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As Kingfishers Catch Fire

2.71  ·  Rating details ·  795 ratings  ·  145 reviews
'O let them be left, wildness and wet'

As Kingfishers Catch Fire is a selection of Gerard Manley Hopkins' incomparably brilliant poetry, ranging from the ecstasy of 'The Windhover' and 'Pied Beauty' to the heart-wrenching despair of the 'sonnets of desolation'.

Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge
Paperback, Little Black Classics #2, 53 pages
Published February 26th 2015 by Penguin Classics (first published 1876)
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Sean Barrs
Mar 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
This little volume contains many poems; I enjoyed most of them, but not all. For the purpose of keeping this review brief, like the volume itself, I shall only talk about the poem for which the book was names: As King Fishers Catch Fire.

"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that bein
"Glory be to God for dappled things—"
-- Hopkins, Pied Beauty


I mainly jacked, jeered, jumped over Hopkins poetry before. It felt forced and funky for me before. The nice thing about the Little Black Classics approach was I didn't have to read an entire 300 pg book of poetry for an introduction, but I certainly needed to read more, go deeper, than just a couple, highly anthologized poems. After about 40 of his greatest poetic hits (and about 20 pages of diary entries), I have a new respect for Ho
Katie Lumsden
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Gerard Manley Hopkins writes so well, with such interesting uses of rhythm and word play.
I adore nature poetry, so this was a joy to read! The way Hopkins strung words together was like a beautiful tongue twister!
Although I didn't connect with all of the poems, my personal favorite was Spring and Fall!
Oct 05, 2017 rated it did not like it
Ugh! My first two reads for Victober ended up being utter garbage poetry. Well, what can ya do. I will keep on pushing on by reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte which will probably rock my world.

So after rating Edward Lear's Nonsense one star, I thought it was impossible for a collection of poetry to fuck me up more. Boy, was I wrong. Hopkins' poetry combines everything I hate: lack of quotable moments and an annoying preachy tone.
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw fla
Read all my reviews on

The second of Penguin's Little Black Classics shows a collection of poems of Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Unfortunately, they were not my taste and failed for the most part to hold my attention.

One nice little detail I wanted to point out though. I'm sure it has happened to a lot of us for whom English is not the mother tongue. Sometimes when a word also exist in your own language (but with a different meaning) you'll be unabl
Doug H
Nov 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
I forgot I read "Pied Beauty" and "The Windhover" in grammar school. Thanks to Above the Waterfall, I've read them again. I didn't mind (or maybe didn't even notice) all of the Christian references when I was young. I just took everything in without any critical thinking. The religious bits are a bit jarring to me as an adult, but I also more fully appreciated Hopkins'' pure love of Nature this time around.
Ecem Yücel
Jan 09, 2021 rated it liked it
This is the second book of my Penguin Little Black Classics 80-book-box-set challenge.

I enjoyed Hopkins' poems and the descriptions of the nature and the sky. As I was reading the poems and the prose this book consists of, I thought it's both weird and so amazing that I, a woman who's living in 2021, can have the opportunity to see things through a Victorian priest's eyes, who lived and wrote down his observations and emotions during the second half of 1800s. I guess that's how brilliantly magi
The Artisan Geek
Nov 17, 2018 rated it did not like it
I read this a while ago and all I can remember is how much I hated it, wow.

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Apr 29, 2015 rated it did not like it
“Considered unpublishable in his lifetime, the Victorian priest’s groundbreaking, experimental verse on nature’s glory and despair.”

There was very little about this book that I enjoyed. There were a total of six poems (mentioned at the end of this review) that I thought were alright, as well as some of the descriptions in his diary entries.

I thought most of the poems were very confusing and difficult to understand. I’m also not a fan of enjambment, which was used almost in every single one of h
Iza Brekilien
Reviewed for Books and livres

Maybe I'm not the best placed reader to review this small book, English not being my first language, poetry not being my usual reading ground. We have 31 poems here and at the end, several extracts of Hopkins's journals.

It doesn't mean I've never read - or loved - poetry before (I even found one poem in here that I could link to another by Prévert !), and I could understand the author's religious feelings even if I couldn't relate, not being a religious person.

On the
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame"

Such beautiful poetry filled with musings nature, sorrow and despair. I love Hopkins' imagery, conjuring glimpses of wildflowers and orange sunsets.
Joey Woolfardis
"Graceful growth of Etzkoltzias or however those unhappy flowers are spelt."

19th Century poetry and journal entries from Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Victorian priest with the most beautiful grasp on language I have ever encountered. The poetry should be read aloud as it is delivered quickly, with onomatopoeia and alliteration giving it an almost ethereal quality. God features heavily, but above all else Hopkins' devotion to nature shines through.

The journal entries are poetry in prose form, feeling
Troy Tradup
Jul 01, 2020 rated it did not like it
This short selection of poems and journal entries made me want to drink so much gin. Why gin? No idea, but that was the very specific craving I had through all 53 pages.

