Chris Tusa
 

 

SAMPLE

AN EXPLICATION OF HOPKINS’ “GOD’S GRANDEUR”

As the millennium approaches, and the final remnants of the twentieth-century become merely chronicles in history, one wakes to find oneself amid a world of industrial contamination, a world where natural scenery in consumed with smoke and waste. Pollution has corrupted streams and gradually depleted the ozone layer. For Hopkins, the devastating effects of pollution are obvious, as ideas similar to these continually surface in "God's Grandeur."


Hopkins' sonnet adheres to the traditional Petrarchan form, consisting of fourteen lines divided into an octet rhyming abbaabba, and a sestet rhyming cdcdcd. The octave develops the problem, while the sestet renders a solution. Much of the poem conforms to the rules of iambic pentameter; however, Hopkins occasionally shifts from this form, often toward the use of spondaics. This occurs in line six where "bleared" and "smeared" form spondees. Furthermore, "West went" in line eleven and "brink east" in line twelve, as well as "World broods" and "bright wings" in line fourteen, also form spondees.


A extraordinary number of sound devices can be found within the lines of "God's Grandeur" as well. For example, "Men" and "then" in line four, and "seared," "bleared," and "smeared" in line six all constitute internal rhyme, while the repetition of the "e" sound in "men" and "then," and the "ea" sounds in "seared," "bleared," and "smeared" are all representative of assonance. Nevertheless, in line seven, the words "wears" and "shares" demonstrate internal rhyme. "Shining" and "shook" in line two, "now" and "not," in line four, and "reck" and "rod," also in line four, all form alliterations, while the repetition of the "o" sound in "now," "not" and "rod," forms an assonance. In fact, a multitude of sound devices continue to appear throughout the remainder of the sonnet. "Smudge" and "smell" in line seven, "Now" and "nor" in line eight, and "foot" and "feel," also in line eight, all form alliterations. "Nature" and "never" in line nine also form an alliteration, while the repetition of the "n" and "r" sounds in "Nature" and "never" forms an assonance. Other alliterations found in the sonnet include: "Dearest," "deep," and "down" in line ten, as well as, "last" and "lights" and "west" and "went" in line eleven. Again, "west" and "went" also form a consonance through the repetition of the "w" and "t" sounds, while the repetition of the "e" sound forms an assonance. Furthermore, "Brown" and "brink" in line twelve also form an alliteration. Finally, the last line of the sonnet contains a cluster of similar sounds, such as: "broods," "breast," and "bright." The "w" sounds in "world," "with," "warm," and "wings" form an alliteration, while the "b" sounds in "brood," "breast," and "bright" also form an alliteration. Furthermore, the "b" and "t" sounds in "breast" and "bright" form a consonance. Other various literary devices that can be found in the sonnet include: similes, such as: "Shining from shook foil" and "Like the ooze of oil" in line three, as well as the use of enjambment in lines three, seven, eleven, and thirteen.


The first stanza of Hopkins' sonnet establishes the problem, which the reader later realizes is pollution. The persona proclaims that "The world is charged with the grandeur of God" (l. 1) Here, the word "charge" both develops the metaphor of the world as some sort of battery that can be "charged," or given power, as well as acting as a pun, suggesting an "electrical charge" as well as "duty" or "responsibility." Therefore, the world is "charged," in electrical terms, with God's magnificence, and well as being "charged," or responsible, for its maintenance. The footnote tells us that the simile "Like shining from shook foil" in line two is used in order to suggest "glares like sheet lightning," or more specifically, the powerful luster and radiance of God's brilliance, an idea which is also apparent through Hopkins' use of the word "shining." The next simile, "like the ooze of oil," is significant in that is suggests both olive oil and petroleum. The former would suggest a religious connotation, such as "anointing," or "renewal," while the latter is the first of a cluster of words, all associated with petroleum. This trend continues with Hopkins' use of the words "smeared" and "trade" in line six, followed by the use of the words "smudge," "smell," and "soil" in line seven. The word "trade" establishes some type of work, while the words "smeared," "smudge," and "smell," associate that type of work, possibly some type of industrial occupation, with the use of petroleum. "Man's smudge" is equivalent to the remnants of petroleum on a man's hands when he returns from work in a factory, while "man's smell" represents the terrible scent which seems to always accompany the use of petroleum (l. 7). Furthermore, the word "soil" is also significant it that petroleum is derived from the ground (l. 7). For the persona, the remnants of industrialization have destroyed the beauty of the world, leaving the beauty of nature "seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil" (l. 6). The repetition of the word "trod," a form of the word "tread," which is defined by Webster's as "the beating of one's feet against the ground," is critical in that it represents man's continual destruction of the earth.


In line four the persona questions man's lack of concern, inquiring, "Why do men then now not reck his rod?" Here, the word "reck" simply means "to care for or have concern for," while the "rod" is symbolic of divine authority. The final lines of the first stanza develop the idea of man's separation from the earth through the image of shoes, which obviously separates man's foot from the earth: "Nor can foot feel, being shod."


The sestet that follows offers a solution, asserting that "nature is never spent," that "there lives the dearest freshness deep down [in] things." The word "never" suggests God's eternal power to refurbish the beauty of nature. The final four lines of the sestet associate God's magnificence with the brilliance of the sun, or more specifically the glory of dawn. "And though the last lights off the black West went / Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward springs" (l. 12) Hence, the sun, like God's brilliance, fades in the West, but his splendor soon returns with the rising of the sun in the East. Images such as these represent ideas of hope, ideas which are also expressed through the use of such words as "Oh," in line twelve, and "ah" in line fourteen. Like the brightness of the sun, God's brightness renews itself, giving hope through the process of rebirth. Like the sun, the "Holy Ghost ". . . over the bent / World broods with warm breast . . . " (l. 13). Here, once again, Hopkins establishes a parallel between the "Holy Ghost" and the sun through the use of the word "warm" when describing His breast, and because of the fact that, like the sun, the "Holy Ghost" is positioned "over," or above, the world. This parallel is further established through Hopkins' use of the word "shining" in line two of the poem when describing the "grandeur of God," as well as the fact that the word "grandeur" is synonymous with words such as "brightness" and "glare." The word "bent" acts as a pun that describes the curvature of the earth, or "World," as well as suggesting the "bent," or crooked, behavior of mankind, while the word "black" refers to the thick black smoke which may have hovered in the air as a result of the industrialization process. Within the last line of the poem God is described as having "bright wings" which would associate Him with a bird, the earth obviously symbolizing the egg, or yolk, that He has created.


In the sonnet, the persona expresses the harmful effects of pollution upon nature, while continually questioning mankind's tendency to destroy an environment which God has created. The speaker yearns for the "grandeur" of natural scenery; however, in the end, he assures the reader that "nature is never spent," and that the beauty of nature will continually be restored through the power of God's magnificence.

 

 

Chris Tusa

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