In "God's Grandeur
," Hopkins uses many figurative devices, but the one repeated most often is alliteration
. Alliteration means using words that begin with the same consonant more than once in a line to create a rhythmic effect. It is a technique more associated with Old English and Middle English writing than with nineteenth-century poetry, in which rhyming dominated. But Hopkins uses alliteration abundantly. In the poem's second line, we read "flame" and "foil," "shining" and "shook." In line three, we note that "gathers" and greatness" are alliterative, as are "reck" and "rod" in line four. Almost every line in the poem is alliterative.
This dense piling of alliteration (and assonance, which is the same technique, only using words beginning with vowels) grows more and more intense as the poem proceeds, rising to a crescendo in stanza two to reflect the poet's rising emotions. In the last line, we experience two sets of three alliterations each:
world, warm and wings, and broods, breast and bright. This density mirrors the way in which the holy spirit, in the poet's imagination, surrounds, protects and envelopes the world. As Hopkins expresses it:
... the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.