Study Guide to Inversnaid
In 1881 Hopkins became an assistant pastor at a Jesuit church in Glasgow, Scotland. While there he toured the Scottish Highlands and spent some time in the little village of Inversnaid on the shores of Loch Lomond; that village in turn is adjacent to some streams that race down over rocks to the lake. Hopkins always loved to hear how people speak—their dialects, their accents, their intonation patterns—and that love shows up in this poem. See if, when you read it aloud, you can hear a Scottish burr in the r sounds of the poem (it offers many such sounds). The poet describes a particular burn (Scottish dialect for brook) in great detail—see the photo accompanying the poem itself and scrolling on the home page. He then ends with an environmental plea that still resonates with us today.
Here are some things to think about regarding this poem:
- In the early lines of the poem the burn is treated as if it were human (“his highroad,” “his foam,” etc. (ll. 2-3)). Why might Hopkins use that kind of language, and how does it tie in with the poem’s message?
- How many specific natural details about the burn can you enumerate?
- What applications do you see for us today of what the poet says in the last four lines?