Here, you will find a summary and questions/answers to the poem “Spring and Fall” by Gerard M. Hopkins which is a part of the Class 12 syllabus for students studying under the Nagaland Board of School Education (NBSE).
Summary: The poem provides an account of an event in which a philosopher speaks to a girl named Margaret, making it dramatic and meditative. Gerard M. Hopkins addresses the poem to a young girl named Margaret who is crying because of the falling leaves. The speaker asks Margaret not to be sad that Goldengrove is leaving. In the speaker’s opinion, Margaret, the young girl, is equally concerned with leaves as she is with a man’s possessions.
It is difficult for Margaret to deal with separation as an innocent child. There is no understanding of death, the end, destruction, or collapse in the minds of children. In the poem, the speaker attempts to read what a young child is thinking. The speaker believes that with age, sorrows like these come and go and Margaret will not be affected by the unleaving when she grows up. Although he shows sympathy for the child, he does not attempt to comfort her.
While the child is emotional and unaware of her loss, the speaker is poetic, philosophical, and generalising something of a natural process that is difficult and vague for an innocent child to comprehend. Though he has matured, the speaker’s behaviour toward his child is colder. The speaker is not concerned with the age or level of knowledge of the child, unlike a teacher.
The child represents youth, while the speaker represents experience. Fall is represented by the speaker, while spring is represented by the child.
Answer the questions
1. Margaret, are you grieving
Over Golden grove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
a) Who is Margaret?
b) Why is she grieving?
c) Explain the significance of the word ‘Golden grove’.
Answer: a. Margaret is a little girl who is crying because the leaves of the Golden grove are falling.
b. Margaret is grieving because the leaves of Golden grove are falling or dying.
c. The word “Golden grove” is significant as its name suggests an idyllic play-world “unleaving,” or losing its leaves as winter approaches.
2. Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
a) What is the narrator assuring the child?
b) Why will the child be ‘colder’ and ‘not spare a sigh’?
c) What according to the narrator are sorrow’s springs?
Answer: a. The narrator assures the child that as she gets older she won’t even sigh at these sights and won’t care even if the world is covered with dead leaves.
b. The child will be “colder” and “not spare a sight” because as she grows older, age will alter the innocent response. She will not care even if the entire world is covered with dead leaves.
c. According to the narrator, sorrow‟s springs are the same. It is a realization of man‟s mortality.
3. Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
a) What has the heart heard that neither the mouth nor mind can express?
b) What ‘blight’ was man born for?
c) Who, in reality, Margaret is mourning for?
Answer: a. The mouth and the mind cannot express what the heart has heard of. A human heart knows that all grief is rooted in its own suffering of losses, and ultimately in one’s own mortal presence.
b. The “blight” man was born into is death and realisation that all men must perish like leaves.
c. Margaret is actually mourning for herself and her own mortality.
B. Think and Answer
1. The falling of leaves carry a deeper meaning. What according to you is the underlying theme captured in the poem?
Answer: Spring and Fall refer not merely to seasons but stages in the development of a human mind. The seasons follow the life and death of every human being. A falling leaf represents decay and death, and Margaret undergoes a crisis when faced with this fact. As she grows older, the speaker knows she will continue to feel the same grief, but she will be more self-conscious about its true meaning. As Margaret ages, she will begin to understand that just as the dead leaves decay, she will also die and decay one day. In the speaker’s view, Margaret’s heart already knows this, and she is mourning not for the falling of leaves, but for her own mortality. Loss is a part of human existence, and it is always irreversible and absolute.
2. When confronted with the death of the leaves, Margaret experiences an emotional downturn. Do you think she is too young to understand the concept of one’s own mortality as expressed by the poet? Express your views.
Answer: The poem begins with Margaret asking why she is grieving over falling leaves. The speaker then goes on to explain the morbid reality of life and death. Despite his tone’s tenderness toward the child and his empathy for her, the narrator does not try to comfort her. The speaker tells her that she cares about the leaves because she is innocent, and she tears up when she sees them fall. She’s also told that as she gets older, she won’t mind the fallen leaves as much because she’ll have more important things to worry about. He adds that she is not crying for the dead leaves, but she is actually crying for her own mortality, knowing her heart knows she is cursed to die. Because the words of the speaker go beyond the little girl’s understanding, they are not really addressed to her. The girl appears to have some idea of decay, death as it is reflected in her emotions for the falling leaves. However, she is still too young to fully comprehend the concept of mortality.
3. If Spring and Fall’ is not necessarily about seasons, what is it about? Explain in your own words.
Answer: Spring and Fall refer not merely about seasons but stages in the development of a human mind. The seasons correspond with the life and death of human beings. During springtime, we exhibit the childlike innocence of doing and saying things with little awareness of why we are doing it. With her youthful innocence and freshness, Margaret in Hopkins’ poem weeps over the golden autumn leaves that have fallen to the ground. She represents the springtime in a man’s life. Fall is the enlightened mind that has learned to accept death as an inevitability. Fall represents decay, old age, and the Biblical fall from grace while Spring represents hope and joy of new life and regeneration.
C. Write a short note on the rhyming scheme of the poem.
Answer: The rhyming scheme of the poem is AABBCCDDDEEFFGG.
Except for lines 7-9, which contain three rhyming lines in a row, every couplet of the poem rhymes. In line 7, there is also an internal rhyme of “by and by”. It might be Hopkins’ intention to emphasize those lines specifically. These two lines, which come exactly halfway through the poem’s fifteen lines, create a dramatic climax. This is the point in the poem when the speaker says that the little girl, Margaret, will continue to “weep” at the sight of fallen leaves, but she’ll understand why when she’s older. As she grows older, she will come to understand death and mortality.