The sonnet God’s Grandeur was written by Hopkins in February 1877. This sonnet is a protest against the crass materialism of the age. Yet the poet says that everything is not lost. Till the time God continues to brood over it, there is hope for the world. God’s glory is going to burst out like the shine of the gold tinsel.
The world is full of the glory of God. This glory will burst out like the foil of gold. It gathers greatness like the oil crushed from olives. It achieves magnificent proportions after the human ego has been crushed under religious discipline. Just as oil becomes useful only when crushed out of seeds, likewise man partakes of God’s glory only after religious devotion. Then, why do people not pay attention to God’s glory? Generations of men have trodden the same path without recognizing God’s power to punish them. Everything in this world has been made ugly by crass materialism, by commercial activity, and by human toil for monetary ends. The world bears man’s smudge and smells of man’s ugliness. The fragrance of nature has been drowned in the foul smell of machinery.
Despite man’s activities leading to the destruction of the beauties of nature, it remains fresh and undestroyed. Although the sun moves to the western horizon and the earth is plunged into darkness, yet the sun will be rising again the next day. Likewise, there will be a renewal of nature. From darkness would come light; from winter, spring. In nature, there is a never drying source of freshness, which envelopes the world in spring. The Holy Ghost broods over the “bent” world and this brings forth renewed life. The Holy Ghost looks after mankind with the same protective care as a dove looks after its little ones.
Annotations of God’s Grandeur
Line 1. The world is full of the grandeur of God. Charged – filled with energy.
Line 2. This grandeur of God will shine forth like the foil made of gold. Shook foil – metal foil which is beaten to make thin foil.
Lines 3-4. the ooze of oil crushed – When olives are crushed they give oil. Likewise, the poet suggests that human ego improves under religious crushing (discipline).
Line 4. reck his rod – pay attention to the punishing power of God.
Line 5. The repetitions are effective. The poet says that unmindful of divinity, people have followed the same way.
Line 6. seared with trade – withered because of the application of the heat of trade. bleared – blinded. Smeared – covered with dust, etc.
Line 7. And wears man’s smudge – The nature wears the marks of man’s corruption and pollution. shares man’s smell – Man-dade machinery and its foul smell have corrupted nature.
Line 8. The soil is bare now – The growth of nature has been arrested. Nor can foot feel, being shod – Because man is wearing shoes he is unable to feel the softness of the soil.
Line 9. Despite everything, nature can never be exhausted. Nature will reassert itself.
Line 10. Deep down the earth the same freshness still persists.
Lines 11-12. The poet says that the sun goes down through the western horizon and the world is plunged into darkness, yet the next day also dawns. Likewise, nature also refreshes itself.
Line 13-14. The nature is renewed because of the presence of the Holy Ghost. Here Hopkins compares the Holy Ghost to a dove. Just as the dove broods over her young ones, in the like manner the Holy Ghost gives a protective covering to the earth. So the world is full of the grandeur of God.
The world is charged …. Feel, being shod.
These lines have been taken from Hopkins’ immortal poem, ‘God’s Grandeur’. This poem was composed by Hopkins in February 1877. This poem is a protest against the crass materialism of the age; yet despite man’s wantonness and greed and wastefulness, there is hope for the world, as God continues to brood over it. The poems of Hopkins written in 1877 breath with a simple rapture at the loveliness of the world as a manifestation of God, and by a confident, even triumphant mastery of rhythm, diction, and imagery.
In these lines, the poet says that the world is full of the glory and grandeur of God. And this grandeur of God bursts out like shining from a hammered foil- “like shining from shook foil”. This gathers greatness just as the oil gathers after it has been crushed out from olives. So the poet suggests that God’s grandeur gets its totality after a fruitful but painful crushing of human ego under religious discipline. Just as oil becomes useful only after it has been taken out of olives, in the like manner human ego partakes of God’s glory and grandeur only after a great deal of religious perspiration and devotion. This leads the poet to lament the fact that still, people do not pay attention to God’s power and glory. Generation after generation of men has followed the same path without minding the power of God to punish them. In this world, everything has been seared and corrupted by the dirty materialism in which man has taken part. Everything has been smeared and corrupted by commercial activity and the toil which brings worldly success or monetary gains. The nature around bears the marks of this smearing – man’s foul odour can be seen in the midst of nature. In other words, we can say that all the beauty and graces of Nature have been blurred by man’s worldly activities. The sweet fragrance of nature has been drowned in the foul smell of machinery. These ideas are reminiscent of Wordsworth who also spoke against the crass materialism of his age. In a word, Hopkins suggests that the beauty of nature has been spoiled and marred by man’s industrial activities.
6. Critically analyze Hopkins’ poem ‘God’s Grandeur’?
Answer: See the critical appreciation of the poem.
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