Who Is God? Gerard Hopkins Explores
Who is God? A theme that Gerard Hopkins seems to have spent his life exploring and attempting to answer through his poetry. By exploring nature around him, Hopkins adds insight to God’s relationship with and essential role to man-- that of creator and redeemer. In his poem “Windhover” we see a prayer to God as the all-powerful being in which we attempt to give ourselves fully over to-- and through the observance of a falcon we see Christ’s descent from heaven to save mankind. The images in “God’s Grandeur “further Hopkins exploration by following man’s sinful nature, oblivion to grace and hope of salvation through Christ. Suggesting that the Almighty’s grandeur comes from redemption of the unworthy. By harmonizing these poems the reader can begin to uncover Hopkin’s understanding of the greatness of God and mankind’s relationship with Him through salvation and grace.
Throughout the octave of his sonnet, “God’s Grandeur”, Hopkins uses the natural imagery to explore the Biblical acts of creation, fall of man, Christ’s sacrifice, and his disgust of man’s continuance in sin and destruction of nature to show just how unworthy of God’s grace man is. Through the act of creation Hopkins establishes that God’s power is absolute and eternal. “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” This speaks to the spark that started creation-- the charge that brought man and the diversity of nature into being. The spark is also like electricity, which produces light: “And God said, let their be light. And their was light.” (Gen. 1:3,KJV) Adam’s fall that set for the sinful nature of man: “Generations have trod, have trod, have trod,” also resulted in God foreordained master plan of salvation for his lost creations – Christ the redeemer. In the Bible, Christ was compared to the light of the world, and later the Holy Spirit would be like tongues of fire “flames out/like shining from shook foil.” This redeemer shed His blood for the fallen man of which Hopkins is writing, it oozed out of his body when crushed “like the ooze of oil.” When oil was used as part of the symbolic ritual of atonement during Biblical times, it was actually a type or symbol for Christ’s blood. In His sacrifice Christ atoned for mankind’s sin. The writer’s distressed tone emphasizes his disbelief that even in the face of this greatness men still do not respect and fear God, “Why do men then now not reck his rod.” Hopkins ends the octave on a note of disgust that even after this great sacrifice mankind could still be more interested in material wealth and destruction of creation for profit than having a spiritual nature: “all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil.” Hopkin’s uses images of a destroyed nature to not only paint a bleak picture of sin, but also to symbolically speak to the barren spiritual state of man. “And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: The soil/is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.” Man cannot feel a connection with God, through nature, because his feet are shod. In biblical times, shoes were removed on holy ground in reverence -- man is defiling the holy ground that God created.
The sestet seeks to explain God’s magnificence by contrasting the dark scene of the octave to the constancy of God’s grace and continued relationship with man. I believe Hopkins is saying that the grandeur of God is that, despite our blatant disregard for His creation and sacrifice, He does not abandon us. “And all for this, nature is never spent.” Nature can not only be seen as God rejuvenating His creation despite our mistreatment, but can also allude to God’s nature restoring grace and mercy on mankind through Christ. Through the writer’s amazement we see a longsuffering Creator that continues to bring new life into a fallen world: “There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.” Hopkins also takes comfort in that, despite man’s shortcomings God has continued to work, through the Holy Ghost that “over the bent/world broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.” Meaning that God, through the Holy Spirit, protects His people like a mother bird who