If "Binsey Poplars" is about anything, it's about humanity's relationship with the natural world. It's based entirely on a guy's love affair with some trees, for starters. Okay, so "love affair" is too strong a term, but he's definitely upset to see those poplars chopped down. It goes deeper than those tree roots, though. His concerns—which he wants to make our concerns—are about how human beings can change Nature forever—for better sure, but mainly for worse. And keep in mind that this was roughly a century before global warming was even a thing. Who knows? If only more folks had paid attention to Hopkins' poem, our environment might be better off today.
We hate to break it to the speaker, but even those chopped-down poplars weren't really a part of "Nature," as he seems to understand it. Humanity controls all of the natural world, even if it's by choosing to leave it alone.
Nature is really a lot less fragile than our speaker seems to think. Just re-planting a few trees would produce the same kind of environment that he once enjoyed with the poplars.
It helps if you read "Binsey Poplars" with a handkerchief nearby. Some of you, of course, might be allergic to trees, so that's one reason. Another, though, is that this poem is just so darn…sad. Having seen his beloved trees cut down, our speaker has been put on a one-way train to Bummersville. The poem is really just a dispatch from a place where beauty has been lost, Nature has been spoiled, and some old friends have been permanently taken away. Any way you slice this onion, the tears are going to flow.
Sadness is the first step toward substantial change. This poem shows us that, without it, no improvements in society would ever be made.
Nice try, Hopkins, but the sheer quantity and quality of rhymes and other sound effects really make this poem seem a whole lot less sad. It's practically bubbling over with energy.
Contrary to what the poem's title might promise us, those "Binsey Poplars" don’t stick around for very long. They're gone, in fact, by the time we get to the epigraph. What we don't ever read about, though, is why these trees were cut down. Was it for timber? To make way for a casino? Whatever the reason, it's clear that the trees are victims to human interference in the natural world. During his life, Hopkins—who was a big fan of unspoiled nature—saw more and more of this, as the rise of the Industrial Revolution changed both the English cities and the traditional, idyllic English countryside. To put it mildly, our guy was no fan of these changes. He would have much preferred things to stay the way they were, without all the factories being built up and the trees being torn down. The environmental impact of all this change really bummed him out.
The only true constant in life is change. The speaker needs to get with program and accept this loss, or he'll never be able to make it.
The most profound change in this poem is the one brought about in the speaker's viewpoint. He now sees the world as a more fragile and more precious place.