How does Hopkins make use of syntax in his poem "God's Gradeur" and for what purpose?

Asked on by lifeinlove

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handbooktoliterature's profile pic

handbooktoliterature | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

In line four the two back to back stressed syllables feel abrupt and may create a sense of urgency or importance to the questions of God's presence that are being asked.

Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

The syntax also falls back into a trotting rhythm with the repetition of "have trod." 

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

After the first quatrain, the syntax causes a focus on the "soil" of man, as the poem's imagery switches from the presence of God to the presence and labor of mankind.

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.

Finally, when the poem transitions to the last six line sestet, the syntax seems to take on a more continous flow. This more fluid rhythm fits with the topic of natural beauty and God's presence through nature.

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.

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Syntax, or the structure and order of words, is particularly evident in this poem in the way that Hopkins uses the order of words and his sentence construction in order to reinforce his central message. Note, for example, how repetition in the following quote serves to emphasise the way in which humans endlessly repeat the same activities that constantly distance themselves from nature and its true power and majesty:

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.

In addition to the repetition of "have trod," there is also the internal rhyme of "seared," "bleared" and "smeared," which serves to highlight the negative way in which nature is impacted by man's work. The negative position of man in this equation is again underlined by the repetion of "man" in the third line. Throughout the poem therefore, it can be seen that the syntax of the lines is clearly used by Hopkins to emphasise his message and purpose, which is to present about the grandeur of God in nature and how God's beauty and majesty is evident in the natural world, in spite of man's best efforts to ruin it.


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