Hopkins Lectures 2008




















































































































































Fancy in Hopkins's Poetry

Kumiko Tanabe

Kumiko Tanabe reviews the influence of Romanticism and the transition of ideas on Fancy from Coleridge through Ruskin to Hopkins and examines how this term is used in Hopkins' poetry.

Kumiko Tanabe, Doshisha University, Japan

The influence of Romanticism on Hopkins' poetics has been generally accepted, but his view on Fancy has not been taken into consideration. In his essay, "Poetic Diction" (1865), Hopkins lays stress on the characteristics of Fancy later found in his works: "The Beginning of the End" (1865) and "The Wreck of the Deutschland" (1875). This presentation will review the transition of ideas on Fancy from Coleridge through Ruskin to Hopkins and examine how the term is used in Hopkins' works.

In "Poetic Diction," Hopkins mentions Coleridge's views on poetic diction and the ideas of Imagination and Fancy to refute Wordsworth's opinion "that poetic diction scarcely differed . from that of prose" ( J 84). He underlines the necessity of the structure and parallelism for the beauty of verse and places this at the center of his poetics. Then he reduces the artificial part of poetry to the principle of parallelism, which is distinguished into two kinds: "marked parallelism" which "is concerned with the structure of verse ? in rhythm, in alliteration, in assonance and in rhyme" and "transitional or chromatic parallelism" ( J 84). Hopkins apparently places more significance on the marked parallelism than the transitional. He classifies into the former the structure of verse and the figurative elements of poetry. Finally, he connects the two kinds of parallelism with the terms "Fancy" and "Imagination":

'To the marked or abrupt kind of parallelism belong metaphor, simile, parable, and so on.. To the chromatic parallelism belong gradation, intensity, climax, tone, expression., chiaroscuro , perhaps emphasis: while the faculties of Fancy and Imagination might range widely over both kinds, Fancy belonging more especially to the abrupt than to the transitional class.' ( J 85)

This argument can be linked to that of another essay written in the same year entitled "On the Origin of Beauty: A Platonic Dialogue," which mentions "transitional and abrupt" or " chromatic and diatonic beauty" ( J 104). The term "abrupt" is transformed into the musical term "diatonic," and the expression is similar to "Poetic Diction" ( J 106).

Coleridge sets imagination and the human subject above fancy and the object in Chapter 13 of Biographia Literaria . While imagination concerns the active mind, will and reason to fuse the object, fancy concerns the fixity of the object and understanding:

'Fancy, on the contrary, has no other counters to play with, but fixities and definites. The Fancy is indeed no other than a mode of Memory emancipated from the order of time and space; and blended with, and modified by that empirical phenomenon of the will, which we express by the word CHOICE'. ( BL I 305)

Hopkins, by contrast, highly appreciates Fancy as abrupt parallelism. Coleridge's Table Talk is also relevant to Hopkins' idea of Fancy: "The Fancy brings together images which have no connection natural or moral, but are yoked together by the poet by means of some accidental coincidence." ( TT 489 — 490). The nature of the fancy described here is exactly comparable to Hopkins' Fancy characterized as "abrupt parallelism."

Ruskin helped influence Hopkins' understanding of Fancy as well. He renders more significance to fancy than Coleridge but still defends imagination over it: imagination is "the source of all that is great in the poetic arts" and fancy as "merely decorative and entertaining" ( MP II 152). For Ruskin, fancy responds to the outside of objects and sees them as parts, while imagination responds to the inside and grasps the whole ( MP II 179). He adds a detailed explication of fancy:

... the fancy staying at the outside of things.bounding merrily from point to point.but necessarily always settling.on a point only, never embracing the whole". And from these single points she can strike analogies and catch resemblances, which, so far as the point she looks at is concerned, are true, but would be false, if she could see through to the other side. .and even if there be a gap left between the two things and they do not quite touch, she will spring from one to the other like an electric spark , and be seen brightest in her leaping.
( MP II 182-3)

