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Spring and Fall

Spring and Fall

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Lines 3-4 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 3-4

Leaves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

  • The speaker says that Margaret, because she is young and innocent and has such "fresh thoughts," is able to care about the "leaves," as well as about "the things of man."
  • In other words, Margaret cares just as much about small tragedies in nature (like leaves falling off of trees in the autumn) as she does about bigger, human problems ("the things of man").
  • There's no comma or any other kind of punctuation at the end of line 3—the grammatical sentence just continues straight across that line break. When reading this out loud, you wouldn't pause at the end of the line at all (check out "Best of the Web" to listen to this poem being read out loud). When a sentence continues after a line break like this with no punctuation at all, it's called an enjambment.
  • Also, there's a funky phrase at the end of line 4 here, too. "Can you?" follows what seems to be a declaration (in other words "you care as much about the leaves as you do the things of man"). It's more helpful to read this "can you?" as a "don't you?" though. To put both lines in more readable form: "Silly Margaret. You care just as much about those leaves falling off as you do about your family's health, don't you?"
  • Also, the meter of the poem starts getting pretty weird in line 4. Notice how the stressed syllables get clustered together? Check out the "Form and Meter" section for a run-down of Hopkins's wacky beats.

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