Analyse Hopkins as a religious poet?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Drawn to Catholicism in 1866, Gerard Manley Hopkins burned the poetry he had written, declaring it too worldly.  In a letter to his poet friend, Robert Bridges, Hopkins wrote, "I am a eunuch, but it is for the kingdom of God's sake."  After he became a Jesuit priest, Hopkins did not compose poetry although he had not forsaken his two vocations. Finally, in 1875, when he told his superior how moved he was by the wreck of the Deutschland, a ship that carried exiled Franciscan nuns from Germany who were all drowned, his superior expressed the hope that someone would write a poem about this disaster. So, it was this poem that joined, for Hopkins, God's love with God's wrath as in Part I, stanza 9:

Be adored among men,

God, three-numbered form;

Wring thy rebel, dogged in den,

Man's malice, with wrecking and storm.

Beyond syaing sweet, past telling of tongue,

Thou are lightning and love, I found it, a winter and warm;

Father and fondler of heart thou has wrung;

Hast thy dark descending and most art merciful then.

Clearly, religion is not a refuge for Hopkins in his poetry.  In his "Terrible Sonnets," for instance, Hopkins exposes his misery.  But, many of his poems juxtapose anguish with rapture as in his poem, "God's Grandeur":

The world is charged with the grandeur of God....

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 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.

Hopkins perceives God reaching out to help humanity; from  the original condition of man in which he became divided from God, the Holy Spirit now imbues man with offers of communion. Nature, too, is tied to this connection of man with God. For, Hopkins perceives divinity in nature, and in order to describe this view of the divine in nature, Hopkins uses that which he calls "inscape," a central organizing principle that is its identity. Human beings are capable of recognizing the inscapes of other people and of objects. When people experience the spirit of an object, they experience “instress,” which can be described as a feeling of communion with the “soul” of the object.  With inscape, one may feel the momentary union with God through Christ in the contemplation of natural objects:

Glory be to God for dappled things--

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;....

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

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