Gerard Manley Hopkins’ early interest in the relation between verbal sound and meaning is shown by the many philological notes in the diary, including one on ‘euphonic concord’ in an African language. It also appears in the frequent word-play of the letters, which reminds us that Thomas Hood was a friend of the poet’s father. The theme of vaccination inspires a fine cadenza of puns. In his lectures on verse-rhetoric, Hopkins stressed such sound-effects as rhythm, metre, alliteration, assonance, and rhyme. He defined poetry as ‘speech framed for contemplation of the mind by the way of hearing or speech framed to be heard for its own sake and interest even over and above its interest of meaning’. He was always fascinated by the sense of his own uniqueness. The distinctiveness of this taste, whether palatable or ‘bitter’, as it became in a late sonnet, led Hopkins to assume that everything in creation was equally individual.
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