From a poem of G. M. Hopkins titled "The Shepherd’s brow, fronting forked lightning, owns":

THE SHEPHERD’S brow, fronting forked lightning, owns

The horror and the havoc and the glory

Of it. Angels fall, they are towers, from heaven—a story

Of just, majestical, and giant groans.

What does "towers" mean here? Angels are supposed to be beings with wings. Doesn't seem to make sense.


The use of towers here is a metaphor:

A metaphor is a figure of speech that describes a subject by asserting that it is, on some point of comparison, the same as another otherwise unrelated object... In simpler terms, a metaphor compares two objects or things without using the words "like" or "as".

Thus, the angels are being compared to towers in some respect. This metaphor appears to align with a metaphor for humanity two lines later:

...Angels fall, they are towers, from heaven—a story

Of just, majestical, and giant groans.

But man — we, scaffold of score brittle bones...

Where humans are compared to brittle scaffolding, angels are compared to towers.

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  • But that would be literary interpretation. – Kris Nov 14 '13 at 16:23
  • @Kris The main point of my answer should be "the use of towers here is an instance of metaphor" (which I hope you won't find subjective); everything else was meant to be supporting evidence. I'll refactor my answer to be less subjective. – apsillers Nov 14 '13 at 16:25
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    Sounds good. The angels are towers in the sense of being "monumental". Their fall is earth-shattering. I'd never read any G.M.Hopkins poems before CopperKettle's questions and I have to say they are incredibly obscure. – user24964 Nov 14 '13 at 16:38
  • Thanks, apsillers! Now I see, it's the "towers - scaffold" comparison. "We are mere bones' scaffolding compared to these towers, and their fall overshadows our misfortunes". Didn't caught that. His poems are obscure but a pleasure to read once understood. – CowperKettle Nov 14 '13 at 16:48

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