Poem: The Grandeur of God by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The first time I read this poem, I didn’t get most of what it said.

I knew the last line rang on intriguingly, as last lines sometimes do, and that it felt like the culmination of the whole poem, but I had missed the meaning of most of what had gone before. I liked it enough that I went back and read it many more times, out loud, until my mind was processing the sentences. (They are grammatical sentences, despite the first impression.)

Many poems function as I just described, this one has a really bad case of it. That’s because of the cacophony. The thing reads like a tongue twister. It really makes you work for it. And that’s what I ultimately love about it.

The other thing I love is how it addresses our universal fear that the world has been permanently ruined and that we can never get the glory back.

I hope you’ll read it through several times, as I did, and that the reading rewards you as much as it did me.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
it gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
crushed. Why do men then now not reck His rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
and all is seared with trade; smeared, bleared with toil,
and wears Man's smudge and shares Man's smell; the soil
is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

Yet for all this, Nature is never spent:
there lives the dearest freshness deep down things.
And though the last lights off the black West went
oh, morning, o'er the brown brink Eastward, springs,
because the Holy Ghost over the bent
world broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.