Gerard Manley Hopkins
The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins:
A Sourcebook,
edited by Alice Jenkins.
Routledge, 174 pages, $26.95

When I was in graduate school at Boston University, I had the privilege of studying Gerard Manley Hopkins with the eminent English poet Geoffrey Hill. Hill had no patience for those critics and poets who insist on dubbing Hopkins an obscurantist. Hopkins’s verse—like Hill’s own—is not immediately accessible and demands much work of the reader, but that does not mean that the verse is cryptic or eccentric beyond comprehension, difficult for the mere sake of difficulty.

The reason for Hopkins’s syntactical and metrical innovation—his “sprung rhythm,” a reaction against iambic pentameter—is more spiritual than structural. The inverted syntax, enjambment, and internal rhyme crash consonants together. Even the internal...


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