The Child is Father to the Man

‘THE child is father to the man.’ How can he be? The words are wild. Suck any sense from that who can: ‘The child is father to the man.’ No; what the poet did write ran, ‘The man is father to the child.’ ‘The child is father to the man!’

How can he be? The words are wild.

I’m really not a big fan of Gerald Manley Hopkins.  This poem, I assume, is about Christianity.  As was everything else he wrote about.

Basically, what I took from this is Jesus, the son of God, is the child to which he is referring.  Because the child is father to man, Jesus is father to mankind.  Not mankind as a whole of course, mankind was here before Jesus ever was.  But he’s the father of Christianity and the father of Christians.  Therefore, he’s the father of the men who will be saved.

He questions the statement because Jesus is the son of God but is the father of salvaged mankind.  How can a child be a father to man?  How can an egg bear a chicken?  How can the after (the child, the egg, the baby), bear the before (the man, the chicken, the parent)?  It must be divinely decided that this child may be father to man.  I assume this is the message he hopes to deliver in this poem.

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  1. wanderinginwonder said,

    March 25, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    hmm. interesting… I wonder if (whatever Hopkins meant!), there’s something in there about all that we lose as we get older and assume we’re now ‘grown up’. Perhaps we would have something to learn from even our own selves as children – innocence perhaps, simple fun, trust, instinct (idyllic ideals of childhood, I’ll grant you!!).
    Something about Jesus’ ‘unless you come as a little child’ stuff?

  2. kate863 said,

    April 1, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Its a joke pertaining to a Wordsworth poem about the immortality of childhood. Wordsworth wrote a poem called “My Heart Leaps Up” in which he states “the child is father to the man.” He is making the point that children are far more in touch with their immortality than adults–that they are in a way smarter than adults. Hopkins is responding to it to make fun of close mindedness I think.

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