Summary Of the Poetry Titled Binsey Poplars by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Binsey Poplars by Gerard Manley Hopkins
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About Gerard Manley Hopkins The Author Of Binsey Poplars

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889) was a Victorian poet and Jesuit priest known for innovative poetry with intricate rhythms and vivid imagery. His works, including “The Windhover” and “Pied Beauty,” explore themes of nature, religion, and the environmental impact of industrialization. Posthumously recognized, Hopkins’s unique style, known as “sprung rhythm,” set him apart as a significant figure in Victorian poetry.

Other Books Written by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins primarily wrote poetry, and his notable works include:

  1. “Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins” (1918): A posthumously published collection of his poems.
  2. “The Wreck of the Deutschland” (1876): A longer poem reflecting religious themes and linguistic innovation.
  3. “Poems and Prose” (1985): A comprehensive collection featuring both his poetry and some prose writings.

“Binsey Poplars” is a poem written by Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Jesuit priest and Victorian poet. The poem reflects Hopkins’s concern for the environment and the impact of human activities on nature. Here is the full text of the poem:

Binsey Poplars

My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
All felled, felled, are all felled;
Of a fresh and following folded rank
Not spared, not one
That dandled a sandalled
Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.

O if we but knew what we do
When we delve or hew —
Hack and rack the growing green!
Since 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,
Where we, even where we mean
To mend her we end her,
When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
Strokes of havoc unselve
The sweet especial scene,
Rural scene, a rural scene,
Sweet especial rural scene.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing the aspen trees at Binsey, near Oxford, which have been cut down. The speaker laments the loss of these trees, describing them as “my aspens dear.” The repetition of “felled, felled, are all felled” emphasizes the destruction of the trees.

Hopkins then vividly describes the aspen trees as “airy cages” that “quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun.” The poet mourns the loss of these trees, highlighting the absence of their shadows on the meadow, river, and winding banks.

The poem takes a reflective turn as the speaker contemplates the impact of human actions on nature. The lines “O if we but knew what we do / When we delve or hew” express a sense of regret and a plea for awareness regarding the consequences of human intervention in the natural world.

The final stanzas emphasize the delicacy of the natural environment, comparing the Earth to a “sleek and seeing ball” and warning that even a small disturbance can cause irreparable damage. The poem concludes with a poignant reflection on the fleeting beauty of the rural scene and the lasting consequences of human actions on the environment.

“Binsey Poplars” is a powerful expression of Hopkins’s environmental concerns and his lament for the impact of industrialization on the natural world.

BACKGROUND OF THE POEM TITLED “Binsey Poplars” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

“Binsey Poplars” by Gerard Manley Hopkins 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

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 TITLED “Binsey Poplars” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

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 OF THE POEM TITLED “Binsey Poplars” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

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.


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.


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.



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


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.


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 the 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 creates auditory imagery.

Other Poetic Devices

in line ‘14

in line 1, 12, and 13

Line 11, 17 and 20

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