Today (June 8) is the death anniversary of Gerard Manley Hopkins [1844-1889], a British poet whose greatness lay buried beneath the smokescreens of Victorian sensibilities. Spring and Fall is one of his many exquisite poems. It is addressed to a little girl, Margaret, who is sad seeing the leaves fall in the season of autumn.
Are you crying over the falling leaves, Margaret? The poet asks the girl. A time will come when you won’t weep over the falling leaves because life will teach you about other much more significant falls. Fall is the blight man was born for, says the poet.
O little girl, how innocent you are! Your innocence is the beauty of the spring season with its fresh life and enchanting beauty. Spring is the promise of new life. Dreams bloom on the twigs. You are one of those numerous dreams.
But you are destined to realise that autumn will follow soon. The leaves and blooms will all fall. That’s their inevitable destiny. Life will teach you those inevitable lessons. Whole worlds will collapse before you like the falling leaves. Watching the world collapse, watching dreams wither, your heart will grow cold and you will learn not to weep over them anymore. That’s also a destiny. Inevitable destiny.
Yes, Margaret, you are weeping over the falling leaves in Goldengrove. Soon you will realise that it is you, yourself, that you are mourning for. “Sorrow’s springs are the same,” the poet knows. The human heart! Nay, the very human life!
PS. The text of the poem:
Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.