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Spring and Fall

Spring and Fall

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Sadness Theme

"Spring and Fall" opens with a little girl, Margaret, "grieving." What's she so sad about? The speaker offers one possibility at the opening of the poem—she's sad that the leaves are falling off the trees. But by the end of the poem, he says that she's sad about something different. It probably has something to do with the ever-present specter of Death that the speaker has pointed out. Thanks for that!

Questions About Sadness

  1. List the various sources of sorrow in this poem. Are some ranked above others, or are they all equal? Explain.
  2. Are the sorrows of children taken seriously in this poem? Or only the sadness of adults? Why or why not? 
  3. Why is Margaret unhappy? Do you think that the speaker shares her grief? Why or why not?
  4. Would you call this a sad poem, overall? Explain your answer using specific examples from the poem.
  5. Do you think it's true that adults can label the sources of their sadness more effectively than children? Do you think that's true of the speaker and the child in this poem? Why or why not?

Chew on This

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

Misery loves company, gang. The speaker of this poem shares Margaret's grief, although, as an adult, he's better able to explain the source of his sorrow, both to himself and to his young friend.

It's not so bad. Although the poem is about a young child learning about mortality, the tone of the poem is remarkably hopeful.

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