JOSHUA KING hy do I employ sprung rhythm at all?" the Victorian poet and Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkins asks fellow poet Robert Bridges in 1877.1 Hopkins' question remains largely unanswered. I do not, however, intend yet another contribution to the eye-glazing debate over sprung rhythm's technical integrity, its viability versus impracticability; doing so would merely perpetuate the presumption, still active in most discussions of sprung rhythm since W. H. Gardner's foundational Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889): A Study of Poetic Idiosyncrasy in Relation to Poetic Tradition, that Hopkins poses his question in purely technical terms.2 Unquestionably much has been and is yet to be learned from such formal scrutiny; but the assumption that analysis of sprung rhythm should begin and end at this level is entirely questionable. Hopkins answers his own question for Bridges, and his focus is not on pure technique. He champions his prosody's preservation of "the native and natural rhythm of speech" (Letters, p. 46). To presume to have captured in poetry the native character of spoken rhythm is to presume to have captured at least some of the native character of its speaker.3 Sprung rhythm is more than a metrical novelty: in it Hopkins
Victorian Poetry – West Virginia University Press
Published: Nov 15, 2007
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