Study Guide

As Kingfishers Catch Fire Stanza 2

By Gerard Manley Hopkins

Stanza 2

Lines 9-14

I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is —
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.

  • Our speaker's got more to say in this second stanza, so listen up.
  • For starters, he tells us that "the just man justices" (9). That seems reasonable, don't you think?
  • He's not just stating the obvious, though. Remember his point in stanza 1: every living thing does what it is. In other words, the actions of every living being are tied to its very inner being, expressing its very nature.
  • In our speaker's eyes, a person expressing their inner essence through their actions is a way to "[Keep] grace" (10). "Grace" here is used in the religious sense. Usually, it refers to God's blessing or favor. So, by acting in accordance with his essence, the just man is earning God's blessing.
  • In fact, all of his life's actions (which the speaker calls "goings") are blessed in the eyes of God. That's because, as the speaker states plainly in line 11, the just man "Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is." He's being true to his inner self.
  • It's actually more than that, though. The man's not just getting props from God for behaving according to his inner self. He's actually embodying Christ, according to the speaker.
  • Christ is not just some dude hanging out in heaven, after all. He "plays in ten thousand places" (12). He's everywhere, in other words. He inhabits living things and is "Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his," or not Christ's (13).
  • But for whom is Christ doing all this inhabiting of others who act in accordance with their inner selves? It's for "the Father," or God Himself (14).
  • "Through the feature of men's faces," in other words, Christ is inhabiting the lives of those who act in true concert with their inner selves, and He's doing so for the benefit of God.
  • So what does God get out of all this? It's not entirely clear. The word "plays" (12) suggests that Christ is performing somehow, but this poem's attitude is one of serious business, not happy fun times.
  • One way to read this is that Christ is identifying those who act truly for God's benefit, marking them possibly as worthy of salvation and eternal life in heaven.
  • The upshot of the poem as a whole, though, rests on the idea that people who express their inner selves through their actions are embodying Christ's grace on Earth. God both allows this kind of symmetry to be possible, and He's totally stoked to see living us mortals express ourselves in this way.
  • So, get out there and be true to yourself, Shmoopers.

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