Study Guide

Spring Themes

  • Awe and Amazement

    "Spring," for its first eight lines at least, is a praise-poem. Our speaker celebrates the beauty of nature and the profound effects it can have on man. The act of paying close attention to the natural world, and then allowing it to fill him with awe, seems to be of great importance to the speaker of this poem. The celebration of beauty is also closely linked with his contemplation of theology and the act of prayer.

    Questions About Awe and Amazement

    1. Why does our speaker choose these specific aspects of nature to praise? Is there something essential about them, or would almost any natural image or sound be as effective?
    2. Why does our speaker feel moved to praise the world around him? What does the act of praising mean to him?
    3. What is the relationship between the speaker's praise for the natural world and the more direct communication with God in his prayer, by the end of the poem?

    Chew on This

    Because the speaker's praise seems to be based on the fact that spring resembles the Garden of Eden and the what Christianity considers the original relationship between man and nature, the praise in this poem is really a lament for the fall of man and the fact that the initial perfection of Eden could not be maintained.

  • Religion

    The natural world is very important to the speaker of "Spring" but, in a way, the importance of this spring landscape is really as an avenue for contemplating the biblical Garden of Eden and Christ's resurrection, and for experiencing a connection to God. By line 9 of the poem, the physical descriptions fall away, and the poem instead engages on a level of contemplation, questioning and prayer. It's as if the natural world provides a means of entering into an experience of God, and then our speaker moves on to a more direct interaction between himself and God.

    Questions About Religion

    1. Is our speaker's faith a foundation for hope or for despair in this poem? Or is it both?
    2. How do you read "thy choice" in the last line of the poem? Why does the speaker say this to God?
    3. How does the biblical account of Eden inform this poem? What about that account is most important to the poem?

    Chew on This

    Though many Christians often focus on the possibility of redemption after sin, the speaker of this poem appears wholly focused on the idea of keeping the innocent from sin in the first place, rather than redeeming them after their inevitable loss of innocence.

  • Man and the Natural World

    Hopkins singles out spring for description and praise, since he feels that it is the time of year that brings mankind closest to the harmony of man and nature (and God) that existed in the biblical Garden of Eden. We get the feeling that praising nature in its various earthly aspects is, for our speaker, also a way of praising God, the creator. Without nature, it seems, he could not get so close to God.

    Questions About Man and the Natural World

    1. Does our speaker only appreciate the natural world as a connection to God and heaven, or is there something else about the relationship that draws him to it?
    2. Why do you think the speaker never refers to himself?
    3. Why does the speaker choose the season of spring? Would the poem work if he was praising the stark beauty of bare trees and snow covered hills?

    Chew on This

    By not referring to an "I" in the poem, Hopkins steers the poem away from being about a single, personal experience, and makes it about a broader relationship between mankind and nature.

  • Innocence

    The natural imagery in "Spring," as well as the religious concerns surrounding the Garden of Eden, are centered on the idea of innocence. The loss of innocence – both in man's expulsion from Eden, and also currently, in children around the world – could be called the main fear or source of tension in the poem. Through the renewal of spring and its religious associations with the resurrection of Christ, there is also perhaps a hint of salvation from this seemingly inevitable loss.

    Questions About Innocence

    1. What is it that makes our speaker think suddenly about young children in line 13? Has the poem been about the innocence of children all along?
    2. Is our speaker innocent? What can we infer about his relationship about his relationship to sin?
    3. Is our speaker's depiction of this spring landscape too innocent to be considered real? Shouldn't there be a snake eating the thrush eggs, or at least a cloud somewhere in the sky? Does he sacrifice a realistic depiction of the complexities of spring in order to make the connection to the biblical Garden of Eden more clear?

    Chew on This

    Since all of our speaker's representations of innocence – spring, lambs, children – are temporary states (seasons change, lambs and children grow into adults), it is clear that, despite his prayer, our speaker knows that the loss of innocence is inevitable.