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Poem; Summary of Binsey poplars by G.M. Hopkins and past questions.

Poem; Summary of Binsey poplars by G.M. Hopkins and past questions; This poem is necessary for students who are sitting for the following examinations and should be studied so as to stand a chance of passing the exams. JAMB, WAEC, NECO, GCE.

Full poem

also known as felled 1879

My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,

   Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,

   All felled, felled, are all felled;

  Of a fresh and following folded rank

             Not spared, not one

             That dandled a sandalled

      Shadow that swam or sank

On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.

   O if we but knew what we do

       When we delve or hew—

  Hack and rack the growing green!

        Since country is so tender

  To touch, her being só slender,

  That, like this sleek and seeing ball

  But a prick will make no eye at all,

  Where we, even where we mean

             To mend her we end her,

        When we hew or delve:

After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.

   Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve

   Strokes of havoc únselve

        The sweet especial scene,

   Rural scene, a rural scene,

   Sweet especial rural scene.

–  G.M. Hopkins

Read other poem analyses here


Themes (Poem; Summary of Binsey poplars by G.M. Hopkins and past questions.)

The Theme of Lamentation over Nature’s Destruction: The major theme of Binsey Poplars is lamentation over the degradation of the natural environment. Hopkins is disgusted by the catastrophic harm humanity is wreaking on nature’s magnificent gift.

As a Jesuit Priest, the poet considered nature as a gift from Almighty God. Unfortunately, rather than being a decent caregiver, man has resorted to detrimental behaviors that demolish nature.

Therefore, the willful cutting down of the poplar trees points to a far deeper issue. The air and all the other treasures that God has given us are being defiled.

Hopkins was born some years before the Industrial Revolution began, so its effects persisted and can still be felt now.

But most importantly, the poet is not merely expressing shock. He also decries man’s careless and unappreciative actions.

Human Destructive Behavior: The destruction of nature by humans is another subject in Binsey Poplars. This concept and the mourning and condemnation of man’s destruction of nature are strongly intertwined.

The poet disapproves of how eagerly man destroys everything that has been entrusted to him by the creator. Man has transformed himself into a destroyer of what actually gives him life, rather than a devoted steward of nature’s gift.

Man’s destructive actions are so indiscriminate that even his attempts to repair what he has damaged instead result in further damage.

Impacts of the Industrial Revolution that are not favorable: Even after the time of romantic writers like Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Blake, the unfavorable impacts of the Industrial Revolution persisted.

This is why Hopkins and other subsequent poets felt compelled to keep raising awareness of the damage industrialization was doing to natural resources like rivers, forests, and meadows.

Concern for the future generation: The poet expresses worry that the wonders of nature would be permanently lost in his lifetime. He also shows concern for the fate of future generations. The destruction might be so total that future generations wouldn’t even be able to guess at, much less appreciate, the original splendor of nature.

The poet claims that future generations have no chance of inheriting a healthy environment if the current generation continues its harmful practices.

The poet presents himself in this way as having a social conscience. He is upset about the potential negative impacts of environmental deterioration on people who have not yet been born (the after-comers), rather than just the loss of his own joys.

Hopkins portrays himself as someone who is concerned not only about his own interests but also for the welfare of the broader society in his poem Binsey Poplars.

Once more, his concern is not limited to the current generation. In the poem’s concluding lines, the author issues a stern warning to his countrymen. Future generations might have trouble surviving in a world without the trees that are being carelessly cut down.

Poetic devices (Poem; Summary of Binsey poplars by G.M. Hopkins and past questions.)

Diction: Diction is a phrase, term, or way of speaking. In its original sense, particular vocabulary and expression style used by a writer or speaker in a poem or story. In its most basic sense, the distinctiveness of speech refers to the ability to speak in a way that each word is heard and understood in all of its complexity and extremes. This art of speaking focuses more on pronunciation and tone than on word choice and style.

