Study Guide

Binsey Poplars Change

By Gerard Manley Hopkins

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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.

Questions About Change

  1. How do you think this change, the loss of the trees, will most impact the speaker? How can you tell?
  2. Has the speaker himself been changed by the loss of these trees? How can you tell?
  3. Is the speaker being realistic? Is it noble to expect trees to be left alone forever, or is it crazy? Why do you think so?
  4. Is there any way to undo the changes humanity brings to the natural world? How might the speaker answer this question?

Chew on This

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.

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