visual images incurred by the reading of the poem are rich and magnanimous. In line one, the poet describes the tree branches as airy cages", this bears in the reader's mind that the trees retain air. In line 3, the use of the expression: "all felled. felled are all felled", is another visual image that is imaginatively created in the mind of the reader how the trees are falling and landing on the ground.

The poet creates sound imagery as seen in line 11, the use of hack, which has a sound impact of a cutting tool on a tree trunk.

Also. the poet use alliteration in various lines, and the selection of sound used in the poem create auditory imagery.

Other Poetic Devices

Simile

  • in line ‘14


Metaphor

  • in line 1, 12, and 13


Synecdoche

  • Line 11, 17 and 20