EXPLICATION OF HOPKINS’ “GOD’S GRANDEUR”
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.