by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Our speaker is anonymous and genderless, and talks like no one else. He or she seems to be in deep turmoil. On the one hand, the speaker is conflicted over how the world could be so "bent" and broken, suffering under the strains of industry, when it is a place intimately connected to God. On the other hand, the speaker is sure that God is a benevolent force, suffering under the strain of the poor choices humans have made. If you think that it seems like the speaker isn’t sure where God stops and God’s creations begin, you aren’t alone. Hopkins was criticized for not representing more of a separation between the earth and God.
The speaker also seems pretty isolated from other people, especially in lines 4-8. In lines 7-8, the speaker verges on misanthropy. (A misanthrope is person who has lost trust in other humans, and who instead takes the role of harsh judge.) Of course, since any misanthrope is also a human, such judgments are also turned inward. We can assume the speaker is very hard on him or herself. The speaker is very frustrated, and doesn’t understand why the people can’t see the world they way he or she sees it. According to the speaker, the world should be viewed as something lovely, and as a connection to God.
In the second stanza the speaker becomes a seducer, tempting any reader or listener with a stunning vision of the natural world, and then a reassurance that all is not lost.
Because of the anonymous nature of the speaker, we can use our imaginations. We can play around with gender all we want, and the poem is only slightly impacted. Perhaps the speaker is a woman, who blames men for the world’s problems. Maybe it’s a young man, riding through a desolate city. Or a person sitting on a blanket at Woodstock. Or a subsistence farmer. Or someone at an environmental rally or protest.