The statement is compatible with Coleridge's definition of fancy as that which "brings together images which have no connection" and with Hopkins' Fancy as abrupt parallelism. Hopkins owes this notion of fancy that is abrupt and springs from one part to another "like an electric spark" for the phrase "some sparky fancies" of Floris, who "gives for tropes his judgment all away," in "Floris in Italy" (1864-1865):

Henry. Thus he ties spider's web across his sight
And gives for tropes his judgment all away,
Gilds with some sparky fancies his black night

The element of fancy characteristic in this unfinished drama seems to be influenced by the theme of fancy in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and Tennyson's `Lancelot and Elaine,' but this argument will be presented on another occasion.

In volume II of Modern Painters , Ruskin focuses on contemplation or theoria (a Greek word meaning "gaze"), which he connects with imagination. On the contrary, Hopkins directly relates the faculty of contemplation to Fancy, and equates its fixity with the "abiding" nature of contemplation, contrary to the transitional nature of meditation and the discursive reason in Imagination. 1 : Hopkins notes on "an abiding kind.in which the mind is absorbed., taken up by, dwells upon, enjoys, a single thought" as "contemplation," which "includes pleasures, .for contemplation in its absoluteness is impossible unless in a trance and it is enough for the mind to repeat the same energy on the same matter" ( J 125-26). The contrast between the two kinds of energy in the mind matches the dichotomy between abrupt and transitional parallelisms in "Poetic Diction." Though Ruskin estimates the merit of contemplation detached from fancy, the third function of fancy as "the highest" is closely related to contemplation:

'[Fancy] beholds in the things.things different from actual; but the suggestions.are not in their nature essential in the object contemplated; and the images resulting.may.change the current of contemplative feeling: for.we saw her dwelling upon external features... ( MP II 209)'.

This notion of fancy is similar to Hopkins' idea of abrupt parallelism, supported by Coleridge's definition of the fancy. Hopkins' poetic diction, especially his metaphor, begets images united by the abrupt parallelism of Fancy and preserves their distinctiveness.

"The Beginning of the End" (1865) is a sonnet series divided into three parts, seemingly irrelevant to each other. Part (i) conveys that the poet's love for his cold mistress has lessened: "My love is lessened and must soon be past" (1); but that " less is heavens higher even yet / Than treble-fervent more of other men" (12-13), and if she could understand that, her "unpassion'd eyelids might be wet" (14). 2 Part (ii) begins with the sentence, "I must feed Fancy," and abruptly introduces the theme of astrology:


I must feed Fancy. Show me any one
... That reads or holds the astrologic lore,
And I'll pretend the credit given of yore;
And let him prove my passion was begun
In the worst hour that's measured by the sun,
With such malign conjunctions as before
No influential heaven ever wore" (4-7)

Part (ii) is suggestive of the relationship between the idea of astrology and the abrupt parallelism in Hopkins' Fancy, for the former is based on Neoplatonism, where ideas of parallelism and fixity are central to the correspondences between stars fixed upon the sphere as well as between the heavenly bodies as macrocosm and human beings as microcosm; and the sonnet form consisting of parallel structures and significations best fits his idea of abrupt parallelism in Fancy. Hopkins' idea of Fancy which champions distinct individuality is also apparent in the concluding words of part (ii): "And I'll love my distinction" (12). The idea behind the sentence implies Hopkins' ideal of the self, whose destiny is determined by the correspondence with the macrocosm as the whole retaining its own distinction as the part.

