Does a person need to be religious to appreciate this poem?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Hopkins uses the invocation of God in the poem to establish what he sees as essential in the world.  The poem can be appreciated outside of the domain of religion, as well.  For example, if one considers that there can be a universal force of love or beauty which exists for human beings to both partake and contribute, this could serve the same purpose as the role of the divine in the poem.  If one substitutes this for the divine presence in the poem, the meaning still exists.  Consider the following substitution:

Hopkins' poem- Line 1- The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

Substitution- The world is charged with the grandeur of love.

Hopkins- poem- Lines 13- 14- Because the Holy Ghost over the bent/ World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Substitution- Because the beauty over the bent/ World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

If one sought to replace the image of God in the poem with some type of transcendent notion of the good, the same purpose is accomplished.  The fundamental premise of the poem is that there can be something incorruptible and good in the world.  For people who are religious, this is a reverence of the divine.  Yet, one can see that beauty, the love between human beings, or an ideal like justice can serve the same purpose.  The poem's reverential attitude is something that does not have to remain solely in the world of religion.  Hopkins' speaks to a purity and a hope that spans both religion and a view that might exist outside of it.

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