G. M. Hopkins - The Poet as Sacramentalist

Barry Spurr


An essential difference between the Christian poetry of John Donne and T. S. Eliot, on the one hand, and George Herbert and Gerard Manley Hopkins, on the other, is that while Donne and Eliot were poets before they were Christians and absorbed into their later poetry of faith earlier experiences of the spiritual inertia and scepticism of secular life, the poetry of Herbert and Hopkins was entirely the handmaid of their Christianity. Such poets, whose work is subordinate to their Christian commitment, place a peculiar demand on their readers. For while it is not necessary to "share" their various religious premises (pace Kathleen Raine, who has recently demanded this of the reader of David Jones, the modem English Catholic poet!), a prior understanding of their creeds ensures a more confident entrance into essentially private worlds.

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