Line 1: No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief, For an overworked and alienated priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins was able to exert an immense amount of creativity during and memorable lines into his poem ‘No worst, there is none. ’, as its named in short. Let’s begin the analysis right away at the first half of the first line. Immediately, Hopkins uses assonance with the “o” in “No Worst,…None”, and also alliteration with the “n” in no and none, the first and last words in the opening sentence.
The use of these devices makes the sentence very memorable and geometric, yet so far the reader is left unknowing and curious about what it is that there is nothing worse then. There is a pause at the period and then a heavy and tightly packed dose of more alliteration and some explanation continues at “Pitched past pitch of grief”, an even more impressive phase than the last. Here, Hopkins explains that it is grief that there is nothing worst then in a well balanced first line that is Iambic in meter.
The effect of reading “pitched past pitch” is it speeds up the reader with the sing-songy alliteration of the words, but this is troublesome because the phase is also very tightly packed with contextual meaning, good grief. The word pitch describes several things and depending on the reader one might first think pitch as to throw a baseball, pitch as a musical pitch coming into harmony, or lastly as a pitch of blackness.
The multifarious diction of the word pitch leaves the reader with serval different pathways to explore the sensation of grief that Hopkins is expressing. However, what is clear is that the state of the speaker is one that is past the point of grief. Line 2: More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring. With a brief pause for a comma, the second line moves continues the quick pace of the poem through the use of more alliteration and a natural iambic with exception for the hurried feet of pitched past pitch.
A pang is defined as a sharp and sudden pain or painful emotion, which connects with grief in a similar manner of language description depression. The reader is told that there will be more pangs, or fits of depression, which schooled to mean learned from earlier pangs. The speakers current burden of suffering was learned in-front of or before the point he is currently at. Ending with an evermore heavy dose of alliteration, the phrase “Wilder wring” completes the first two lines some excellent rhyming of pang, forepangs and wring, and also wilder and wring.
The effect of the heavy rhyming and alliteration in the first two lines on the reader is that it makes for very memorable and excitable phrases, even when contextually the speaker is describing a pain wilder than to be wring, as in a painful squeezing and twisting. In short, the entangle and sharp pains of grief outmeasure any physical pain the speaker is experienced with. Line 3: Comforter, where, where is your comforting? With a background in Catholicism, if the priest Gerard Manley Hopkins writes of the comforter than he must be referring to the holy spirit, as was the common practice of his day.
The repetition of “where, where” emphasizes how deeply lost from the holy spirit’s comforting the speaker has become. The speaker is clearly addressing the Holy spirit, as indicated by the word your, which is the first time someone other than the speaker is specifically introduced. Furthermore, because the speaker does not even know where the Holy spirit’s comforting is, then he must be very far off from receiving any comfort. The opposing nature of comfort with grief and pang broadens the spectrum of emotion considered by the reader.
Line 4: Mary, mother of us, where is your relief? In a second question the speaker bemoans to Mary who was very commonly prayed to for here mother-like compassion. By describing Mary of bethlehem, as mother of us, the speaker displays his belief that she is mother to us all or everyone. This creates an inclusive effect on the reader who can now join in on asking our mother were is her relief. The line follows a nearly identical structure to the last, forming a question, using the word where and directing his question to a specific audience with your.
These questions are blunt and balanced on a fine line of bewilderment and blasphemy. Hopkins was closely acquainted with the recorded word of God, and would have been acutely familiar Job misdoing of questioning God in attempt to find relief from suffering. The point being, it must have been a dilemma for Hopkins to question the various forms of God so directly. The end of the speakers second question completes the first of two quatrains in the octave of the first stanza. Additionally, a rhyme scheme of “ief” as A and “ing” as B is going ABBA for the entire octane.
Line 5 (quatrain 2): My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief For the first time, the speaker exclusively addresses himself to describe the magnitude of his cries. The alliteration has toned down from the first two lines, but not by much as the speaker describes that his cries “heave, herds-long; huddle in a main”. Some explanation and diction is needed to unpack the phrase; the word heave is a very describing when forces is exerted to move a thing, in this case at the speakers cries move a herds-long to huddle in a main.
Its difficult to makes sense of what huddle in a main is purposed for besides clearly being the place someone would not want their cries to be. The line has three noteworthy breaks which occur at the two comas and the one semicolon. These line breaks help slow the reader down so that they do not read the series of phrases as a list, but instead a compact description that uses caesurae, breaks in the middle of the line, and counterpoints, two or more rhymes at the same time, to display a depth of meaning in a very short amount of words.
An enjambment is placed at the end of 5th line that completes at the first word of line 6 to read “a chief woe”, as to say a grand and old pain. The significance of the speakers woe being relative to new is intensified by the religious diction of the word woe used both biblically and in christian poetry like Danta’s Inferno which describes the entering of hell as the passing into a city of woe, Canto 3. With this rich background in mind, Hopkin’s use of woe to describe the speakers feeling is one of hell, something far worse than grief and observe of comfort and relief.
There is no wonder why the speakers cries carry so far. Line 6: Woe, world-sorrow; on age-old anvil wince and sing— The chief woe described as an enjambment between line 5 and 6 follows with world-sorrow, which is another extension to the readers mutual involvement in the woe being described both at this point and earlier in line 4 with “us”. A line break, and possible caesurae occurs before describing an age-old anvil, which is a metal tool used by metalworks to forge designs off of and predominately used in the more barbarous periods of history.
Additionally, since anvils are heavy steel or iron that gets hammered with red-hot metal daylong the phrase is a brilliant yet harsh metaphor for the endurance of sorrow being described. The anvil that is wincing parallels the metaphor a chief woe, which causes the reader to take note of the tiredness and wear caused by the speaker’s experience; the anvil is also sing which is hyphenated so to carrying in line 7 as another enjambment. Line 7: Then lull, then leave off. Fury had Shrieked ‘No ling-
Soon after the anvil sings it lulls to a rest, so, because of the way the lines 6 and 7 are conjoined and the progression of actions, the reader now think that the anvil’s song was more of a lullaby than anything. Following the lull, the anvil, a consistent and direct metaphor of the speaker, is now leaving beyond the point of rest to something with a darker pitch and more like death. The alliteration is continuing to slow down, yet lull, leave and ling— is used to enhance the song-like qualities of this poem. The phase “fury had shrieked” personifies the emotion and idea of fury as being capable of the physical action of shrieking.
The use of personification brings human characteristics to the fury being described, and brings some closure to the metaphor of an chief and anvil used in the previous lines. Fury chooses to shriek no ling— which is enjambed into the last line of the first stanza. By definition ling is used to describe a marine fish, so its difficult to not read to far into the meaning of a slow reading. Lastly, Hopkins would of continued his ABBA rhyme scheme with the full word lingering, but by leaving it as “ling—” the meter of iambic pentameter is kept more closes intact.
Line 8: eiring! Let me be fell: force I must be brief”’ It turns out fury is shrieking “no lingering! ” as to say do not let this woe endure for so long, which Hopkin ends with an exclamation point to describe the immediacy and intensity of the cry. At the close of the first stanza, the speaker reclaims his ownership for this cry not to linger in woe by speaking directly with the words me and I. The entire phrase of “let me be fell: force I must be brief” is introducing new a new metaphor of falling and how it must be acted upon quickly if not to linger.