Study Guide

As Kingfishers Catch Fire Expression Imagery

By Gerard Manley Hopkins

Expression Imagery

"Express yourself," says Madonna. Hopkins would agree. He throws a lot of imagery and poetic techniques at us in "As Kingfishers Catch Fire," but they all have one common thread: the importance of expression. The speaker of the poem is a big fan of being true to yourself, but just sitting around and reflecting on your essence is not really enough to satisfy him. The test of being true is acting on that inner essence. When you do that, you project yourself into the world, really putting yourself out there.

And when you do that, you're not just being true to your core. You make the speaker happy, Christ happy—even God is on board. So get to expressing.

  • Lines 1-6: These lines give us a quintuple-stacked layer cake of simile . Each element in the simile, though, has something in common. The kingfishers, dragonflies, rocks, music strings, and bells all express their essence—either visually or through sound—into the world. It's the same for the rest of us "mortals," says the speaker. By acting in accordance to your essence, we communicate that "being indoors" (our inner selves).
  • Lines 7-8: The speaker uses personification here to describe the self when we act in accordance with our inner core. It's a noisy little bugger, crying out to the world. More specifically, it's saying "This action being performed right here is me. This is what I'm here on Earth to be, and to do." We got it, self. Thanks for sharing.
  • Lines 9-11: "The just man justices"? Well, what else would he do? That question misses the point. This is not about someone's job. It's about acting on the innermost qualities of yourself that make you, well, you. When you do that, you both embody and receive God's favor, his "grace." That's because you're doing what you are in the eyes of God—good job.

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