Structure and versification in God's Grandeur

A traditional sonnet?

The sonnet form draws attention to itself:

But it doesn't feel traditional in its form:

  • The alliterative pattern sets up a counterpoint to the metre
  • There is often a caesura in the middle of the line, drawing our attention away from the end of the lines and the rhyme scheme there – again, a counterpointing
  • Caesuras, or pauses, could be placed in the middle of each line in the octave, though not in the sestet. Can you see where?
  • There are obvious enjambements, carried-over lines, as in ‘Crushed' (l.4); ‘Is bare'(l.8); ‘Oh'(l.12); ‘World'(l.14). Each of these has an emphatic point to make and seriously disturbs the smoothness of the iambic lines.

Hopkins' metre

Hopkins' complicated way of using metre is more fully explained in Appendix 1. Here, just some features will be mentioned:

  • The first line really only has four stressed syllables (world, charged, grand-, God). So it seems to get off to an irregular start, unless, that is to say, we put a stress on ‘with'. Should we?
  • In the second line, we don't see any real iambic pattern. Instead we get ‘flame out', with both words stressed, as are ‘shook foil': emphatic but not regular.

In fact, we wonder how committed Hopkins is to a regular metre. In this, he was foreshadowing the development of modern poetry.

Investigating God's Grandeur
  • Take any two consecutive lines.
    • Can you work out where the stressed syllables are?
    • Can you see any pattern?
      • More importantly, can you see what effect Hopkins is achieving?
  • What effect does Hopkins achieve in delaying ‘Crushed' to the next line?
  • We have said the sestet does not seem to use so many caesurae.
    • What effect does this have as compared to the octave's effect?
  • Look at the poem as a whole.
    • What single feature of the poem stands out to you as being effective?
    • Are there any lines you consider memorable?
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