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Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Themes

The speaker of "Spring and Fall" explains that the "name" of sorrow doesn't matter. Everyone is really just sad about the same thing: death. So, whether or not you're able to articulate the reason for being unhappy isn't important. Maybe you'll learn how to express your emotions better when you get older, maybe not. Either way, the idea of expressing yourself effectively is an interesting theme in a poem that uses such unusual grammar and made-up words.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. Why can't Margaret explain for herself why she is "grieving"?
  2. How does the speaker explain Margaret's inability to express herself?
  3. Do you think Margaret will "know why" (9) she is grieving when she's older? 
  4. Why do you think Hopkins uses so many made up words in this poem? What's the effect on your reading? How would you read it differently if, for example, instead of the word "wanwood" (8), he said, "dead leaves"?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

By using made-up words like "wanwood" and "unleaving," Hopkins emphasizes a childlike mode of self-expression that is emotionally effective—though not always grounded in reason or traditional rules. Fantabulerific!

The speaker suggests that Margaret will be able to articulate the reason for her sorrow more effectively when she's older, but provides little evidence to support this. In fact, the speaker's own difficulty in expressing exactly what the sources of his sorrow are suggests that adults can have as much trouble explaining themselves as children. Kettle, meet pot.

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