Here are a some extracts from G. M. Hopkins

I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;

Or this

And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

Or this

Yet both droop deadly sómetimes in their cells
For a rainbow footing it nor he for his bónes rísen.

Why does he have acute accents on some of the vowels?

  • 1
    See sprung rhyhm. It indicates the stress and timing patterns for the poem. Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 11:32
  • Thanks for the pointer. I'm having trouble sounding the linked example out: saying "with swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím" as "with swiiift, slooow, sweet, sooour, adaaazle, diiim" doesn't feel right at all. Sprung rhythm purports to be "natural" but those vowels are naturally short.
    – spraff
    Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 11:38
  • English prosody does not ordinarily employ quantitative stress; you do not extend the vowel but speak it louder and at a higher pitch. (But note that the syllables with 'short' monophthongs have continuant consonants in their closes: f, z, m.) Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 12:27
  • Not to worry. Question was answered as to why the accents. Whether they work well in the poem is a question of poetry meter, not ELU. Commented Mar 29, 2015 at 14:53
  • Anyone care to summarise this as an answer?
    – spraff
    Commented Mar 29, 2015 at 17:48

1 Answer 1


Hopkins used sprung rhythm, which was his version of accentual verse. In accentual verse, while the number of stressed syllables in a line is regular, the length of the feet (the number of unstressed syllables between stressed syllables) varies. Much of the time in Hopkin's poems, it's fairly evident which syllables should be stressed, but when it wasn't, he put acute accents on stressed syllables and grave accents on unstressed syllables to aid the reader.

ADDED: Let me add to this answer. Hopkins' manuscripts used a number of other strange symbols that indicated how the poem was supposed to be read. The editor (Robert Bridges) reduced these to acute accents, that indicated the syllable was the main stress in a foot, and grave accents in words like charmèd, where it indicates the ending -ed should be its own syllable, so the word is not the one-syllable charm'd the way it usually is pronounced.

  • 1
    Here’s poet Dana Gioia’s little essay on accentual verse.
    – tchrist
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 14:33
  • @tchrist: Thanks for the link. Great little essay. Hopkins did something brilliant with accentual verse that went far beyond any previous examples (and which, as far as I am aware nobody has followed up on; certainly not with his brilliance). Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 14:41

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