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Nutting and Binsey Poplars
Making connections and considering
alternative interpretations
Nutting – authorial intention?
• Present the moral development of the speaker?
• Present conflict between primitive impulse and civilised moral conduct?
• A moral tale, a parable, denouncing rapacity of human kind? A narrative
poem.
• Is it a warning against sexual assault?
ra·pa·cious (r-pshs)adj.
1. Taking by force; plundering.
2. Greedy; ravenous. See Synonyms at voracious.
3. [From Latin rapx, rapc-, from rapere, to seize; see rep- in Indo-European
roots.]
• ‘he learns like any young hero that treasure is not as easily taken as he had
believed’
Binsey Poplars – authorial intention?
•
•
Eco poetry – protest against the destruction of man against nature. Ascribe blame? The
incompetence of man – incapable of protecting and nurturing our natural environment.
Present the fragility of nature and the irreversibility of destruction. Philosophise?
•
‘a dirge for a landscape’
•
‘The poem likens the line of trees to a rank of soldiers. The military image implies that
the industrial development of the countryside equals a kind of (too often unrecognized)
warfare. The natural curves and winding of the river bank contrast with the rigid
linearity of man-made arrangements of objects, a rigidity implied by the soldiers
marching in formation. Hopkins points out how the narrow-minded priorities of an age
bent on standardization and regularity contributes to an obliteration of beauty.’
•
Hopkins puts this blindness in a biblical context with his echoes of Jesus’ phrase at his
own crucifixion: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
•
‘the patterning of the natural world is always a reflection of God and a mode of access
to God; thus this devastation has implications for our ability to be religious people and
to be in touch with the divine presence.
Who is the implied reader/ speaker of
each poem?
• Dearest Maiden
• O if we but knew what we do
Which is more effective in striking a note of care
and protest?
How does each poem end?
Binsey Poplars:
Sweet especial rural scene.
Is this tone nostalgic? Reminiscent? Regretful? Angry? Is the warning strong
enough for you?
Nutting:
Move along these shades/ In gentleness of heart; with gentle hand/ Touch –
for there is a spirit in the woods
Is this a tone of prohibition? Of condemnation? Of invitation? Of remorse? Is
the warning strong enough for you?
‘touch’ that word like a delicate finger-tip restores the poem’s human
balance, bringing us out of shame and degradation and back to the initial
reverence and ‘wise restraint; that had been practised without
understanding. (The Guardian)
What is similar or different about the
destruction wreaked?
Nutting
‘A nutting crook in hand’
Clothes ‘more ragged than need was’
‘Eyed the banquet / tempting clusters’
‘Up I rose / and dragged to earth both branch and bough’#
‘Merciless ravage’
‘Deformed and sullied’
‘Rich beyond the wealth of kings’
Binsey Poplars
‘All felled’
‘Not spared, not one’
‘delve/ or hew’ ‘hack and rack’
‘Even where we mean/ to mend her we end her’
How is destruction juxtaposed with
innocence and beauty in both poems?
Binsey Poplars
• ‘Airy cages quelled’
• Fresh
• Growing green
• Her being so slender
Nutting
• Pathless rocks, through beds of matted fern, and tangled thickets
• One dear nook / unvisited
• A virgin scene
• Fleeced with moss/ shady trees/ among the flowers
What is similar?
What is different?
Which is more effective to show the care of the poet towards the landscape?
Vocabulary
Violation
Intrusion
Rapacity
Ecological outlook
Sexual imagery
Aggressive
Fragility
Idealised
Untamed
Wild
Peaceful
Rural
Pantheistic feeling
Gentle
Mournful
lament
Unthreatening
Virginal
Humanity
Nostalgic
Reminiscing
Regretful
Contrite
Gratification
Abundance
Defloration
Shame
Degradation
Enchantment
Magical
sacred