As an ordained Jesuit priest in the Catholic church, Gerard Manley Hopkins spent a lot of time thinking—and writing—about God. It's no surprise, then, that God and Christ are front and center in "As Kingfishers Catch Fire"—particularly in the poem's concluding stanza. What does it mean to receive and embody God's grace? What's the best way to live a life that honors and values God? These seem like impossibly huge questions, but nope—our speaker is on it: "Just be yourself—and act on accordingly." That seems like a pretty simple formula, but the truth of things is usually pretty straightforward. This poem's religious investigations actually yield some pretty helpful answers—thanks, man(ley).
Questions About Religion
Why would it be so important to God that we each act according to our true inner selves? How might the speaker answer that question?
How and why does the speaker say Christ enters our lives?
What do you think the meaning of the word "plays" is in line 12? What parts of the poem support your idea?
Would this poem work as a sermon at church? Why or why not?
Chew on This
This poem suggests that God is merely observing our actions in His world. He's not influencing them.
According to this poem, acting in ways that are true to yourself is the best way to please God. It doesn't explain, though, how to find out just what your inner self really is. That's a process that not even God can help us with.