[Milton-L] On Hopkins, Milton and Herbert

Watt, James jwatt at butler.edu
Sat Dec 13 16:31:05 EST 2008

Thank you Mitchell Harris for this brief account of Hopkins' reverence for Milton.  I didn't know he was thinking of a book on Milton's prosody and it would have been delightful to read, I'm sure, had he managed it.  I wonder if anyone has fleshed out the notion that "The Wreck of the Deutschland" is a tragedy on the lines of S.A.?  It's an interesting notion and might well enhance our reading of both poems. The mention of Herbert reminds me of one of my favorite memories.  I was lucky enough to have heard Denise Levertov read from "Evening Train" prior to its publication.  At the Q. & A. session held the next day, I asked her what poets she read simply for pleasure.  I've forgotten the second part of her answer, but the first words out of her mouth were "Of course, Herbert..."  If you know Denise's work, especially the later books, you'll nod your head and say, "Of course!"

Jim Watt
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Mitchell M. Harris [mitchell.harris at augie.edu]
Sent: Saturday, December 13, 2008 4:13 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] A Milton reference


Hopkins loved Milton and held him in the same esteem as he held George Herbert. And his letters to Dixon and Robert Bridges reveal how indebted his sense of prosody was to Milton. In fact, Hopkins argues that Milton invents "sprung rhythm" in Paradise Regained and then masters it in Samson Agonistes. Unfortunately, he died before he could write extensively on Milton's prosody (he was thinking of writing a book on the topic). Bridges tries to maintain the spirit of Hopkins in his book on Milton's prosody, but it is clearly evident from Bridges' book that he didn't fully understand what Hopkins was doing in his own poetry, let alone his scansion of Milton's verse. Also, sadly, Hopkins didn't live to see Masson's biography, which he was eagerly anticipating. If I remember correctly, Hopkins saw his "Wreck of the Deutschland" as his Samson.


Mitchell M. Harris
Assistant Professor
Department of English
Augustana College
2001 S. Summit Ave.
Sioux Falls, SD 57197
(605) 274-4699
mitchell.harris at augie.edu<mailto:mitchell.harris at augie.edu>

"Alack, when once our grace we have forgot,
Nothing goes right . . ."
   - William Shakespeare

On Dec 13, 2008, at 3:01 PM, Nancy Charlton wrote:

NYTimes review of Paul Mariani's new biography of Gerard Manley Hopkins:

As Paul Mariani points out in “Gerard Manley Hopkins,” his generous new biography, the “unpromising beginnings” of Hopkins’s prosodic revolution were in a Jesuit classroom in London, where as a teacher of rhetoric he tried to impart something of his enthusiasm for the later rhythms of Milton and the alliterative effects of the Anglo-Saxons.

I can't think of two poets more unlike--or two I like more.


Nancy Charlton

. . . Till old experience do attain
To something like prophetic strain. (Il Penseroso)

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