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God 's Grandeur Analysis

Author: Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins Type: Poetry Views: 525

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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;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge |&| 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;
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 |&| with ah! bright wings.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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Composed 1877. Form: Sonnet (abbaabbacdcdcd)
As a Jesuit priest who had converted to Catholicism in the summer of 1866, Gerard Manley Hopkins was no doubt saturated with the Bible. Although in \"Godís Grandeur\" Hopkins does not use any specific quotations from the Bible, he does employ images that evoke a variety of biblical verses and scenes, all of which lend meaning to his poem. Through its biblical imagery, the poem manages to conjure up, at various points, images of the Creation, the Fall, Christís Agony and Crucifixion, manís continuing sinfulness and rebellion, and the continuing presence and quiet work of the Holy Spirit. These images combine to assure the reader that although the world may look bleak, man may yet hope, because God, through the sacrifice of Christ and the descent of His Holy Spirit, has overcome the world.
The opening line of \"Godís Grandeur\" is reminiscent of the Creation story Ė Creation began with a spark of light. The second half of this image is primarily a scientific one. It refers to gold leaf foil as used to measure electrical charges in Faradayís famous experiment; but there is also a reference to a Proverb in the Bible. Just as light is reflected from gold foil, flashing out in multiplying rays, so too does the Light of God, which leads men, continue to increase. This image in one way ties into lines three and four of Hopkinsís poem, in which Godís grandeur \"gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil / Crushed.\" Both images demonstrate a process of increase in Godís grandeur. The olive, in itself, is not particularly valuable. It can be eaten, but until it is pressed, it has no further use. Once pressed into oil, however, it was used in biblical times for cooking, lighting lamps, anointing, binding wounds and in perfume. It was very valuable, and the promised land was referred to as, among other things, a \"land of oil olive\". This, then, is an apt metaphor for Godís grandeur as revealed through Jesus Christ, for it was in Gethsemane, the Ďplace of the olive-pressí, that Christ wrestled with doubt and fear and finally chose to glorify his Father. Just as the olive is crushed to reveal something costly and useful, so too did Christ chose to be crushed to bring forth His priceless blood, which saves men.
Given the emotional and physical pain to which Christ subjected Himself, Hopkins cries plaintively, \"Why do men then now not reck his rod?\" Men ignore the sacrifice Christ made for the very men who fail both to perceive and to honor Him in His creation. \"And all is seared with trade,\" writes Hopkins. Nothing has escaped manís materialistic touch. Men, laboring to amass useless wealth, have become \"[b]leared, smeared with toil\". The image of bare soil pertains not just to manís destruction of nature, but to his spiritual bareness. Hopkins recognises a wearied man who is more concerned with profit and who is systematically ignoring Godís message:
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears manís smudge and shares manís smell
The repetitions of Ďhave trodí reflect Hopkinsí disgust at the long-failing ignorance and selfishness of his fellow man. Similarly, the internal rhyme of Ďsearedí, Ďblearedí and Ďsmearedí mirrors manís life, a repetition of dreary and progressively more sullied moments. The workers who are searing, blearing and smearing the world are obviously unaware how these destructive movements are nullifying any relationship with its creator. Hopkins also believed a reconnection with Godís creations would invigorate a relationship with the creator.
We have been forewarned in the first three lines of the poem that Godís light has not been eclipsed by manís darkness, and that His grandeur will yet \"flame out.\" Hopkins does not abandon this promise, but resumes it with full force in the final sestet of his poem. \"And for all this,\" he avows, \"nature is never spent\". The word \"nature\" may be taken to apply, on three different levels, to physical nature, human nature, and divine nature or God. Physical nature, despite manís misuse of it, has not been spent, but continues to be rejuvenated and to bare witness to its Creator. Likewise, human nature is never spent. Finally, divine nature is never spent ó that is, God is not exhausted, and He has not given up on man. He will continue to labour, through the Holy Spirit, to bring men to repentance.
Despite the fact that man abuses nature for his transitory pleasure, he does not have the power to destroy it altogether, for there still \"lives the dearest freshness deep down things\". The \"deep down\" things signify not only the rejuvenation of nature, but the rejuvenation of man through the presence of the Holy Spirit, the dwelling of which in creatures and souls of men is symbolised by the dove. In Christian iconography, birds serve as reminders that there is life away from earth, in heavenóand the Holy Ghost is often represented as a dove. ďGodís GrandeurĒ portrays the Holy Ghost as a bird big enough to brood over the entire world, protecting all its inhabitants.
Nature\'s rejuvenation symbolises Christís coming into the world. The continuing presence of the Holy Spirit is proof of this promise. God continues to work through the Holy Ghost, who \"over the bent / World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings\". The bent (crooked) world has not been abandoned by God; it will be made straight, for it has been conquered by Him, and it is still being protected by Him.

| Posted on 2012-03-09 | by a guest

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