We're told right from the outset that the poem is addressed "to a young child," and the sound of the poem reflects this. The made-up words (neologisms) like "unleaving" (2) and "leafmeal" (8) sound like words a child might invent. The simple rhyme scheme (AABBCC, etc.) and the steady rhythm of each line make the poem sound almost sing-songy with a natural-sounding rhythm—a bit like a children's nursery tune (see "Form and Meter" for more on this). The frequent alliteration adds to this effect, as well. Check it out:
[…] nor spare a sigh Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie; (7-8)
This sounds like a tongue twister or a nursery rhyme.In fact, Hopkins did experiment with writing music to go with this poem, but unfortunately, none of his drafts have survived, so we can only guess at the kind of tune that he would have chosen. What kind of a tune would you use, if you were setting this poem to music?