Compare and contrast the structure and poetic elements of Wordsworth's "The World is Too Much with Us" and Gerald Manley Hopkins "Gods Grandeur."

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The chief comparisons between the two lay in (1) the subjects (nature) and (2) the poetic form (sonnets). Both subjects address the lamentable power of riches and enterprise--in a world of greed and ambition--over humans at the loss of connection with nature. One contrast though is how the comparable subjects are addressed. Another contrast is the variations of poetic form of the sonnets.

The contrasts on the subject are Wordsworth's approach of angry chiding and blaming in contrast to Hopkins' approach of edification and encouraging. The contrasting variations on the sonnet form are somewhat complex with similarities and contrasts.


  • abbaabba cdcdcd
  • Spenserian concatenation (topic linking) at aa couplet for three couplets altogether
  • Petrarchan octet with sestet; 1 volta (turn in topic)
  • Arguably two quatrains (not octet) because of the turn in topic at line 5, from complaining of our waste to describing what we have torn our hearts away from: thus 2 voltas, thus a Shakespearean sonnet-style double topic followed by resolution.


  • Petrarchan sestet, no rhyming couplet
  • cdcdcd
  • mostly end-stops, little enjambment (line 9)
  • sestet presents paradoxical solution: Christan can be pagan to enjoy nature and escape "Getting and spending"
  • lament


  • abbaabba cdcdcd
  • Spenserian concatenation (topic linking) at aa couplet for three couplets altogether
  • Petrarchan octet with sestet; 1 volta


  • Petrarchan sestet, no rhyming couplet
  • cdcdcd
  • mostly end-stops; 4 enjambments at 3rd, 7th, 11th, and 13th lines forming a distinguishable pattern
  • sestet presents double paradox solution: 1. nature is eternal "never spent" though seared, smeared and soiled and 2. this is because the Holy Ghost is the surprise distributor of nature's eternal power
  • praise for solution

Since there is a great deal of confusion about the terms "literary device" "literary technique" and "literary element," let's define these so we are talking about the same things.

Literary device labels the two separate parts that together comprise the stylistic composition of a literary work. The two parts, classes, kinds, or categories of literary device are literary elements and literary techniques.

Literary element is first and the essential category of literary devices for literary works. All literary works share elements in common. Structure is a literary element: all literary works have structure. Some other elements are chronology, theme, characters or speaker personas, voice, point of view, mood, tone, chronology. Literary elements are not an optional choice for an author: elements must be present in a work of literature.

Literary technique is the second and the non-essential, completely optional category of literary devices. Works may be free of literary techniques, though most do have some sort. Rhyme and symbolism are literary techniques. Many literary works no rhyme and some have no symbolism. Some other techniques are personification, hyperbole, imagery, irony, ambiguity, flashbacks, metaphor, allegory, allusion. Literary techniques are optional: works may be completely literal with no rhetorical or figurative techniques at all.

None of these terms are synonymous. Each term is distinctly different from the others with "literary device" being the umbrella term.

Elements that contrast are theme and tone. Wordsworth's theme might be stated as: Since humans will be overwhelmed by the power of the world's greed, there is no solution but to metaphorically reject society and live as a pagan in deep connection to estranged nature. Hopkins' theme might be stated as: Though humans will be deaf to God's instruction and mar nature, God showers down grandeur under the hand of the Holy Ghost present to lead humans back to nature and God's greatness.

The tones accord with the themes. Wordsworth has an angry, agitated, chiding tone (deviating from his typical mystical, contemplative tone) that fits with his scolding lament. Hopkins has a tone that is mournful about the separation from nature but joyful about the plausibility of a grand solution.

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