On the last Sunday in Advent, “God’s Grandeur” by Hopkins seems like the perfect poem to read as we prepare for the coming birth of the Christ child. But if truth be told, on any day of the week a Hopkins’ poem would no doubt be the perfect poem to read.
Hopkins was a convert to Roman Catholicism. His Roman Catholic faith infuses his poetry in a way that is as unique to English poetry as his famous sprung rhythm is. Combined they make him one of the most interesting poets in the English language. And one of the most difficult.
Hopkins is difficult because he consistently pushes the boundaries of language, metaphor, and thought. He makes your tongue and your mind work. Most of his poems require more than one reading to fully appreciate them. The effort, however, is worth it. His poetry is wonderful.
“God’s Grandeur” in not one of Hopkins’ difficult poems. It is, however, one of his most famous. On a Sunday morning, it’s hymn-like quality seems very apropos.
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; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And 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, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.