With the exception of a few onomatopoeic words and phrases that might be difficult for the typical reader to understand, the poet’s language or diction in the poem “Binary Polars” is relatively straightforward. These words include ” dandle”, “growing green”, “quelled”, “quenched”, “felled”, “dandled”, “sandalled”, “hack”, “rack”, ” folded rank”, “wind-wandering”, ” weed-winding back”, “delve “, ” hew”, “havoc unselved” etc.

Onomatopoeia is the tendency in words for the actual sound to repeat the meaning. Onomatopoeic words in the poem include “quelled,” “quenched,” “felled,” “dandled,” “sandalled,” “hack,” and “rack.” The poet uses this sound effect to convey the poem’s message to the reader.

Alliteration: There are numerous examples of alliteration in this poem. Alliteration is defined as the repeated use of the same consonantal words or sounds in any literary work. Some significant instances from the poem include: “growing green,” “where we,” “beauty been,” “when we’ll,” “fresh/following folded,” “swam/sank,” “sleek/seeing,” and so on. Their regular use in the poem enhances the musical and rhythmic qualities of the poem.

Personification is a technique employed in poetry when a writer seeks to imbue a quality that does not have any genuine life with human characteristics. The poet used some serious personification to explain how the shadows of the trees used to resemble legs with sandals on them. These shadows would dangle (or “dandle,” which is pretty much the same thing) over the meadow, the river, and the river bank, or they appeared to sink into the water or the grass. In line 13, the poet again employs personification when referring to the natural world as “her.”

Metaphor: The metaphor of the trees having ‘dandled a sandalled/shadow’ is an idiosyncratic metaphor that compares the branches to someone hanging their feet over the side of the river, their sandals casting a shadow in the water.

Simile: A simile is an imagined comparison between two things or objects that are not similar in general but are similar in one way using ‘like’ and ‘as’. The statement “like this sleek and seeing ball” is a prominent example of this literary trick of comparison. Nature is so delicate that the poet uses this simile to compare it (or “her”) to an eyeball (or “seeing ball,” as it is called in this context). The poet uses this comparison to represent Nature as being so fragile that any harm done to it will cause it to cease to be… well, natural.

SUMMARY (Poem; Summary of Binsey poplars by G.M. Hopkins and past questions.)

The poet laments the loss of his “aspens beloved,” trees whose delicate beauty lay not only in their appearance but also in the way they formed “airy cages” to tame the sunlight. Hopkins regrets that all of these wonderful trees have been “felled.” He compares them to a defeated army of soldiers. He laments the way their “sandalled” shadows danced down the twisting bank where river and meadow converged.

Hopkins laments the indiscriminate destruction of the natural environment caused by people’s failure to recognize the consequences of their actions. To “delve or hew” (dig, as in mining, or cutting down trees) is to overwork the soil, because “country” is something “so fragile” that even the slightest harm can transform it irreversibly. The poet uses the pricking of an eyeball as an analogy, an organ whose mechanics are subtle and powerful, while the tissues are infinitely delicate: even a minor prick alters it completely from what it was to something unrecognizable (and useless). According to Hopkins, even helpful actions can have an impact on the landscape in this way. Before our time, the world housed beauties that “after-comers” will have no concept of because they are now lost forever. It just takes “ten or twelve strokes” to “unselve” the landscape, or change it so drastically that it is no longer itself.


  1. How does nature influence the poet in Binsey Poplars?
  2. Comment on the poet’s use of onomatopoeia in Binsey Poplars.
  3. What is the poet’s attitude toward nature in G.M. Hopkins’ Binsey Poplars?
  4. Discuss the poet’s use of diction and imagery in Binsey Poplars.
  5. Highlight two major concerns the poet raises in Binsey Poplars.
  6. What is the poet’s mood in Binsey Poplars?
  7. Describe the poet’s tone in Hopkins’ Binsey Poplars.’
  8. How effectively has the poet employed analogy in Binsey Poplars?
  9. Discuss the theme of nature in Binsey Poplars
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