Gerard Manley Hopkins's influence on English poetry since the publication in 1918 of his poems by his friend and fellow poet, Robert Bridges, has been nothing short of extraordinary. Thinking of the many poets who have responded to his work, one would have to name T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane, David Jones, W. H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, John Berryman, Theodore Roethke, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, William Everson (Brother Antoninus), Charles Wright, and Seamus Heaney. His influence also extends beyond the English-speaking world, his work having been translated into French, German, Spanish, Polish, Italian, Czech, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese. Every poet who has been influenced by Hopkins has, of necessity, focused on one or more aspects of Hopkins's work, fascinated, inspired, and often challenged by his word-chiming, complex epithets, or the way he mimics the action or what he called “the doing-be” of a particular thing, whether that be the wimpled wing of a kestrel or a stone falling into a roundy well, or the interiority of dizzying darkness likened to hanging from a cliff side in a storm.
There are so many aspects to Hopkins's poetry, each of them drawn by the logocentricity of his understanding of reality, which is that, as with the Big Bang theory of things, all creation came into Being in an instant of time—not in tick-tock time, but rather in kairotic time, in a flash, full—and moves out through the eons, only to return, finally, to its mysterious source, not as debris but as an imploding mosaic reassembled piece by piece into one: the Word made flesh made Word.
In mythic terms, that is what is at the heart of Hopkins's understanding of the Word and the plenitude of words, diamond dust, if you will, ignited by the fire that breaks forth from the Creator. And—synesthetically—by the sounds, the music Hopkins heard in the Welsh language, drawn as he was by its dappled cynghanedd, its word chiming, the play on the stops of consonants and vowels, lovely and yet strange, as if we were in a country where music was spoken, and which our hearts understood instantly, without translation, so that we found ourselves drawn to it as well.