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The Sea and the Skylark Analysis

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Essay title: The Sea and the Skylark Analysis

The Sea and the Skylark (Gerard Manley Hokins)

(1) Describe the verse form and the use of sound patterns.

The poem “The Sea and the Skylark” by Gerard Manley Hopkins is written in the verse form of an Italian sonnet, consisting of 14 lines and being devided into two parts.

The first part can be classified as two quatrains in the rhyme scheme abba abba, thus the em-bracing rhyme. Hopkins uses this rhyme pattern to describe the coherence and regularity of the nature, exemplifying it by the sea and the skylark. To underline this harmonious effect of sea and lark he makes great use of various sound patterns, starting off in line 1, where we can find two identical rhymes “ear – ear” and “two – too – to”, symbolizing uniformity and endlessness. Furthermore Hopkins works with many alliterations, eg. in line 3 “flood – fall” and “low – lull”, in l.4 “wear and wind”, l.7 “wild winch whirl”, l.8 “spill nor spend” and others. In addition occur internal rhymes, eg the exact one in line 5 “hand – land - ascend”, the partial one in line 2 “right – tide” or the already mentioned identical ones in the first line.

Also the continuous use of masculine end rhymes implies a certain regularity to the reader and so does the dominating rhythm of an iambic pentametre, even though here we find some variations. Hopkins inserts those consciously on certain parts of the poem, beginning in line 2 and, more obviously in line 3. These deviations of the metre serve to illustrate how within this endless conformity of the sea still occurs some alternation. The next two lines then imply again regularity, enforced by rhythm and soundpatterns, showing what harmonious unity sea and bird nevertheless build. The vivid and agile sound of the lark’s singing now interrupts this regularity, as is indicated by the irregular rhythm in line 6 and the enjambment from line 6 to 7 and 7 to 8. But still there is harmony expressed with the help of inmediately consecutive alliterations in these three lines.

The second part of the sonnet, consisting of two tercets, now disturbs the interaction of sea and skylark by introducing a different rhyme scheme (cdc dcd ) and irregularities in rhythm, especially noticeable in line 9, 11 and 13-14. Again Hopkins uses certain sound patterns to underline his message, for example the alliterations in l.9 and 10. Reading out loudly “shame and shallow “or “ring right out”, one puts automatically more notion and accent on those words. The same effect has the internal single rhyme of “sordid turbid” in line 10. The alliteration “cheer and charm” (l.12) on the other hand again signalizes unity and sets nature’s harmony in contrast to the disturbing factor man. Noteworthy is the internal rhyme of “make and making – break are breaking” in line 13, which indicates a repetitive circle on the one hand which is at the same time useless or even destructive, since it can’t be read smoothly but

rather disruptive, due to the alternating rhythm of line 13 and 14.

(2) Name the oppositions which define the content of the text. Are they mediated and reconciled or do they remain unresolved?

The major oppositions defining the content of Hopkin’s sonnet are nature and humankind. In the first two quartains he praises the nature, the perfektion of this endless and harmonious circle. We feel this regular, comforting rhythm of the sea which appears powerful but far from threatening.The amazing interaction between tides and moon is mentioned, which reminds us of how clever everything on earth is regulated by the nature itself and how well this principle works, as it has been working for ages and is going to last in the future. This harmonious endlessness contrasts strongly with the poor transience of men. It’s mainly the first and the last line that illustrate this opposition of immortality versus perishability. Hopkins opposes nature’s pureness and its “cheer and charm” with human materialism and egoism (l. 11) and he sets “this shallow and frail town” into contrast to the sea, the wind and the lark’s singing. Dust and slime dominate man’s world, we are destructive and perishable and only persist for a very small amount of time. The skylark on the other hand is free, his joyful singing almost vibrates out of the sonnet (l.6-8), its �music’ �curls’ and �winches’ from the sky!

Formally Hopkins expresses this opposition by the division into two parts, using the octave for the description of the earth and the sextet to point out the

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