After the abrupt change in part (ii), part (iii) appears to state the conclusion of the sonnet sequence and to return to the theme of part (i):

You see that I have come to passion's end;
This means you need not fear the storms, the cries,
That gave you vantage when you would despise:
My bankrupt heart has no more tears to spend. (1-4)

The word "passion" is significantly allocated in each part: "unpassion'd eyelids" [(i) 14]; "my passion was begun" [(ii) 4]; and "I have come to passion's end" [(iii) 1]. Passion originates in the interaction between the subject and the object or between the self and the other, and in this poem Hopkins underlines the act of the latter concerning Fancy, describing it in different situations: (i) the amorous passion of the poet was aroused by his mistress but withers away when his self is not fascinated by the other; (ii) from a broader viewpoint, the passion and mal-fated love between the human selves as microcosm was originally and absolutely influenced by the fixed disposition of stars as macrocosm or Otherness; (iii) the fading passion between the lovers is abruptly connected to "the sceptic disappointment" of the poet:

What have I come across
That here will serve me for comparison?
The sceptic disappointment and the loss
A boy feels when the poet he pores upon
Grows less and less sweet to him, and knows no cause. (10-14)

The "overthought" of the word "passion" especially in part (i) of the poem is normally "amorous feeling" (OED , "passion" III. 8.a), but its "underthought" Hopkins implies is its nature of "the being passive" and "the fact or condition of being acted upon or affected by external agency; subjection to external force" ( OED , "passion" II. 5.a). 3 In part (iii) the poet discloses the true theme, or "underthought" of the sonnets using comparison in the end (10-14). Thus each distinctive part of the sonnet sequence parallels the others, metaphorically suggesting the theme of the relationship between the subject (the boy reading poetry) and the object (the poetry he pores upon). The poet's voice "I must feed Fancy" is significantly placed in the beginning of part (ii) at the center of the sonnet sequence with the description of Otherness as Fancy influencing the self, and the arrangement implies that Fancy is the poem's theme. The word "pore" connotes the act of contemplation, with which the passion of the subject is aroused by the object; the passion of the poet is lessened because his self cannot be impressed by otherness any more. Finally the sonnet reveals its meta-poetical nature in reading poetry, suggesting the self's penetration into the object of contemplation and its disengagement from the act in "passion's end."

The intention of part (iii) is revealed in a letter of 1864, where Hopkins notes his disbelief in Tennyson ( LB 215). Then he classifies the language of verse into three kinds: "the language of inspiration," "Parnassian" and "merely the language of verse distinct from that of prose." He takes "the language of inspiration" as the "first and highest," which can only be written "by poets themselves" in "a mood of great, abnormal.mental acuteness.according as the thoughts which arise in it seem generated by a stress and action of the brain, or to strike it unasked" ( FL 216). The mood coincides with "a trance" in which contemplation is possible ( J 126), and inspiration comes from without as the word "unasked" intimates. Hopkins admits that Parnassian verse "can only be spoken by poets, but it is not in the highest sense of poetry. It does not require the mood of mind in which the poetry of inspiration is written" ( FL 216). The difference between the poetry of inspiration and Parnassian is that the latter "is spoken on and from the level of a poet's mind, not, as in the other case, when the inspiration which is the gift of genius, raises him above himself." Hopkins deems Parnassian as superficial fancy within the level of the poet's conscious ego. On the contrary, the poetry of inspiration refers to Hopkins' Fancy, which transcends the ego. His poetics aiming at the poetry of inspiration presumes that a poet as an artist should be given an inspiration and a genius. He further points out the defect of Parnassian: "In a poet's particular kind of Parnassian lies most of his style, of his manner, of his mannerism." ( FL 216-17). The poetry without inspiration engenders mannerism, and the boy in part (iii) of "The Beginning of the End" is no more inspired by "the poet he pores upon" for his poem lacks the "surprise" by which "every beauty takes you" in "a fine piece of inspiration" ( FL 217). The idea is explicit in Hopkins' notion of Parnassian: "I believe that when a poet palls on us it is because of his Parnassian" ( FL 218). "The Beginning of the End" metaphorically attempts to reveal the nature of poetic diction with the surprise engendered by inspiration, which gives the poet the abrupt parallelism of Fancy and connects the marked turns in the three parts of the sonnet sequence by metaphorical comparison. Coleridge's note on fancy "common in the writers of Shakespeare's time" accords with the comparative basis of Hopkins' Fancy employed here as an imitation of Jacobean sonnets: "Fancy or the aggregative Power.the bringing together Images dissimilar in the main by some one point or more of Likeness" ( CN III Entry 3247. Cf. Hill, 60). The boy's "passion's end" in reading "the poet he pores upon" represents Hopkins' disillusionment in Parnassian and his will to establish the poetry of inspiration with his own poetic diction, which requires Fancy and passion.

