Themes in Hurrahing in Harvest

Nature as God's Book

God can be seen in his Creation, but he has to be looked for. The perceiver of nature has to be a ‘Beholder', ‘Down all that glory in the heavens'. God can be read in the sky and cloud by eyes that are attuned to see, that is, the eyes of faith. Thus it is possible to see the hills themselves as ‘his world-wielding shoulder' (rather like Atlas, who in Greek mythology, carried the weight of the world on his shoulders to stop it falling into chaos).

More on the paradox of God's presence: In philosophical terms, the perception of God within nature is of immanence (the presence of the divine that is to be found in everyday reality). God is immanent in his Creation, even though he is also transcendent (the presence of the divine over and above such reality). This is a Christian paradox or mystery: how can God be in and yet not be part of his Creation? The sky is a fitting image of this: the sky both is part of the world, and yet is a manifestation of space, the infinite also. Duns Scotus and other medieval philosophers who influenced Hopkins believed that the supernatural order was the fulfilment of the natural order, not something in opposition to it. So this transition - from seeing God in the natural to seeing God as supernatural - would be exactly in line with such a philosophy.

Beauty and its purpose

The beholder would not even be looking at nature, however, if the scene or inscape was not already beautiful. His/her senses would not be excited:

  • The Romantic poets, especially Wordsworth and Keats, understood this
  • So did earlier mystical Christian poets writing in the seventeenth century, like Henry Vaughan and George Herbert.

So natural beauty, however ‘barbarous', leads to a perception of God.

  • In Jesuit spirituality, such a perception is called infused or heightened contemplation.
Investigating Hurrahing in Harvest
  • What is the difference between spectating and beholding?
  • Nature gives us a ‘realer' reply to what question?
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