A commentary on one of Hopkins’s ‘Terrible Sonnets’
‘No Worst, There Is None’ is one of a group of sonnets the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89) wrote when he was suffering from depression in the 1880s, while living in Ireland. These are known as the ‘Terrible Sonnets’ because of the terrible fits of misery and despair which inspired them, and which they so brilliantly capture. Before we proceed to offer a few words of analysis of ‘No Worst, There Is None’, here’s a reminder of the poem.
No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief
Woe, wórld-sorrow; on an áge-old anvil wince and sing —
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked ‘No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief.’