Hopkins' famous 'sprung rhythm' (thanks, Wikipedia) feels like a parody of poetry -- poetry as imagined by people who hate poetry.

Hopkins must have been so tedious at parties. The type of guest who insists on reading -- no, declaiming -- his poetry while everyone else grows glassy-eyed and finally bolts for more gin.

This makes tw
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
Not a fan but there were a few gems.
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
If you like too much alliteration and Jesus, this poetry collection is for you.
Torsha  Sarkar
Jan 23, 2021 rated it liked it
Find the review on my blog: Wordsmithery, with a distinct lack of torpedo sharks

It might be the case that I don’t understand god poetry . . . Holy poetry? Divine poetry?

(just a dash of atheist humour there; yes, our senses of humour are as dry as our faith in Him.)

Reading and reviewing books of poetry can be a tricky thing. Unlike prose-fiction, each poem is a consumable unit in itself, a story in itself. Reading thirty in row, for me, is nearly impossible. My love language towards the poets
I generally like poetry about nature and religion, but this just didn't work for me. His Goodreads author blurb says that "his use of imagery established him as a daring innovator in a period of largely traditional verse" which is laudable, but makes for a somewhat difficult read. It took me 4 or 5 poems before I got a handle on his writing. As far as religious themes in his writing, I felt it lacked depth. Hopkins used just a few lines at the end of each poem to say how great God is for creatin ...more
Not an easy read but incredible use of language both in the poetry and the journal extracts. Full of unique nature descriptions and I would say that if you are religious and love complex poetry you will probably get a lot out of these.
Jan 02, 2021 rated it liked it
I didn’t understand most of the poems but I LOVED the journal entries at the end, especially the one about the northern lights.
The last entry, April 8th really saddened me and has put me in a sad mood :(
Mar 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
Just to be clear this is a rating based on my enjoyment and understanding of Penguin's collection of Hopkins' work, not based on its importance and quality. I struggled to follow the poems, never really understanding what on earth I was reading. The journal entries included in the rear of this tiny book are beautiful, written with grace and a keen eye for the wondrous, all encompassing beauty of nature. The poetry was not for me, however, Hopkins' notes on the day to day were calming and the sav ...more
Francielli Camargo
May 27, 2015 rated it did not like it
Honestly, it was quite boring. Through the poems I could barely understand a word that he was saying and on his journal entries it was less painful but still didn't catch my eye.

Plus, I noticed that his last two entries on the journal didn't have a period to finish the text and that made me a little crazy. Are you sending a text message or something?!

P.s I wrote this on my phone and it was about to die so I need to apologise on how fast this one went but I just didn't wanna keep going like this
Katrina Waldman
This was a bit of an impulse read, mainly because I found myself wanting to delve into another of my little black classics, and also had a bit of a hankering for poetry. I'd never really heard of Hopkins, but from the minimal information provided, I knew I was probably about a lot of nature, poetry, and mentions of God. In that regard, the snippet of Hopkins's work met all of my expectations! I did like reading some of the gorgeous, vivid imagery of nature, and found myself liking his journal en ...more
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Disclaimer- I've never been into poetry, I read this book because I'm making my way through the 80 Penguin Little Black Classics in between my other reads.

If you're into poetry you may like this book, but for me it was hard to understand. The few poems that were not lost on me I did really like, but for the most part this wasn't for me.
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
A collection of poems and a few journal entries.
I have a hard time rating this, because I basically understood <5% of the poems. From what I understood he has a great way with words.
The journal entries consists mainly of Hopkins describing the sky in 100 words, I skipped most of it.
Tobias  den Haan
Nov 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Hopkins' poetry wasn't very illuminating or groundbreaking. Then again, I am not well-versed enough in poetry to say many meaningful things about it. I did quite like his wonderment for nature and his descriptions of such things as waterfalls and mountains. ...more
Dec 04, 2019 rated it liked it

I am not a huge fan of poetry (mainly due to due to lack of habit I admit) however, I enjoyed this small book. Hopkin's metric is unique and compelling. His love for Nature is evident through his passionate and well-thought verses.
Shazia Noor
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
A set of Gerard Manley Hopkins' brilliant poetry.
A little hard to get the grip but once you catch it you'll see the beauty of every brilliantly written poem. Wonderfully played with words.
There is also "extracts from Hopkins's journals" at the end.
It can be hard for beginners to read this one.
Hani Tiara
This book includes poetry & some writing from the author journals. He wrote a lot on God and nature, it was okay.
John Isles
Apr 05, 2019 rated it did not like it
The book contains a sampling of Hopkins's poems and extracts from his diary. When he can't think of the word he needs, he makes one up. The trick doesn't work. ...more
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Gerard Manley Hopkins was an English poet, Roman Catholic convert, and Jesuit priest, whose 20th-century fame established him posthumously among the leading Victorian poets. His experimental explorations in prosody (especially sprung rhythm) and his use of imagery established him as a daring innovator in a period of largely traditional verse.

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