From an article entitled 'The Four Great Loves of Gerard Manley Hopkins" in Recours au Poème, by Joseph J. Feeney.
"Hopkins loved nature’s beauty, and described it with rare skill and vivid images. At 19, he wrote in his Oxford diary of “moonlight hanging or dropping on treetops like blue cobweb.” At 21, he noted how “over the green water of the river...swallows [were] shooting, blue and purple above and shewing their amber-tinged breasts..., their flight unsteady with wagging wings.” Lying awake one night, he saw lightning “coloured violet...but afterwards sometimes yellow, sometimes red and blue.” He watched young lambs in springtime “toss and toss...as if it were the earth that flung them, not themselves.” Whether describing moonlight, birds, lightning, or cavorting lambs, Hopkins always sought the exact detail and the accurate, fresh word: “blue cobweb,” “wagging wings,” “toss and toss.” Loving nature, he wanted to make nature’s beauty permanent—at least in the words and images of his notebook.
He also loved the shapes of nature. Clouds were “repeatedly formed in horizontal ribs. At a distance their straightness of line was wonderful. In passing overhead...the splits [were] fretted with lacy curves and honeycomb work.” He noted the “curves and close folding” of tulip petals, and at his grandparents' home in Croydon the lawn had “half-circle curves of the scythe in parallel ranks.” Even hailstones intrigued him, being “shaped like the cut of diamonds called brilliants.” Loving nature, Hopkins loved its very shapes--its uniqueness of form. This fascination with uniqueness, spurred by the philosophy of the medieval Duns Scotus, brought Hopkins to his famous concept of “inscape”—a word he created to express both an object's external shape and its “inner core of individuality.”