Poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins 

Biography. A summary.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) was a British poet, Catholic priest, and Jesuit. He is considered one of the greatest poets of the Victorian era and is known for his unique style, which blended traditional forms with experimental language and imagery.

Hopkins was born in Stratford, Essex, now the town is a part of London, and is known as Stratford, London- and studied classics at Oxford University, where he developed a passion for poetry and became friends with several prominent poets, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Christina Rossetti. After graduating, he entered the Jesuit novitiate and began training for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1877 and spent several years teaching and preaching in various parts of England.

Despite his literary talents, Hopkins’s poetry was not widely recognized during his lifetime. His work was often criticized for its unconventional style, which was seen as too radical and experimental for the taste of the time. It wasn’t until after his death that his poetry began to gain recognition and acclaim, thanks in part to the efforts of his friend and fellow poet, Robert Bridges, who published a collection of Hopkins’s poetry in 1918.

Today, Hopkins is celebrated for his innovative use of language, imagery, and form, which had a significant influence on modern poetry. His poetry often explores themes of nature, religion, and the human condition, and is characterized by its rich, sensual language and complex metaphorical structures. Some of his most famous poems include “The Wreck of the Deutschland,” “The Windhover,” and “Pied Beauty.”


Stratford Where Hopkins Was Born
Stratford, Essex

Early Life

Gerard Manley Hopkins was born on the 28th of July in 1844, in Stratford, Essex, now London, England. He was (possibly) the eleventh son of Manley Hopkins, a marine insurance broker,  and author while his mother, Catherine Hopkins, née was a devout and well-read woman. His father actually founded an insurance company, and was, for a while, an honorary consul of Hawaii, which was an independent country at the time. Their home library was huge and availability of books enabled young Gerard to read about different subjects at young age. Allegedly, the family’s stay at Hampstead in 1852, near Keats’ residence, inspired the future innovator of English poetry explore this art form. While reading Keats’s literary works,  Gerard Hopkins wrote The Escorial”, which is considered his earliest poem.

The Birmingham Oratory Hopkins
The Birmingham Oratory


Gerard learned the basic skills of reading and writing at home, and his formal education started at High Gate School in 1854. Among his teachers at High Gate were Richard Watson Dixon, a great poet, and Philip Stanhope Worsley, another English poet. Later, he joined to Balliol College, Oxford, where he studied under the supervision of Benjamin Jowett and Walter Peter. Besides studying classics, literature, philosophy, and the languages of ancient Rome and Greece, Hopkins also learned the art of poetic recitation. In 1867, he won First class degree in classics and was considered the star of Balliol by Benjamin Jowett. Upon graduation, his skills earned him a teaching post at the Oratory in Birmingham.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, a devout Christian

His Faith

Gerard Manley Hopkins was a convert from Anglicanism and a devout Roman Catholic, he later became a Jesuit priest.



His self-esteem. His evaluation of his own achievements:

Hopkins considered himself a failure. He thought he failed both as poet and as a priest.


Gerardmanleyhopkins Earliestbook Witheditorsnotes
The earliest 1918 edition of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s work, with editor’s notes.

His work

Gerard, a leading figure of the 19th century, successfully pursued two careers in life. First, as a preacher and later as a professor. Soon after completing his education, he turned toward the priesthood in 1877. He served as a parish priest, occasional preacher, and missionary in various institutions and churches in London, Glasgow, and Liverpool. While studying theology at St. Beuno’s College, he turned toward poetry. Moved by a fatal incident in 1875, he wrote: “The Wreck of the Deutschland” which failed to get him recognition. Later, he produced various sonnets including “The Windhover.” His strikingly original and rich texts were at first read by his friends and fellow poets like Coventry Patmore, Robert Bridges, and Richard Watson Dixon.

Later, from 1885, he started writing another series of sonnets, starting with a remarkable piece, “Carrion Comfort.” On account of their sensitive nature, these sonnets were labeled “terrible sonnets.” These pieces reveal the tensions between religious vocation and the sensuous world. During his lifetime, Gerard’s friends continuously urged him to go for publication but he resisted. However, after his death, in 1918, Robert Bridges published the first edition of his work followed by another edition, which influenced the audience as well as other great poets of the 20th century.


Gerardmanleyhopkins - death plate, plaque, commemorating, grave of Gerard Manley Hopkins


Gerard’s final years were spent in a melancholic state due to extremely heavy work-load. His health began to deteriorate, and his eyesight also started failing. A devout Jesuit, he found himself in an artistic dilemma. His poetic inspiration also suffered a decline during his last years. However, after suffering from bad health and bouts of diarrhea for many years, he died of typhoid fever in 1869 and was buried at Glasnevin Cemetery, Ireland.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, memory and poetic style

His Style

Although Gerard could not earn popularity for the pieces he wrote during his lifetime, after his death, his efforts continue to mesmerize all generations. His literary pieces reflect the richness of language and a unique rhythm that make him stand different from the other writers. The pieces he considered immature earned him huge respect and international recognition after his demise. It is because those pieces fail to follow the paradigms set by the previous authors. In fact, he adopted a distinctive writing style, avoiding rhythmic structure and exaggeration. Rather, he used sprung rhythm in his poetry, which, to him, provided a way to escape the traditional or existing poetic styles and rhythmic structures. An ardent admirer and supporter of linguistic purism in English, his poetry presents a mixture of old and new English. He used several dialects and archaic words and also added some new words in his composition. The recurring themes in most of his pieces are loss, death, religion, despair, and its biting effects on mankind.

Hopkins – Gerard Manley Hopkins

Some Important Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins

He was an outstanding writer, some of his best poems include “Carrion Comfort”, “God’s Grandeur”, “Spring and Fall”, “The Winnowed”, “Pied Beauty” and “The Wreck of the Deutschland.”


Gerard Manley Hopkins’s Influence on Future Literature

Gerard brought revolutionary changes to the world of literature. His thought-provoking ideas, religious beliefs, and analytical approach inspired many writers and critics. His indifferent writing style and way of expression left a marked influence on various authors of the 20th century including Dylan Thomas, T.S. Eliot Stephen Spender, W.H. Auden, and C. Day-Lewis. The success he won through the presentation of his ideas has made various modern writers envy his style.


Gerardmanlyhopkins4 Gerard Manley Hopkins references and links
Gerard Manley Hopkins


References and Links

Official Gerard Manley Hopkins website – Home (

Gerard Manley Hopkins | British Poet & Jesuit Priest | Britannica

Gerard Manley Hopkins at

Biography of Gerard Manley Hopkins at

Hopkins and the Difficulties of Victorian poetry, what if Hopkins became known in his own lifetime?

Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Shepherd Poet

The Poet in the Pulpit 


Books to download:

Poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins from