The primary theme of Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins's "Thou art indeed just, Lord" is the philosophical problem of evil.
This issue concerns the existence of evil in a world thought to be governed by an all-powerful and benevolent god. The poem's epigraph, or the short passage in Latin that precedes the poem, comes from the opening lines of Jeremiah 12: "You are always righteous, Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper?" (Jeremiah 12:1 NIV). Hopkins echoes this sentiment in his poem's opening lines: "Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend / With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just. / Why do sinners’ ways prosper?" (1-3). He claims that God is "just," or that he rewards the good and punishes the bad, but is troubled by the fact that God seems to at times reward the bad as well. Though God is just, he allows sinners to prosper. With this, Hopkins evokes the problem of evil.
The poem's second theme is humans' relationship to God. Like Job in his discussion with God in the whirlwind, the persona gives up attempting to make sense of the problem of evil and merely asks for God's favor. The poem's last line reveals this change: "Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain" (14). Hopkins here uses roots and rain as an analogy for the relationship between humans and God: like how plants require rain to survive, humans require God's grace. With this, Hopkins suggests that humans cannot come to a conclusion about God's actions in moral concerns, and that all humans can do about the problem of evil is ask for God's compassion.
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