Study Guide

God’s Grandeur Themes

  • Man and the Natural World

    The speaker in "God’s Grandeur" looks deeply at the natural world, and doesn’t hold back his or her contempt for the ways in which people and their industries have treated nature. Yet, Hopkins claims that the consequences of this treatment is only on the surface. This poem explores the idea of renewal, both for a damaged earth, and for the damaged people who walk upon it.

    Questions About Man and the Natural World

    1. What is the speaker’s attitude toward people? Angry? Empathetic? Generous? Kind? Pitying? Something else? What do you think?
    2. The poem seems to argue that the damage done to the environment, by people, can be repaired. Do you agree or disagree? Why do you feel this way?
    3. The speaker can’t understand why people haven’t taken care of nature, in their pursuit of "trade." Do you think nature has to be sacrificed, on some level, to fuel progress, and to meet the needs of human beings? Or can our needs be met without damaging the environment? Don’t be afraid to explore both sides of the argument.

    Chew on This

    God’s Grandeur presents a compelling argument that people can’t be fully happy when they don’t protect the environment.

  • Life, Consciousness, and Existence

    Among other things, "God’s Grandeur" proposes that the meaning of life and the purpose of human existence can be discovered through nature. As an expression both of intense anxiety and of intense joy, this poem can seem to be on the serious side. But all the language play within the poem lightens the tone, and can give us a different perspective on life, whether we agree with the poem’s ideas or not.

    Questions About Life, Consciousness, and Existence

    1. What is the meaning of life, according to the speaker? It’s not explicitly stated, but what would you guess. (There is more than one answer.)
    2. Does the speaker seem like a person who enjoys life? Why or why not?
    3. How would you describe the speaker’s state of mind? What would the speaker’s "ideal" life style be?
    4. Does the poem suggest anything about the afterlife? If so, what? If not, why do you think the speaker doesn’t mention it?

    Chew on This

    The speaker in "God’s Grandeur" doesn’t understand the problems of a person who has to work to exist in the world.

  • Religion

    You can tell from the title that "God’s Grandeur" is probably a religious poem. The speaker is telling us about his or her religious visions. The speaker sees God as intimately connected to the earth. The exotic language of the poem moves us through this fascinating religious journey.

    Questions About Religion

    1. Does a person need to be religious to appreciate this poem? Why or why not?
    2. What does the poem tell us, if anything, about the speaker’s idea of God?
    3. Are God and the natural world connected in the poem? If so, how are they connected? If not, how are they separate?

    Chew on This

    In "God’s Grandeur" the speaker argues that when people separate themselves from the natural world, by interfering with it, they are separating themselves from God.

  • Transformation

    In the world of "God’s Grandeur" everything is shifting and changing and moving. For better or worse, the potential for change runs through Gerard Manley Hopkins’s verse. The speaker’s vision is at once apocalyptic and full of bursting green life, as he or she both laments change and yearns for it.

    Questions About Transformation

    1. According to the poem, how has industrialization changed human beings? Do you agree with the speaker’s analysis?
    2. How has the earth been changed by industrialization, according to the first stanza? Do you agree with the speaker’s analysis?
    3. Does the speaker seem to undergo a transformation by the end of the poem? If so, what changes? If not, how does the speaker remain consistent throughout the poem?

    Chew on This

    The speaker sees the power of nature to transform itself as greater than the power of humans to transform nature.