Hello there! Can you believe that we’re in December already? And soon you’ll be heading off for the Christmas holidays! Have fun, stay safe, and be kind. Today we look at another poem on the CSEC syllabus, and we show you how you can improve your writing with more interesting sentence constructions. Read on, and enjoy!
ENGLISH B— Poetry (2018-2020) Today’s poem for discussion is God’s Grandeur Hopkins.
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.
Manley Hopkins was a Roman Catholic priest, so, not surprisingly, his experience of Nature is blended with his reverence for God. This poem is a sonnet. In the first eight lines (the octave) the speaker tells us that the world cannot help but show forth the ‘grandeur’ of God: it is ‘charged’ with that grandeur—charged like a battery, and charged with the responsibility of manifesting God’s glory. Why, then, the speaker asks, do men refuse to be guided by God’s laws (not reck his rod)? Instead of obeying God, one generation after another seems bent on spoiling this lovely earth: it is seared with trade (because everything is about money) and smeared with toil (because people have to work slavishly in a profit-driven society), and man has lost touch with Nature (just as someone wearing shoes can no longer feel the grass or sand beneath his feet: ‘nor can foot feel, being shod’.
In the final six lines (the sestet) the anxious mood of the octave is left behind, and a note of hope is injected into the poem. For all this (despite man’s sinful love of money and profit), Nature is ‘never spent’, but is constantly being renewed: ‘There lives the dearest freshness deep down things’. Just as night (‘last lights’) gives way to day (‘morning springs’), so Nature is forever being restored. How is this? According to the speaker, it’s because the powerful energy that first created the world is still at work: the ‘Holy Ghost over the bent/ World broods’ bringing new life into all things.
Tone: As you can see, the tone of the poem is deeply reverent and joyfully optimistic about the possibility of redemption.
• Puns: The world is ‘charged’ with the grandeur. Charged has two mean ings: the first taken from electrical charges and the second meaning to be given responsibility for something. This is effective because it makes us think about the dynamism of God’s glory shining through everything, but also reminds us that we have a responsibility to show God’s glory in our words and deeds. The phrase ‘bent world’ is a pun. The world appears ‘bent’ because it is a ball, but morally the world is ‘bent’—meaning crooked. It’s effective because the first meaning suggests the vastness of the curve over which the Holy Ghost broods while the second meaning reminds us of the sinfulness that is forever needing forgiveness and restoration.
• Metaphor: The Holy Ghost is compared to a bird on its nest through the use of the words ‘broods’, ‘warm breast’ and ‘bright wings’. The effect is to give us a sense of the love that God has for us, caring for us just as a bird cares for its young.
• Similes: ‘like shining from shook foil’. When you shake aluminum foil and it catches the light, the shining will flame out. The speaker asserts that God’s grandeur similarly flames out of every created thing. The simile is effective because we are familiar with the way foil flashes in the light, so we can understand that it is in the very nature of things that they will show forth God’s glory. (These are important devices, but if you search you will also find examples of alliteration, assonance, repetition and archaic language, and allusion—to the Biblical story of Creation.)
Comparison with other poems by Gerard Manley
You will enjoy comparing Hopkins’ poem with David Rubidari’s. Both are about Nature, but where Rubadiri just wants to show us the way the storm plays with the little African village, tossing and whirling its way, Hopkins meditates on Nature only in order to tell us about man’s sinfulness AND God’s willingness to redeem and restore. His is a very religious response, while Rubidari’s is more sensuous and descriptive. Hopkins’ poem is slow moving and thoughtful while Rubidari’s is energetic and visual. Find more similarities and differences, and then decide which poem you prefer, and why.
Dress up your sentence!
Let’s explore a couple of ways in which you can make a sentence more interesting, and more effective. We’ll start with adjectives and adverbs.
Adjectives modify nouns, and adverbs modify verbs. Look at this sentence: The man walked along the road. Now let’s see what happens when we add an adjective and an adverb:
• The • The • The
elderly man walked wearily along the road. wanted man walked cautiously along the road. strange man walked jauntily along the road.
You can see how those modifiers bring new meaning to the sentence, can’t you?
How about changing the word order to emphasise the mood of the man?
• Wearily, the elderly man walked along the road. • Cautiously, the wanted man walked along the road. • Jauntily, the strange man walked along the road.
How about making the verb more interesting?
• Wearily, the elderly man staggered along the road. • Cautiously, the wanted man crept along the road. • Jauntily, the strange man strutted along the road.
Your Turn Now It’s fun to dress up your sentences! Try it with these examples:
• The girl moved towards the door. • The child looked at the dog.
Here are 15 words that are a bit tricky. Ask someone to test you, and make sure you can spell them. Write down any that you get wrong, and learn them. Eligible, embarrass, encouragement, exaggerate, excessive, exhilarating, existence, extension, fascinate, mischievous, filthy, maintenance, foreign, generosity, grievous.
Making the verb agree with the subject is not always easy. Here are some teasers to set you thinking.
1. The club’s president, along with several senior members of the club, was/were
at the airport to welcome their counterparts from Barbados. 2. Colin is one of the technicians who was/were dissatisfied with the proposals
made for upgrading the laboratory facilities. 3. Cherille is the only member of the group of sixth-form students who
objects/object to making Caribbean Studies compulsory. 4. The local doctor, who consulted with nurses and pharmacists in the three vil lages, recognizes/recognize that use of the media for health education is urgently needed. 5. This newspaper has made several reports about the increasing number of vio
lent crimes that threatens/threaten our peace of mind. 6. Residents in the area report that the number of stray dogs has/have increased,
as too has/have the incidence of rabies. 7. The deaf is/are to benefit from this new initiative, but the rich in the society
has/have to pitch in to keep the programme going. 8. As soon as the alarm went off, the police was/were called in, and the army
was/were put on alert. 9. The committee is/are unable to agree among themselves on one of the details of
the case. 10. Quite a number of corrections needs/need to be made in your letter before you
send it off.
1. president was 2. technicians were 3. only one who objects 4. doctor recognizes 5. crimes threaten 6. number has…incidence has 7. deaf are…rich have 8. police were…army was 9. are (because of “themselves”, which makes the committee plural rather than singular) 10. corrections need