In the first line of “God’s Grandeur,” Gerard Manley Hopkins states, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” In the next line, he cautions that this splendor does not last. “It will flame out,” he says. In the remaining lines of the first stanza, Hopkins appears to connect God’s grandeur with the generations of people who have worked, toiled, and labored on God’s earth. The actions of these people don’t seem so grand. They come across as arduous, alienating, and exploitive. “The soil / Is bare now,” writes Hopkins in the final line of the first stanza. This—the preyed-upon soil—might be a clue as to how Hopkins sees the renewal of nature.
Sure enough, in the second stanza, Hopkins claims that humans’ punishing relationship with nature has not defeated it. Nature remains triumphant. As Hopkins declares, “Nature is never spent.” In Hopkins’s poem, nature possesses an endless capacity for regeneration. Within nature, there’s this “dearest freshness deep down” that, apparently, no amount of exploitation can extinguish.
Taking into account the contrasting depictions in the two stanzas, it’s reasonable to argue that Hopkins believes that nature has an infinite capacity to live on, no matter what humans do to it. The mystical, unlimited potential of nature appears to be the work of God, whose “warm breast” keeps nature nourished and alive even in a “bent” world. In other words, Hopkins seems to attribute the renewal of nature to God and God’s ongoing compassion amidst a rather ruthless world.