‘My own heart let me more have pity on’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins is a two stanza poem that is separated into one set of eight lines and one of six. Even though the poem is split into two, it still takes the form of a sonnet. The rhyme scheme is also distinctively sonnet-like. The first stanza rhymes: ABBAABBA and the second: CDCDC. This connects it to a traditional Italian, or Petrarchan sonnet which is noted for the same arrangement of end rhymes.
In regards to meter, the poem diverges slightly. The majority of the lines follow a pattern of iambic pentameter, but not all. This means that most of the lines contain five sets of two lines, the first of which is unstressed and the second stressed. There are moments, such as in the first line, in which extra syllables are added to the lines. These lines and in particular the extra words become more important than the surrounding, structured lines.
For example, the second to last line of the poem, “’s not wrung, see you: unforeseen times rather— as skies.” These lines depict the mental space the speaker is determined to occupy. Manley’s choice to end the line with the words “as skies” opens up the space, within the reader’s mind as well as physically on the page. The whole depictions seem somewhat idealized, somewhat up in the sky.
The mood of the text alternates between uplifting and depressing, just like the speaker’s own thoughts. The cycle of thought which takes the speaker from hope quickly to despair is represented by his fluctuating ability to accept happiness. It is thought that this piece, as well as a number of others written around this period, were inspired by the poet’s own mental and emotional troubles and his religious convictions. The poem was written in Dublin, Ireland in 1885.
Summary of My own heart let me more have pity on
The poem begins with the speaker asking his own heart and soul to have pity on him. He has felt helpless and hopeless for a long time and is ready to rid himself of his “tormented mind.” The speaker is looking for a new way of thinking, one that allows for self-pity and comfort. He compares his previous inability to find comfort in a blind person’s search for light or water.
In the second stanza, he outlines the fact that any hope or love he’s going to receive will come from God. It is only God who has the ability to control the outcomes of the world and the speaker’s going to let that fact guide him. The poem ends on a very hopeful note with the depiction of a sky, lit up between mountains.
Analysis of My own heart let me more have pity on
My own heart let me more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst’s all-in-all in all a world of wet.
In the first stanza of this piece, the speaker begins by utilizing the line that would later become the default title. He is speaking directly to his own being and in this instance, his heart. He pleads with it, asking that he be allowed a little more pity for himself. The speaker is seeking a more charitable opinion of himself and knows that it begins with treating himself better. His mental state has been rocky and now he’s ready to be “kind” to his “sad self hereafter,” or from now on.
From this point forward he resolves to be “Charitable” and not indulge the tortures of his own mind any longer. The word “torment” is used three times in these two lines. The repetition references the endless cycle of internalized belief. He is in a pattern of self-loathing that torments his already tormented mind.
Up until this point when the speaker “cast” out within his mind for “comfort” there was nothing there. He was barren of pity or understanding for himself. Hopkins uses a metaphor comparing himself to a blind person who is unable to find “day” or satisfy their “thirst” in the dark.
Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
‘s not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather — as skies
Betweenpie mountains — lights a lovely mile.
In the second stanza, which contains six lines, the speaker continues to direct the lines at himself. He speaks directly to his soul, asking that it “call off” the bad thoughts for “awhile.” The speaker is trying to reason with himself and carve out a place within his own mind that is safe from the torment. If he is able to find a small bit of space within himself, he will let joy in.
He hopes to take his joy from God and the fact that he knows “what” and “when.” God is in control of the world. Perhaps this fact will alleviate some of the pressure he feels. In the final lines, the speaker leaves off with an optimistic image. Hopkins depicts light, as seen between mountains, lifting up the speaker’s spirits and lighting up “a lovely mile.” This is the path the speaker hopes to walk in the future. It is idealized, pure, and hopeful.