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Gerard Manley Hopkins, born in 1844 in Stratford, Essex, England, was a Jesuit priest and a poet whose work has had a profound impact on modern English poetry. While his poetry was not published in any significant quantity during his lifetime, his influence on both religious and secular verse has been monumental, especially in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Literary Background and Early Influences:

Hopkins was educated at Highgate School and Balliol College, Oxford, where he excelled in Classics and drew inspiration from a wide array of sources, including classical literature, Anglo-Saxon verse, and the works of John Keats and Christina Rossetti. After converting to Catholicism in his early twenties, he joined the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) and was eventually ordained as a priest. This decision to join the priesthood led him to burn his early poems, seeing them as incompatible with his religious vocation.

Poetic Schools and Movements:

Although Hopkins did not belong to any formal poetic schools or movements during his lifetime, he has been retrospectively associated with the Victorian and Modernist periods due to the timeline and innovative nature of his work. Moreover, his religious poems bear some resemblance to the devotional work of Metaphysical poets like George Herbert, even though Hopkins' style was distinctly his own.

Phases and Themes in Poetic Oeuvre:

-"Sprung Rhythm": Hopkins is perhaps best known for developing a new metrical system called "sprung rhythm," which he believed more closely mimicked natural speech and the complexities of the world around him.

-Nature and the Divine: Much of Hopkins’ work explores the relationship between the natural world and God. His famed "Pied Beauty" praises the diverse and "dappled" aspects of nature as manifestations of divine creation.

-The Dark Sonnets: A significant phase in Hopkins' work is the series of "Terrible Sonnets," written during a time of inner emotional turmoil. These sonnets delve deep into themes of despair, spiritual dryness, and existential questioning.

-Eucharistic Imagery: As a Catholic priest, the sacraments and particularly the Eucharist appear symbolically in his poetry, uniting physical and divine elements.

Influence:

Hopkins' influence is vast, affecting both religious and secular poetic traditions. His exploration of themes like ecological consciousness, spirituality, and mental health make his work perennially relevant. He has influenced a wide range of poets, including W.H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, and Seamus Heaney, among others. His innovative metrical and stylistic approaches have also been the subject of extensive academic study.

Honors:

While not acknowledged during his lifetime, Hopkins has posthumously received considerable academic and popular recognition. His work is a staple in English literature curricula, and he has been the subject of numerous scholarly articles, books, and conferences. In the Catholic Church, there have been calls for his beatification, although this has not been formally pursued.

Conclusion:

Gerard Manley Hopkins remains an enigmatic and influential figure in English literature. His poetry, rich in both its innovative form and its spiritual and natural themes, stands as a profound meditation on the complexities and paradoxes of human and divine experience. Although he faced relative obscurity during his lifetime, his work has been resurrected in the annals of poetic history, offering a unique blend of rigorous intellect, emotional intensity, and spiritual depth that continues to captivate readers and scholars alike.


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