Study Guide

God’s Grandeur Quotes

  • Man and the Natural World

    […] like shining from shook foil’ (2)

    Hopkins tells is he had lightening in mind when he wrote this line. If you shake an ordinary piece of tinfoil, you can see what he may have envisioned. We see a flash of fire, but only a flash. The lines addresses things, which are beautiful, but temporary.

    […]ooze of oil […]
    Crushed. (3-4)

    The alliterations here sound rich and luxurious, like a massage. Perfume is made from oil. A variety of substances are "crushed" to release their fragrance as oil. Oil is also used in religious ceremonies. Yet, if we take too much oil, we have environmental problem, leaving the earth crushed.

    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; (6)

    The poet only describes the surface of the world as being polluted. If something is charred, it’s burned all the way through to the core. If something is seared, only the surface is burned. That something is seared, is painful but not fatal. Also in this quotation we see the word, "bleared." Bleared is similar to "blurred." It’s how something looks, not how it is. Again, Hopkins seems to be making the claim that If we stop abusing the earth, the smears will go away.

    And for all this, nature is never spent. (9)

    Spent is an interesting word choice. It makes us think of "trade" and money. The line means nature can’t run out, but also perhaps that it can’t be bought – no amount of money can completely destroy it. It is this line that gives us a glimmer of hope about the state of the natural world.

    […]dearest freshness deep down things […] (10)

    Yep, as we said, the damage is only on the surface of things, underneath all is fresh and sweet, but buried and hidden away.

    […] last lights off the black West went (11)

    This is a fancy way of saying that the sun set in the west, and then the sky become dark. To the speaker of this poem, this natural phenomenon is no small miracle. The "morning" that follows it is an even bigger miracle. In spite of all the doom and gloom of life, the light just keeps on following the darkness. This could serve as a metaphor for human treatment of the earth. After a period of darkness and damage, there can still be lightness and healing.

  • Life, Consciousness, and Existence

    THE world is charged with the grandeur of God. (1)

    The speaker of the poem argues clearly at the very beginning that life, consciousness, and existence are connected to God. But we should not view this poem as an argument for that perspective, because this early claim is assumed to be a given.

    […] have trod, have trod, have trod; (5)

    Is this what modern life is all about? Just trudging through, tromping things down, worn out? The repetition evokes a vision of people with broken spirits who are not living, but merely existing. The poem suggests that by working so hard, we lose sight of what really matters in life. And according to the speaker, what matters is the natural world.

    […] nor can foot feel, being shod. (8)

    Again, you call this existence? Let the grass grow, take off your shoes and jump around in it. It doesn’t have to be this hard. Hopkins laments that existence has been lessened by our losing contact with nature.

    […]the bent
    World […](13-14)

    The alienation the speaker expresses overtly in the first stanza, is carried out here, even in what is obviously meant to be a hopeful and uplifting passage. Everything is still "smeared" and "bleared" – everything is still "bent." Nothing has changed yet. These lines speak of the potential for a better existence.

  • Religion

    The world is charged with the grandeur of God. (1)

    "Charged" is a versatile word – charged with a crime, charged money, charged batteries. It can also imply being responsible for the care of someone or something. You can plug these in and see what happens. Some work better than others, depending on individual views about religion, and the divine. As the poem progresses, we learn that the speaker closely connects the grandeur of God to the natural world for the speaker.

    Why do men then now not reck his rod? (4)

    This line is often interpreted as "why don’t people heed God’s authority?" It seems to be deeper than that. We know that "reck" also means "care for," and that "rod" is sometimes used to mean "tribe," in the Bible. You can fully explore all the words’ definitions and come up with a very complicated argument. Here’s our interpretation: "Why don’t people take care of that which has God’s force running through it?"

    […] last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning! (11-12)

    These two lines remind us of the title of a famous work by St. John of the Cross, a Roman Catholic mystic, and a poet. It’s called The Dark Night of the Soul. It’s about the struggle to find light in the darkness of existence.

    Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings. (13-14)

    The dove has long been a symbol of the Holy Ghost, as well as a symbol of peace. In a way this is a comforting idea. The poet says that the reason the sun still rises and sets is because we have not been abandoned. The "ah!" implies a deep satisfaction with this idea. Like the first line of the poem, the last line speaks directly about religion.

  • Transformation

    […]flame[…]. (2)

    Fire is usually a symbol of transformation. Think "trial by fire." One goes through difficulty to become something new. Much of art is driven by an artist’s desire to grow, though transformation doesn’t always mean growth, as we see in the poem.

    […] shares man's smell […] (7)

    We cringe a tiny bit here. We aren’t stinky, but we get the point. The purest perfume is bad if too much used. The earth has been transformed. People too. The speaker sounds downright cranky about it here, but transforms to a lighter mood, thick with the possibility of rejuvenation and renovation.

    […]the soil […] (7)

    This poem shows two sides of the soil, and by extension two sides of nature. The soil on the surface of the earth is lonely and sad, with no plants growing in it. It’s been transformed by what people have done with it. But, the soil under the earth is just as fertile as ever, ready to counteract this transformation by urging another.

    And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—(11-12)

    These lines describe night transforming into day. They might also be a metaphor for the human heart, or the speaker’s heart, moving from the confusion of darkness, to the light of clarity.