Essay about Analysis of God's Grandeur

Essay about Analysis of God's Grandeur

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As a Jesuit priest who had converted to Catholicism in the summer of 1866, Gerard Manley Hopkins’s mind was no doubt saturated with the Bible (Bergonzi 34). Although in "God’s Grandeur" Hopkins does not use any specific quotations from the Bible, he does employ images that evoke a variety of biblical verses and scenes, all of which lend meaning to his poem. Hopkins "creates a powerful form of typological allusion by abstracting the essence--the defining conceit, idea, or structure--from individual scriptural types" (Landow, "Typological" 1). Through its biblical imagery, the poem manages to conjure up, at various points, images of the Creation, the Fall, Christ’s Agony and Crucifixion, man’s continuing sinfulness and rebellion, and the continuing presence and quiet work of the Holy Spirit. These images combine to assure the reader that although the world may look bleak, man may yet hope, because God, through the sacrifice of Christ and the descent of His Holy Spirit, has overcome the world.

The opening line of "God’s Grandeur" is reminiscent both of the Creation story and of some verses from the Book of Wisdom. The word "charged" leads one to think of a spark or light, and so thoughts of the Creation, which began with a spark of light, are not far off: "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light" (Gen. 1.3). Yet this "charge" was not a one time occurrence; "[t]he world is charged with the grandeur of God" (Hopkins 1). Or, in the words of Wisdom 1:7, "The spirit of the Lord fills the world" (Boyle 25). This line of the poem also sounds like Wisdom 17:20: "For the whole world shone with brilliant light . . ." Nor does the similarity end with the first part of this biblical verse. The author of Wisdom proceeds to tell us that the light "continued its works without interruption; Over [the Egyptians] alone was spread oppressive night . . . yet they were to themselves more burdensome than the darkness" (Wisd. 17.20-21). Here lies the essence of Hopkins’s poem. In lines five through eight, he will show us the "oppressive night" that men bring upon themselves in their disregard for God and His creation. But he will also show us, in the final sestet of his poem, that the light will nonetheless continue to shine "without interruption." God will not cease working in the world.

Indeed, His grandeur "will flame out, like shining from shook foil" (Hopki...


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...d. 19.4), and with His conquest. This last association, though not the most obvious, is perhaps the most crucial. When God is said to "spread His wings over" a city, it means He has conquered it (Jer. 48.40). At the end of "God’s Grandeur," God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, has spread His "bright wings" over the "bent world," implying that He is not only protecting, healing, and strengthening it, but that, despite the seeming triumph of darkness, He has already conquered the world through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who was crushed like an olive for this very purpose.

The world remains charged with the grandeur of God, "in spite of all mankind has done and is doing to pollute and pervert and tread out its radiance" (Ellis 129). God, through the constant presence of His Holy Spirit, continues to rejuvenate physical nature as well as the human spirit; both are "being made over anew" (Wisd. 19.6). So, however dark and dreary this world may appear (and does appear in lines five through eight of the poem), we must not surrender hope. For as Christ exhorted, "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16.33).

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