In "The Wreck of the Deutschland" (1875), Hopkins realized "the language of inspiration" by using the word "passion" as Christ's Passion. The poet meditates "on God's infinite power and masterhood" ( P 255) in Part the First, and contemplates the theme of the wreck in Part the Second. The poet's self mastered by God in Part the First prepares to cast itself into the object of description in Part the Second. The word "passion" which appears three times implies the theme of Christ's passion: "The dense and the driven Passion" (St. 7), "The appearing of the Passion is tenderer in prayer apart" (St. 27), and "Our passion-plungèd giant risen" (St. 33).

There is a remarkable correspondence illustrating Hopkins' idea of Fancy between the voice of the Franciscan nun at death's door in the wreck and that of the poet who abruptly intrudes on Part the Second (Q11):

She to the black-about air, to the breaker, the thickly
Falling flakes, to the throng that catches and quails
Was calling "O Christ, Christ, come quickly":
The Cross to her she calls Christ to her, christens her wild-worst Best.
(St. 24, 5 — 8)

But how shall I make me room there:

Reach me a ... Fancy, come faster—
Strike you the sight of it? look at it loom there,
Thing that she. There then! the Master,
Ipse , the only one, Christ, King, Head:
He was to cure the extremity where he had cast her; ... (St. 28, 1— 6)

The motif of Christ's passion is repeated by the nun's self-sacrifice and reception of Christ ("O Christ, Christ, come quickly"). Her self-annihilation or assimilation into Christ as the Other parallels the creation of poetry with Fancy as the representation of Christ's incarnation and His nature as the paralellistic reconciliation of opposites (Reach me a ... Fancy, come faster -). The abrupt parallelism between Fancy and Christ as the Word with the nature of both man and God suggests that Hopkins' Fancy is the origin of his poetic diction and the means to unite the subject with the object. The parallelism between Christ's passion and Fancy as poetic diction represents its birth with the poet's contemplation of and assimilation into the object to "Read the unshapable shock night" and "wording it" into poetic language (St. 29). Parts the First and the Second are united by the abrupt intrusion of the voice of the poet into the nun's indicating the simultaneous discourse between them beyond time and space, with which he feels the reality of the wreck to penetrate into her self-annihilation. Christ, as the representation of abrupt parallelism or reconciliation of opposites, unites the suffering of the nun's death and her religious ecstasy (or trance in contemplating Christ) through her repetition of His Passion and assimilation to Him (St. 28, 6). Hopkins parallels Christ with Fancy as the means to appear His presence with his poetic diction, and tries to relive His passion.

In "The Wreck of the Deutschland," Hopkins describes the moment when the poet's self penetrates into the objective narration of the wreck and into the heart of the nun as through his prayer to God with the abrupt parallelism between Christ and Fancy. Hopkins' attempt to connect Fancy with passion in "The Beginning of the End" culminates in the abrupt parallelism between Fancy and Christ, or Christ's passion in this ode. Hopkins illustrates the birth of Fancy that transcends reason and the ego, which is absorbed into Otherness when faced with the illogicality of God appearing as both good and evil. The mental status of the poet in Part the First is essentially fluid, but is fixed at the moment when he utters, "Fancy, come faster," and assimilates to the nun's voice in her passion imitating Christ's in Part the Second. The word "faster" figuratively signifies the fixity of Fancy. Hopkins dared to give significance to Fancy related to Christ's Passion as the key to solve the "cipher of suffering Christ" (St. 22).

