Synopsis of God's Grandeur


God's Grandeur was written in 1877, whilst Hopkins was studying at St. Beuno's College outside St. Asaph in North Wales.

Welsh valley, photo by Roger Kidd, available through Creative CommonsThe scenery here is partly coastal, partly river valley (the Vale of Clwyd), with rolling hills either side. To the west, the hills gradually climb higher, till they run into the mountains of Snowdonia. However, in this poem, Hopkins is not trying to paint a specific landscape. Rather, he is using nature philosophically. The scene may inspire him, but in a general way only. In this, he differs from the Romantic poets, or even some of his later poems, in which he goes into detail about the scene.

Hopkins' new style

This is one of Hopkins' first poems after he felt he could write poetry again. It was also the first of many sonnets he was to write in his new style, so it is worth spending more space looking at its sonnet form than we will with some of the other sonnets.

The sonnet form (especially in its Petrarchan form) typically poses a problem in the octave (first eight lines), or asks a question; the sestet (last six lines) provides an answer or resolution of some sort. This is what we find here.

Investigating God's Grandeur
  • In a sentence, can you say what the problem is in the poem's octave?
    • Can you say what the resolution is in the sestet?
  • Would it make any difference if the poem had been called ‘God's Greatness?'
Related material
Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.