Hopkin’s “God’s Grandeur”

In “God’s Grandeur,” Hopkins writes about Nature as this mysterious force: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” This reverence is religious in tone; however, the comparison he makes are scientific, mechanic, unusual. “It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; / It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil,” Hopkins writes. The alliteration from both the /sh/ and /g/ sounds mimic both the flash of light from the foil and the glugging movement of the oil. Comparing the might of God to the reflection of off foil, worked metal, or the movement of oil, fuel for industry, is strange. Hopkins is working within the culture of industry. His similes are his modern phenomena–the power of a liquid such as oil to fuel, to be consumed in order to produce a product, is an Industrial delight. However, Hopkins uses “rod,” a word originating, I believe, from Old English meaning “cross” rather than saying the more colloquial term. God’s power is compared not to the objects of industry themselves, but their natural properties– the movement of oil and the reflection on the foil. Similarly, Hopkins seems to be upholding an ideal of some romanticized past with the use of “rod” and, “nor can foot feel, being shod.” The foot has become unfeeling since it is clothed in a shoe. This instance of synecdoche illustrates Hopkin’s belief that modern advancements, such as footwear mass-produced in factories, are limiting the human experience of the world. 

The second stanza marks a volta for the sonnet. Though humans are attacking, almost insulting nature by not being appreciative enough, it is a force that does not cease to give. Hopkins maintains that nature is a source of pleasure, of rejuvenation, a spiritual entity that which humans benefit from. Given to humans from God, nature is imbued with an awesome power. Unlike the Industrialist belief we have discussed earlier, that specifically Europeans felt entitled to the land and the resources found on it, Hopkins seems to be advocating against this view. He posits that the consuming greed, emphasized by the repetition of “have trod, have trod, have trod,” is what keeps humans away from the grandeur of God. Yet even if humans continue to behave in such a way, Hopkins maintains that, “nature is never spent.” He believes that nature continues to thrive, continues to act as divine force, regardless of man’s interaction with it.

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