Literary judgment of the greatness of God

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the greatness of god

The world is charged with the greatness of God.

It will be extinguished, like the shine of a shaken leaf;

It comes together to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why don’t men then rip his rod off now?

Generations walked, walked, walked;

And everything is eaten away by commerce; smeared, smeared with labor;

And bear the stain of man and share the scent of man: the ground

Is naked now, and the foot cannot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never exhausted;

There dwells the dearest freshness at the bottom of things;

And though the last lights put out the dark west went away

Oh, morning, at the brown edge to the east, gushes out –

Because the Holy Spirit on the bow

The world is smoldering with hot breasts and with ah! shiny wings.

РG̩rard Manley Hopkins

How do you read a poem? How do you study poetry? How is it analyzed? How is its meaning interpreted and the different techniques and styles of writing that make it effective and understood clarified? A description of a poem which elucidates all of these things and explains its meaning is known, among other terms, as practical criticism.

It becomes very interesting to study or explain a poem like “God’s Grandeur” by the English Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins because of all the rare qualities it possesses. To criticize a poem is to analyze it and identify its techniques, all the different properties that make it work like a poem. Yet poetry lovers may say that what matters is the enjoyment of the poem, appreciating the beauty, the sound, and being moved by the interesting, rare, surprising, unusual or profound things in it. say, without being encumbered by the anatomy, or the dissection of it.

While this may be the end product of reading a poem, there is just as much joy in the interpretation, the understanding of what makes it work – what goes into a poem that makes it so beautiful, so interesting. , so surprising or so rare. It is an achievement to discover these things and to know how a poem is constructed.

This is what students are asked to do when asked to comment on poems during an exam. This poem by Hopkins is one of many that are studied for the examination subject of the Caribbean English B Secondary Education Certificate (Literature). It is just as rewarding to understand how the poem is made as it is to enjoy reading or listening to it. Its mystery is solved. What these students learn to follow are the methods of literary study.

So what is the meaning of Hopkins’ “God’s Greatness”? And how do you know? In some approaches to practical criticism, it is not necessary to have knowledge of the poet and his background or the background of the poem. But something is interesting to know, and often it helps you understand the poem.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 – 1889) was an English poet of the Victorian era. He is highly regarded and has been called the most original poet of the 19th century and among the greatest. This is because his writing was so different from others in his time and his style stood out, moving away from the conventional meter of the century. He developed what is called the “spring rhythm” which was influenced by medieval poetry – Old English (Anglo-Saxon) and Middle English. He drew heavily on these ancient rhythms and conventions and used them to diversify the metric structure commonly used in Victorian poetry. It is said that he innovated around rhythm and brought it closer to the free verse found in modern poetry.

Hopkins grew up in a family whose members were versed in the visual arts, music and poetry. His father was a poet who influenced the son and inspired the artist in him. So he loved to experiment and adopted much of what was found in medieval verse, such as alliteration and repetitions. See the many repetitions of consonant sounds and internal rhymes – “shining from shaken foil”; “The generations walked, walked, walked”; “The brown edge springs east” and “men so now do not count its rod”.

This innovation allowed him to forge his own words and to borrow some from the medieval. These helped distinguish his poetry from other Victorians and make it rare, but this also made it somewhat unpopular during this time.

Another characteristic that stems from his family and personal background is the element of Christianity. The poem talks about “the greatness of God” – how the Lord’s creation is manifested in different ways, including the things of nature and the birds, as mankind has moved away from it and even destroyed it. The ways and practices of men are in conflict with the nature and the imprimatur of God, but his “greatness” persists. “It will extinguish like shine from a shaken aluminum foil” or it “will assemble to a magnitude like the ooze of oil”. At the end of the poem, it culminates with the wonder of God’s creation in the image of a bird. The Holy Spirit “broods” the world like a great “warm-breasted” bird. It ends with an expansive expression of deep emotion, still supporting the image of a bird – “and with ah! Shining wings”.

In Victorian times, as in Romantic poetry, there was a feeling that the spread of industrial development was negatively affecting the land just as it had diminished humanity. A society overtaken by commerce, manufacturing and materialism deteriorates the natural environment and devalues ​​the finer mind. This is why the poet uses the expression “everything is burned by commerce, smeared, smeared with labor”. In addition, man has lost all appreciation of nature or values ​​- “the ground / is bare, and the foot cannot smell, being shod”.

Throughout the poem there is a feeling of loss. The growth of industry and the new values ​​of material development are agents of physical as well as human deterioration. This is why the poet values ​​nature. But Hopkins was a Christian – he was actually ordained a Jesuit priest, so he believes in the poem that there is a greater power watching over the world. In this poem, he takes the form of a bird. The poet believes that creation is still visible and manifests the presence of God – all around there is “the greatness of God”.


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