Hopkins' poetic idiosyncrasy is generated by the parallelism between distinctive images to repeat the surprise and ecstasy of the poet in his contemplation of the object . He endeavored to achieve the poetry of inspiration with his emphasis on Fancy as his poetic diction. In Hopkins' poetry, the subject and the object are united by Fancy's abrupt parallelism, and the poet penetrates into the object of his contemplation in the creation of his poetic diction.


1.   The association of meditation and discursive reason with imagination is based on Coleridge's argument of it, and Lichtmann admits this as well: "Where meditation involves the use of deductive reason, imagination, and "affections" of the soul, contemplation is regarded as the point of passage from self-effort to grace" (132). However, she does not mention that contemplation involves the use of fancy, which contrasts with meditation involving imagination.

2.   All the quotations of Hopkins' poems in this paper are taken from The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins , 4 th ed., cited with line number in parenthesis.

3.   Hopkins expresses the abrupt parallelism of Fancy in the terms "overthought" and "underthought" as the "two strains of thought running together and like counterpointed," which indicate the idea in his metaphors and is suggestive of the paradigmatic relation between "inside" and the "outside" of the text: "the overthought" as the superficial meaning which "might.be.paraphrased" and "the underthought, conveyed chiefly in the choice of metaphors.used and often only half realized by the poet himself, not necessarily having any connection with the subject in hand but usually having a connection and suggested by some circumstance of the scene or of the story" ( FL 252).



Works by Gerard Manley Hopkins [abbreviations]

Further Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Ed. C.C. Abbott. London: Oxford UP, 1970. [ FL ]

The Correspondence of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Richard Watson Dixon. Ed. C.C. Abbott. London: Oxford UP, 1970. [ C ]

The Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins to Robert Bridges. Ed. C.C. Abbott. London: Oxford UP, 1970. [ LB ]

The Journals and Papers of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Ed. Humphry House. London: Oxford UP, 1959. [ J ]

The Poetical Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Ed. N. H. Mackenzie. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990. [ P ]

The Sermons and Devotional Writings of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Ed. Christopher Devlin, SJ. London: Oxford UP, 1959.

Works by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Biographia Literaria. Ed. James Engell and W. Jackson Bate. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1983. [BL]

Imagination in Coleridge. Ed. J. S. Hill. London: Macmillan, 1978.

Lectures and Notes on Shakespeare and Other English Poets. London: Chiswich Press, 1893. [LNS]

Lyrical Ballads and Other Poems. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Ltd, 2003.

Table Talk I (The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge 14) . Ed. Carl Woodring. London: Routledge, 1990. [TT]

The Notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Ed. K. Coburn. 3 double vols so far published. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1957. [CN]

(iii) Works by John Ruskin

Modern Painters, vol. I-III. Ed. Ernest Rhys. London: Everyman's Library, 1907. [ MP ]

(iv) Secondary Sources

Bate, W. J. From Classic to Romantic: Premises of Taste in Eighteen Century England . Harvard UP, 1946 .

Gallant, Christine. Ed. Coleridge's Theory of Imagination Today. New York: AMS Press, 1989.

Hollander, John and Frank Kermode, eds. The Literature of Renaissance England. London: Oxford UP, 1973.

Lichtmann, Maria R. The Contemplative Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins . Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1989.

Loyola, St. Ignatius. The Spiritual Exercises. Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1999.

Merton, Thomas. The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation. New York: Harper Collins, 2004.

Miller, J. Hillis. Topographies. California: Stanford UP, 1995.

Parker, Reeve. Coleridge's Meditative Art. Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 1975.

Robinson, Jeffrey C. The Current of Romantic Passion. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1991.

Unfettering Poetry: Fancy in British Romanticism. NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. Ed. M. M. Mahood. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003).

Links to 2008 Hopkins Festival Lectures

|| || Editing Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins || Fancy in Hopkins Poetics || Hopeful Hopkins || Dolben and Hopkins || Dancer Isadora Duncan and Hopkins Poetry || Hopkins and Water Imagery || The Dark Sonnets || Hopkins Interpretation || A Scottish Reading of Hopkins Poetry || John Henry Newman and Translation ||