Study Guide

Binsey Poplars Man and the Natural World

By Gerard Manley Hopkins

Man and the Natural World

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.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. What is the nature of the speaker's relationship with these trees? What, exactly, did he appreciate about them? How can you tell?
  2. How does the speaker get us to care about the natural environment?
  3. Is there any such thing as "pure," unspoiled Nature? If so, what would that be? How might the speaker answer this question?
  4. How might the poem's rich sound effects reflect the speaker's view of the natural world?

Chew on This

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.