Monday, July 31, 2017

God's Grandeur by Hopkins

First there is this magnificent sonnet, "God's Grandeur," by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
  It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
  It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;        5
  And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
  And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
  There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;        10
And though the last lights off the black West went
  Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
  World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

And there is this personal postscript:

In invite you to read the sonnet aloud. Savor the sounds: the assonance, alliteration, rhythms, and rhymes (internal, end, near, slant, and others).

Notice how the closing sestet, easier to read aloud, responds to the more difficult to read aloud opening octave. What contributes to the ease and difficulty? Now ponder this: in what other ways is the sestet different from the octave? which is negative? which is positive? why the differences? These are very important considerations.

Any thoughts?

By the way, to my mind, this is a masterpiece by Hopkins. If you want to enjoy some of the best poetry written in the English language, read more by Hopkins.

Now I invite you to share your reactions to and explications of the Hopkins sonnet.

Also, to keep the conversation going forward, I hope you will recommend other poets who focus on God's grandeur. One poet who comes to my mind immediately is Emily Dickinson, and perhaps I will be featuring more poems by her in the near future. But, friends, in the meantime, I look forward to your recommendations.


  1. I always admire a poet who has that elegant a sense of word choice and rhythm, Tim.

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    2. Indeed, Margot, words are like musical notes in a poet's composition. Hopkins was a masterful composer.