Study Guide

As Kingfishers Catch Fire Life, Consciousness, and Existence

By Gerard Manley Hopkins

Life, Consciousness, and Existence

Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; (5-6)

This seems surprisingly simple. Every living thing expresses its inner consciousness, so…why can't you? Human lives, unfortunately, are often far more complex than the lives of kingfishers and dragonflies. But maybe, the poem seems to be saying, it doesn't have to be that way.

Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came. (7-8)

The expression of self is a key component of a fully-realized life. Getting in touch with the inner you—then acting on that knowledge—is the key to really putting your self out there in the world. And that, according to the speaker, is exactly what we're all doing here in the first place.

Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces. (12-14)

These lines suggest that our lives are subject to divine visitation, which would indicate that our existence is in some ways an expression of Christ and God's favor. We need to get things right on our own first, before this kind of diving favor come our way.

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