Nature as God's book

The ‘book' displays the ‘author'

This theme represents Hopkins' combining his love of nature with his devotion to God, in the formation of what we call natural theology and/or romantic theology. Basically, this means that God as Creator has shaped his universe in a way that allows people to ‘read' him in it. Obviously, the more deeply people believe, and the more nature is left unspoilt, the easier this is. So there are links here with the themes of The beauty, variety and uniqueness of nature and Conservation and renewal of nature.


There are various problems in connecting God with what is observed in the world, however, and Hopkins uses his poetry to tackle some of them.

A destructive God?

In The Wreck of the Deutschland, the main problem is that sometimes Nature is destructive and causes people's death. How can we discern God from that?

  • one way would be to say that Nature is fallen, alongside the human race, and therefore does not accurately reflect God any more
  • Hopkins does not care for this argument, however, preferring to say that storms and tempests still reflect God's Nature, and are signs of his power and omnipotence or sovereignty. In his own conversion, he felt as if he were in some sort of storm. The nuns literally are.

This theme links with that of Understanding evil in a world God has made.

Blinded to God

In God's Grandeur, Hopkins looks at the problem of why everyone cannot see God in nature. ‘Why do men now not reck his rod?' he asks. The answer is that most people are now cut off from nature through industrialisation and the way nature has been spoiled. However, he is hopeful: Nature can be renewed

‘Because the Holy Ghost over the bent / World broods'

as he did at Creation.

Nature distracts from God?

The other two poems directly associated with the theme, The Starlight Night and Hurrahing in Harvest, pose the question of whether the beauty of Nature is not actually a distraction from God. Do humans not get so delighted in Nature that they just stop there and do not look to the Creator or have any sense of God's immanence?

  • in the first poem, Hopkins suggests people do need to make sure their devotional lives balance their perception of beauty. Then they can see nature as a sign of the Church, or God's kingdom
  • in the latter poem, there is a more mystical answer: as humankind gazes at nature, it can receive revelation of the immanence of God within it, which may be a transforming experience. This is an aspect of Christian Romanticism.
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