What is the most significant theme that "God's Grandeur" by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and "The World Is Too Much With Us" by William Wordsworth have in common?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Wordsworth’s poem “The World Is Too Much With Us” scolds mankind for ignoring nature and placing too much emphasis on his own society. Instead of communing with nature, man is only interested in materialism.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

Man is completely out of tune with the natural world.  The sea, the moon, the flora---nothing impresses man.  Wordsworth’s answer to this quandary is that he  would like  to have been born a pagan. The speaker wishes that he had been born a pagan and reared to see a different world with the Greek gods and titans connecting with nature as they rise on the waves or blow a horn to rouse the world around him.

This poem is a Petrarchan sonnet in form with fourteen lines.  The poem is broken into two parts: the first eight lines [octave] which follow the rhyme scheme---ABBAABBA; and the last six lines [sestet] with the rhyme scheme CDCDCD.  The octave offers a questions and the sestet provides an answer or a comment on the question.

Wordsworth thematically questions the ignorance of man who has placed his hope in what he can buy or possess.  To him, the only thing that is real and true is the natural world.  He would rather have lived in a time that was not developed and been in tune with nature.

Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “God’s Grandeur” emphasizes the beauty of nature with a metaphor alluding to its electrical energy. The first four lines of the poem illustrate God’s world as visible only in flashes.  God is always there like rich oil that swells to greatness and lets go when the pressure is too great. If man knows that God is in all of nature, Hopkins asks:  how can man not acknowledge God and his power? ‘

The second four lines of the octave relate the state of modern man----he works, works, and works in the repetitiveness style of man.  Man has misused the soil, the water, the natural world.  If man wears his shoes, how can he feel the earth beneath him?  This symbolizes the alienation of man from nature and God.

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.

The sestet proclaims that even though man has separated himself from God’s world, nature continues to offer its bounty to man.  God does not give up on man. 

The spring brings renewed hope and the deep freshness that is a part of God’s resplendent earth.  He sends the Holy Ghost to tend to his garden gently.  God worries about the earth but never hesitates when it is time to bring back to life his world with the wings of the angels.

Thematically, both poems denote the failure of man to appreciate nature and the earth that is a necessary part of life. God watches over the world and fears that man will not come to his senses to take care of the natural world.  His mighty hand in the form of the Holy Spirit tends to the resplendent world waiting for man to come back to nature.

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God's Grandeur

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