What is the rhythm of the last line? I was thinking it is: "World broods (spondee) with warm breast (anapest) and with ah! (anapest) bright wings (spondee)."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Throughout his poetry, Hopkins uses a form of poetic rhythm called sprung rhythm, which is supposed to reproduce the rhythms of everyday speech. In very simple terms—because discussions of sprung rhythm can get quite technical—sprung rhythm uses a more varied stress pattern than standard meters.

In "God's Grandeur," Hopkins uses a mixture of sprung rhythm and more regular iambic pentameter (which is da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM). An example of iambic pentameter comes in line 11:

And though the last lights off the black West went ...

Here we have five iambs, metrical feet consisting of an unstressed syllable, followed by stressed syllables. (In the above line, the stressed syllables are in bold).

Now, let's look at the last line. As Hopkins's use of meter is highly irregular, there's no one way to read this—or, indeed, any other of his poems. To a large extent, what matters is what sounds right if you read it out loud. (And Hopkins, more than any other poet, should always be read out loud.)

I would argue that you're right in saying that "World broods" is a spondee, a foot consisting of two stressed syllables. I would also say that you're right with regards to "with warm breast" being an example of anapest, two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed one. The same also applies to "and with ah!"

The last two words constitute a spondee, as you rightly say, as they consist of two stressed syllables. It's entirely appropriate that the poem should end this way, as Hopkins is emphasizing the Holy Ghost as it broods over God's creation.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team