A few weeks ago, some friends shared with me that they were memorizing Gerard Manley Hopkins’s “God’s Grandeur.” I left there with only one thought, “Challenge accepted!” So, I’ve started memorizing the poem with my family. Below are the poems and some thoughts on it.
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;1
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?2
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge, and shares man’s smell:3 the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.4
And, for all this, nature is never spent;5
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastwards, springs6–
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent7
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.8
I bought a used copy of a collection of Hopkins’s poems; in it were notes the previous owner had made on the poetry within. I share those here. The italicized portions of the comments are directly from the previous owner’s comments, the unitalicized are my own.
1 Makes a noise; the grandeur of God grows and spreads until the whole world is filled with the knowledge of the glory of God (Habakkuk 2:14).
2 Why don’t men consider God’s authority? Why do the nations rage, and the people meditate on vain things? (Psalm 2:1)
3 Man cast out of Eden must labor; We were probably always intended to labor, but now the labor is tiresome and sweaty.
4 Horses; Horses, or shoes, something that separates from us greater contact with nature, with Creation.
5 After all men’s toils and work, nature is always fresh; It is, but why?
6 Sunrise, sunset; Yep.
7 Communion with Nature; Because God is merciful, He still loves and desires relationships with us.
8 God is a bird, giving birth every morning; Bird metaphors for God are common throughout Scripture; they are an apt description of God’s great love and mercy toward us.