Student Question

Analyze the final line's meter and rhythm in "God's Grandeur" by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Quick answer:

The meter and rhythm of the final line in "God's Grandeur" are irregular. They are an example of Hopkins' innovative poetic technique of sprung rhythm.

Expert Answers

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The last line of "God's Grandeur" is a classic example of sprung rhythm, a technique invented by Hopkins to make his poems sound more like the spoken word. To this end, he places stressed syllables in close proximity to each other, giving certain lines a kind of springy or bouncy effect when spoken.

Let's see how Hopkins puts his principles into effect in the last line of "God's Grandeur." Here he uses alliteration as a way of putting stressed syllables in close proximity to each other:

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

The line is built around two consonants, 'w' and 'b'. The stress on these consonants gives the line an irregular meter. One could break down the line into its composite metrical units like so:

  • "World broods"—a spondee, two stressed syllables;
  • "with warm breast"—an anapest, two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed one;
  • "and with ah!"—another anapest;
  • "bright wings"—a spondee once more.

Say the last line out loud and you'll get a much better feel for the rhythm.

Hopkins wants to end his poem on a high, to give thanks to God for the wonders for the creation. This is especially important as he's spent most of the poem telling us how so many people ignore the signs of God's presence in his creation, even in the ground beneath their feet.

Yet for Hopkins, God must always have the last world. Hence the exultant tone of the last line, with its breathless, bouncy rhythm, and which conveys, as well as any line he every wrote, Hopkins's God-centered poetic vision.

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