Heritage of Words – Class 12 English Notes
Writer : Gerard Manley Hopkins
In his sonnet “God’s Grandeur” the poet G.M Hopkins praises the magnificence and glory of God. He describes the majestic deeds of God. He claims that God is omnipresent and omnipotent. The good deeds on earth are also the results of these qualities of God. Though human beings continuously destroy nature, it is never spent.
The world is full of the greatness of God. Due to His greatness, the world shines like ‘a shook foil’. It gathers to greatness, as it is full of resources. Despite this fact, human beings act adversely. They don’t follow the commands of God; rather they function to destroy the world. Earlier generations destroyed the earth and so is the case with the present generation. People are more interested in materialist gain and possessions than in celebrating the glory of a loving, merciful, heavenly Father. They act as if they are not rational creatures. As a result of their deed, the earth has become dry; it has the smell of human beings instead of its natural smell. Indeed the earth has reached to the verge of destruction. Nevertheless, the world is not completely destroyed. Because of the freshness that is inside things, nature keeps on regenerating. The sun sets in the evening only to reappear in the morning. These all happenings are the results of the god’s protection. He protects the earth just like a bird broods over the eggs.
Though the world is infused with the glory of God and Christ offered His body to be crucified, mankind does not live in awe of God, but imposes darkness on itself by running endlessly. Even so, despite humanity’s shortcomings, God is most capable of perfect love and embraces the world anyway. The poet is of the opinion that human beings acts are always directed towards destruction: knowingly or unknowingly. But God loves all the creatures of the world, so he works for the benefit of the creatures without any hope of benefit or profit. The poet inspires people to grow faith in God.
The first four line of the octave (first eight line stanza in Italian sonnet) describe natural world through which God’s presence runs like an electronic current, becoming momentarily visible in the flashes like the refracted glinting of lights produced by metal foil when rumpled or quickly moved. Alternatively, god’s presence is rich oil, a kind of sap that wells up “to a greatness” which tapped with a certain kind of patient pressure. Given there, clear, strong proof of God’s presence in the world, the poet asks how that human fail to heed (pay attention to; listen to or reck) His divine authority (his rod).
The second quatrain within the octave describes the state of contemporary human life – the blind repetitiveness of human labor, and the sordidness and train of “toil” and “trade”. The landscape in its natural state reflects God and its creator. But industry and the prioritization of the economic over the spiritual have transformed the landscape and robbed humans of their sensitivity to those few beauties of nature still left. The shoes people wear saver physical connection between our feet and the earth they walk on, symbolizing an ever-increasing spiritual alienation from nature.
The septet (the final six lines of the sonnet, enacting a turn or shift in argument) asserts that, in spite of the fallen of Hopkins’s contemporary Victorian world, nature does not cease offering up its spiritual indices (index). Permeating (fill) the world is a deep “freshness” that testifies to the continual renewing power of God’s creation. This power of renewal is seen in the way morning always waits on the other side of dark night. The source of this constant regeneration is the grace of a God who “broods” over a seemingly lifeless world with the patient nurture of a mother hen. This final image one of the Gods’s guarding the potential of the world and contains with Himself the power and promise of rebirth. With the final exclamation “ah! Bright wings”, Hopkins suggests both an awed intuition (instinct; insight) of the beauty of God’s grace, and the joyful suddenness of a hatching bird emerging out of God loves incubation (hatching).
The world is full of God’s magnificence. The electrical images (charged, shining) convey danger as well as power of God. The poet constantly emphasizes that God’s glory is hidden except to the inquiring eye or on special occasions. In comparing the lightening to’ shaken gold foil, he may possibly have been influenced by the gold-leaf electroscope. The opening lines convey Hopkin’s sense of the power ·and glory of god latent in the world. The question describes what man has done to the world that should shine with God’s grandeur. Next comes the suggestion of ruin and dirtiness with the vowel run seared, bleared, smeared. The process is continued by smudge and smell, which pick up the initial consonant sound ’smear’ and, with new intensification, makes man’s smell indeed foul. One can also notice, in Line 7, the intensifying effect in the rhyme of wears and shares and the repetition of man’s with each: the earth is doubly infected (wears, shares) with man’s filth (dirtiness) as it were. The first four lines thus carry the imagery of the thunderstorm at first, the sense of brooding expectancy and then the burst of lighting. Here, Hopkins is concerned with why other people do not respond as he did, and the answer is suggested in the next four lines, beginning with “Generations have trod, have trod, have trod.” Generations of men, ignoring the miraculous quality of life, have lost touch with the grandeur of god and become callous (heartless) to it. Their efforts have all been away from what is most essential to them. Man has betrayed his inborn nature instead of developing it, and has given himself up to trade, industrialization and materialism. He has isolated himself from the sources of knowledge to be found in nature, allowing his greed to destroy his, natural sensitivity to beauty. The poets sweeping condemnation of 19th century industrialization comes very close to his condemnation of man himself.”Shares man’s smell” although it could possibly refer to smells in manufacturing, it suggests physical loathing (hateful). But even at this stage there is hope and faith.
“And for all this, nature is never spent their lives the dearest freshness deep down things”. Natural beauty is still a loving force to him, and a constant reassurance of God’s concern for the world. Explicitly, Hopkins contrasts here the beauty of nature with the ugliness of mankind’s deeds.Thus, the poem is a protest against the materialism of the Victorian age. Although man is greedy and wasteful, he may still hope to be saved as long as God is there. This is an explicitly religious poem.
Questions and Answers:
- What is the theme of the poem God’s grandeur?
Ans: Glorifying and praising god’s grandeur describes magnificence of Omni present god. The poet also shows contrast between beauty of the nature with ugliness of industrialization and commercial activity. According to the poet the world is filled with greatness of the god’s grandeur is reflected like shining from a hammered gold foil. It also accumulates greatness like oozing of oil from oil seeds on pressing them. Despite being about the glory and power of the god, human beings are indifferent towards god which makes the poet feel surprise. Human beings are following the same worthy path being un-mind full towards god’s power to punish them. Everything in this world has been made ugly by materialism and commercial activities because of human beings involvement in monetary gain. The freshness and beauty of nature have been blocked by industrial activities and fragrance of nature has been drowning in the foul order (bad smell) that comes from man and machinery.
Despite human activities tending to destroy the beauty of nature, it remains fresh and undestroyed through the soil is bare now because of human beings as destruction of natural green growth, human beings are insensitive to toes bareness because of their involvement in commercial activities like the feet which cannot feel the softness of soil because of shoe. The poet says that in the depth of the earth there is never ending source of freshness with which the nature renews itself when the spring comes. The poet symbolize the sun rise as the renewal of the nature like the bird that broods and protect us despite our unwise activities and indifference towards god because god’s beauty is changeless and eternal.
Question for practice :
- Give reasons why men are unaware of the greatness of God?
- What is the central idea of the poem?